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How to make the most of The Society's tastings


The recent excellent post on the Winter Fine Wine Walkaround tasting by @Nowt_in_my_glass, as well as @szaki1974’s comprehensive round-up of the last Press Tasting, has me pondering the world of tastings and events.

He says:

I wondered what it was about these tastings that people enjoy most and leave you satisfied that you made the right decision to attend and to be part of The Society? Obviously there are hundreds, if not thousands, of wine events taking place all over the country throughout the year, so getting it right really matters.

Have you been to any tastings or events?

What advice would you give other members so they can make the most of them?

  • For many first-time attendees or new members, tastings might look intimidating so let us know how you felt about them.
  • How do you keep track of the wines you taste, and which were your favourites - and which you then buy?
  • There are discounts available to those who attend, but you have to be quick, so how do you manage this?
  • Do you ever add your notes to the reviews section on the website so others can benefit from your experience?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts as I plan to attend some of the tastings scheduled before Christmas to let members there know about the community, but I also feel that the Community needs to know more about Tastings.


I’ve been to about 10 booze tastings this year…wine x 7, rum, scotch and bourbon.

The ws understand that if you’re tasting multiple wines you need a wine ‘route’ so no one wine tastes odd or overwhelmed after the previous.

The ws also understand you don’t need 100+ bottles, you need well thought out quality not quantity (virgin wines had 165+ on two floors with no discernible order. It was a car crash). A lot of the wines were just repetitious and you could have easily reduced it to 80 which is still huge.

It would be nice to see a little bit more than crackers as well. Raising the price by a fiver for some bread, butter and cheese or charcuterie would be much appreciated:-)

Also it would be excellent to see more events in the north. It’s not always easy to travel midweek (i actually took annual leave to make the york tasting) so we only get 2 events in leeds a year. It would be nice to see a tasting once a quarter in one of major population bases in the uk.

In terms of advice…
Spit! 35 wines gets pretty heady!
Most of the wines I enjoyed stay in my head however marking them down helps if you want to order
Give yourself more time than you think you need - It’s surprising how long it takes you to get through the bottles!


I’ve been, with a wine loving friend, to most of the Birmingham tastings in recent years. Our thoughts:

We haven’t found them in the least bit intimidating. Staff are very friendly.

We much prefer ‘structured’ tastings for example Italy or South Africa to ‘generic’ tastings like ‘wines for Christmas’ or ‘wines our buyers drink’. The latter have featured too many ordinary wines. At a WS tasting you expect more than wines you can find in your local supermarket.

A related problem is the wines to be tasted. I asked for a list of the wines for the 23rd January ‘2017 Highlights’ and was told it would not be available until a week before the tasting, which we found surprising.

The talk by WS staff in the middle of the tasting adds little and could be dispensed with.

We are not interested in paying more to get extra food.

We don’t view the tastings as a buying opportunity, more a chance to try some previously untasted wines. Anything we like would go into the wish list.


I attend as many London tastings and dinners as possible.
I also prefer a format ie Rhone, Spain etc.
Many of the tasters I know start with the fizz if there is one and then go around tasting whites and then reds or vice verse and finish with fortified if there are any. Some recent London tastings have had a format of a white and a red on each table. This works very well for me. I get around the room(s) twice and there is less of a ‘scrum’ at each table. Although this may not work as well when there is a producer showing say 3 of their white wines at different price points.

I find it hard to spit since most of the wines are in my opinion of very good quality and I dont believe that you actually taste the wine properly unless it goes down the hatch. You only need to consume a tiny drop. To that end however, I would suggest eating something beforehand. If not then definitely spit as much as possible. For those of us who drink regularly, eating before you touch a drop, apparently, stimulates an enzyme(which breaks down alcahol in the liver) to appear in the stomach.

My palate tires after after several wines, so, I also agree that it’s a good idea to have something to nibble on. It would be great to have a bit of tapas at next weeks Spanish tasting. Failing that some manchego cheese instead of cheddar.

I suggest making notes especially on the wines you enjoy the most that are in your price bracket. Do take advantage as well of the generous 10% discount if you can order within 24 hours.

The booklet often appears, as mentioned, before the tasting and it’s worthwhile reading through the very helpful additional comments about style,region etc.

Lastly I should mention the Society’s staff who often pour the wines. They are without fail aways so friendly and helpful and are a great asset to have at the tastings.


Some very good advice here, thanks @Hoops

How far in advance do you normally book tickets for an event? Are you the kind of person that schedules things around tastings, or fill in tastings when you have a gap?

Another question I have is whether you ever plan to meet up with other members - not ones you buy tickets for, but just others you know from the tastings? I’m keen to explore the idea of having someone maybe ‘mentor’ new members who have never been to tasting before who might like to be shown the ropes by a regular. Would you be at all interested?

I’ve no idea whether we have an interest for this, but just a ‘community activity’ that I thought I might try to encourage


By way of comparison I’m off to the decanter fine wine event in november…looks incredible but where do you even begin with 600 wines??? It’s impossible to taste ‘effectively’



I went to a decanter event earlier in the year. ‘Only’ around 150 wines there but still a huge number to tackle over 2 hours. I guess at least you have a full day for the 600! I downloaded the guide a week before and planned my attack breaking it down into wines I really wanted to taste, would like to, and those not too fussed about.
Problem with this of course is you risk missing the gem you’ve never heard of - so you have to allow some time for the odd random sample here and there and keep an ear out for what the crowd are raving about!
Be interested to hear how you find the Fine Wine Encounter. Often been tempted but the date has never worked for me.
Are you going to any of the master classes or discovery theatres?


Yes there are a few standout names. I’ve also made it doubly difficult by booking 2 masterclasses as i wanted to get the approach and guidance which could be transferable to tasting in general + other people’s questions are very valuable (one was half price as i guess the ticket sales were slow) . Handily i kick the day immediately with a chablis class, 2 hours for whites, Chinese cabernet masterclass, 2 hours for reds then find a place for a massive fry up.