Tales From The Cellar

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Tips for Tastings

Oh sure, you’ve got a rough job! Tasting wine all day, wanna trade? I’ve heard this more than a few times over the years (if I had a dollar for every time we’d send out fewer Burgundy offers because I’d buy more), and some days it’s true. A day “at work” tasting through twenty or so wines that represent the relative cream of the crop is thoroughly enjoyable, only work in the sense of comparing to previous vintages or other producers in mental prep for what to tell clients. On the other hand, a large-scale trade/public tasting with 100+ wines really is work in the traditional sense of the word.

So the next time you have tickets to the UGC tasting, or Zap, or just find yourself at a winery where the genial host of the tasting room keeps bringing out bottles, here are four suggestions to make it more pleasure and less work.

1) Spit
No really, you really should use the spit buckets. If you’re swallowing from the first “taste” onward, how seriously are you evaluating anything much past wine number three? Even when you do spit, your palate will be sufficiently fatigued that you might want to be wary of how much you loved the next-to-last wine you tried. The only exception to this is Champagne – I still haven’t figured a way to gracefully expectorate bubbly.

2) Move
This applies particularly to tastings like Zap, where trying to follow tip #1 is hampered by someone planted in front of the spit bucket regaling the pourer with tales of their visit to the winery back in the early ‘90s. It still surprises me at trade tastings when people take root in front of a table, blocking access to the spit bucket(s) and the wine(s) being poured.

3) Ignore the numbers
Just because the tables are numbered, don’t feel obligated to do them “in order.” Quite often I’ve done tastings in “reverse” order, trying reds before whites, because the tables pouring reds were open while all the white tables were packed with attendees tasting by numbers.

4) Be brief
If you take notes, remember tip #2 – jot down your musings away from the table. And make them brief, most tastings are 2-3 hours so if you’re busy writing down all the flavor elements you find what percentage of the wines offered will you actually taste? A simple 1, 2, 3 stars is adequate – elaborate after the tasting closes down with a bite to eat and a palate-cleansing beer.

Keeping all this in mind, here are a few highlights, all for under $25, from our recent “work” tasting wines:

2012 Origine Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($15.99)

2011 Textbook Napa Valley Chardonnay ($17.99)

2011 Ostertag Vieilles Vignes Sylvaner ($19.99)

2011 Cantina Altarocca “Arcosesto” ($14.99)

2010 Domaine Berthet Rayne Cairanne ($19.99)

2010 Abbona “Bricco Barone” Nebbiolo d’Alba ($24.99)


Matt S., Beltramo’s Assistant Manager

This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 24th, 2013 at 3:03 am and is filed under Domestic Wine, Imported Wine, Wine. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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