Inspired by @lapin_rouge very interesting write up of the recent press tasting event, I was intrigued to see this comment:
NZ9961 Dog point Marlborough sauv blanc:** Missed, not a fan of kiwi Sv Bl.
Back in the days of walk around tastings (and hopefully again in the future) what was your strategy regarding which wines to try? Would you try and sample everything if time, would you immediately discount wines you probably won’t like and focus on areas/styles you think you will like or are you the opposite and actively want to try wines you’ve previously dismissed?
Personally, I like to try most of the wines available if possible. Obviously, we often have pre-conceptions about a certain wine but I tend to try and go in each time with an open mind. If I have dismissed something in the past, perhaps I have just not found the right style of that wine to enjoy. Clearly there are wines you see on paper and think ‘Yes, I expect to enjoy and perhaps order that wine’ which you definitely want to try but I do think I’m always slightly more intrigued by the wines I might ordinarily discount if just placing an order without tasting first.
There’s not much in the way of wines of would actively try to avoid. Orange wines spring to mind, I’ve never had one I’ve enjoyed at all and also I’ve never been very excited about a glass of Pinot Grigio but yet, particularly if I was at a WS tasting, I’d be inclined to give any samples of offer a further try - to either reinforce my existing view or, hopefully, be forced to reassess my view and discover a sample of those wines that I actually do enjoy (and then try and work out what makes them different from previous experiences).
So, what approach do people take when tasting wines in a general large scale tasting walk around environment?
Follow the suggested tasting order, a beeline to your favourites or a strong interest in wines that you think are generally outside of your comfort zone but you’d be pleased to be pleasantly surprised by (even if you secretly think those wines will end up heading swiftly into the spittoon!).
Generally start with a fizz if available, then dry whites, richer whites, light reds, other reds, dessert, sweet fortified. I’d try to taste all of one varietal in a group. Sometimes a big tasting provides a good deal of exercise, up and down the room.
If I had to miss out any wines, the first ones to go would be cheaper ones that I already know. Otherwise it’s hard to think of any particular category that I’d avoid.
There are of course some who can be found for most of the evening at those tables where the most expensive wines are also to be found. You know who you are😉
I tend to miss varietals I am familiar with, only tasting them if time at the end of the session and my palate will stand it. Normal order of sparkling, white, red and then sweet/fortified. I will also sometimes go to varietals I “don’t get” at the end as well.
Does the price point of wines make a difference in our interest in trying them - I think the honest answer for me is that yes, I will always try harder to try and expensive bottle than to make the same effort to try a cheap bottle - particularly if time is a factor.
Is there an argument for a WS tasting where the prices are only available at the end of the event? Equally, if you are at an event for the purposes of ordering more £10-£15 bottles then you perhaps would not want to waste too much time on wines which you are realistically not going to be ordering.
And does the cost of a bottle creep into our opinions about them. If everyone is raving about this £30 bottle are you, even involuntary, going to be rating it higher than the unloved £7 bottle in the corner of the room?
It depends on the tasting and what I am looking for. While I will try the £££ ones, if the tasting is e.g. a TWS walk around, I’ll spend most of my time trying wines at the price point I buy at looking for things to actually buy. If I’ve gone to a tasting specifically to try wines I’d otherwise not have an opportunity to try then I’ll gravitate to them.
As for things I avoid - as much as part of me tries to find examples that prove me wrong, I’ve given up on Toronntes and Gwurstraminer and am not far off giving up on Argentine Malbecs as well.
Probably try and taste as much as possible but certainly focus more on potential purchases along with some fancy stuff. Don’t mind mixing it up with a fizz and a few whites to begin, then some reds and move back to some whites to refresh the palate and repeat.
In terms of what I would shoulder arms and let go through to the keeper, Sherry would get a wide berth from me. Sorry, but I just don’t get the appeal.
These would be the two that came to mind for me as well. Argentine Malbec is not a favourite of mine either, but I had the Exhibition bottling with a steak a little while back and came to the conclusion that it definitely has its place!
I’m still not really into sherry either. I had a palo cortado at a tasting a couple of years ago that was really good, but I’ve had other PCs since that didn’t do anything for me. Still, that one good experience means that I’ll still give them a try.
I was have been lucky enough to go to the Enotria and Coe portfolio tasting a number of times - most recently in 2018. If I had tasted it all I’d have been there for 48 hours. It was vast.
A pal used to work there and knew many of the reps. We were lucky enough to get a sneaky pour of Dom Perignon P2 2000 which was not available to the general punter. All the rest of the sparkling wines somehow became a little unmemorable after that.
Yes - guilty as charged. I set myself the morning (2 hours?) to do 30+ whites, and although I started with the classic system (fizz to light to heavy) - I ended up ‘butterflying’ around if a particular ‘station’ was occupied by another taster & I didn’t wish to bump spittoons.
In theory I was going to cut back and fill in the gaps. Which didn’t happen in some cases. I vaguely remember taking a cursory sniff of the SB… and thought “N.Z. S.B - been there, done that” & moved on. Very unfair, but there you go - my loss.
What wines would I skip ? WITHOUT HESITATION I would skip the Clarets. Without food they do nothing for me, especially when young or closed.
Despite this, I bought a 12 case of Ch Angludet 2012 halves straight after the tasting - and they turned out to be even better than when tasted previously.
Slightly more seriously I guess I wouldn’t usually bother with Kiwi Sauvignon, Argentine Malbecs, Chilean Merlot, Torrontes, Gewurtztraminer, anything New World for <£10/bottle (indeed in general with a few exceptions that applies to Old World ones too) and anything cloudy. Indeed I really don’t enjoy tastings at all any more.
Before I get flamed for this list I’m at a stage in my life where I have tasted across both most geographies and price points and in all honesty I’m not looking for novelty any more so I choose to be highly selective - this is not to deny there’s lots out there of interest or that I don’t in some ways regret my increasing sense of ennui as far as wine is concerned.
I can relate to this - I like to try the more expensive wines that I wouldn’t usually have an opportunity to taste, but if it’s time-sensitive then I’d focus on the wines in the price point that I’d be more likely to actually purchase in the future.
I tend to skip very young, tannic reds as I am not confident in my ability to tell how they will age.
I also tend to avoid off dry whites as I like my whites to be bone dry or dessert wine sweet.
I am sure some people just look for the ones with the most alcohol in them based on previous events I have been to - I now tend to avoid those mass tastings and try to go area specific ones, or ones where the entry cost is likely to put off those who just want to get drunk, but appreciate this makes me sound a bit of wine snob which is far from true!
I do not tend to go to consumer tastings as they invariably a free-for-all, as some of the comments already on this thread suggest. Personally, it is my opinion that one’s taste-buds are only accurate for a maximum of around forty wines, anything over that in one day’s tasting is occluded. I find claims of having to taste one hundred wines in a day laughable.
I always have a theme and taste those relevant wines first. After that I cherry pick other interesting wines. I think the lack of focus of many visitors at wine tastings must affect their judgement. At trade tastings, I see too many tasters gossiping instead of just sipping, it’s sad.
I struggle with walk round tastings and much prefer tutored or masterclass breakouts from a main event. Tom cannavans annual tastings at the Balmoral in Edinburgh were a great blend of the two pre COVID. I’d do a bit of fizz and whites to cleanse the palate first. Do the masterclasses (usually 6-10 wines) go back to the walk round doing specific wines. Another palate cleanse (beer at the guildford arms straight opposite) and maybe a sandwich from pret then back into the fray. Things are usually getting wild in the main room by 4 pm so dessert wine and port!
Thing is most exhibitors don’t want you to cherry pick the good stuff but who has the capacity to taste 50 wines?
I’m not really a fan of tastings full stop. So could I answer all?
Whilst my reply is a tad facetious - I have after all enjoyed some of the online tasting TWS has hosted (though they aren’t technically a tasting, more a masterclass) - I tend to find myself too distracted by either the seriousness or conversely the loosness of it all.
The problem being, if it’s too noisy/busy/hectic there’s not a chance I’m doing anything other than drinking, and if it’s way too quiet/intense…serious - well then where is the fun? I drink for pleasure, and usually, indeed almost exclusively, at the table with food. Tastings provide practically zero context for how I will consume in the future. And to add to @lapin_rouge point, I agree on Claret and a host of other wines, that on their own they leave me a little cold. Nice enough, but not really in their ideal setting.
I don’t generally drink much New World wine, but I am always open to being proven wrong, so much as I think I’d give them a miss in a tasting, I expect that I might try something that wasn’t overly alcoholic, too in-your-face or fruit-driven, and ideally from a small producer who isn’t aiming their wine at the mass market.
Things I would definitely avoid are South African reds made from Pinotage, because I cannot abide the taste of it, and oaky Australian whites.
I would tend to try the ones I’m most likely to buy first and try to ensure I have time for the expensive ones later. I wouldn’t tend to go the other way around as trying the fancy ones first might leave me going ‘meh’ at all the ones that are really in my price bracket.