Want to sample a lot of wines in a little amount of time for (typically) a very reasonable price? Wine festivals are the way to go!
With most wine festivals offering more than 50 different wines to taste, like the one near Houston this weekend, a wine festival can be a bit overwhelming, yet it can also be the perfect wine-learning experience! All those wineries and experts are looking to share their wines with you, so you will really be in the right place to ask questions!
Don’t let all those experts intimidate you.With a few tips, you’ll be maneuvering the crowds like a pro and learning more about what wines you like.
Before the festival:
Take a look over the featured wineries. Visit the festival’s site online and print out the list of wineries which will be there. Are there any there that you are particularly interested in trying? Make a note so you will be sure to visit.
Eat before the festival. You don’t need to eat a massive amount of food, just be sure there is something in your stomach so you won’t be hungry and so the alcohol won’t go straight to your head.
Bring a small notebook and pen for taking notes. Don’t worry about anything fancy, just grab a simple small notebook. I’ll get into what you’ll be writing soon, but I promise it won’t be too intricate.
Bring a water bottle. If you bring your own water bottle it’ll be easier to stay hydrated and you’ll also be able to wash out flavors you may not love so much.
Plan on how you will be getting home. Will you be drinking a lot of wine or simply tasting and spitting? Are you bringing a designated driver or taking a taxi home? Plan ahead so you can be sure to get home safely.
While at the festival:
Grab your glass and get ready for a lot of fun! Don’t worry about being surrounded by experts. Chances are most people there are just looking to have fun and sample lots of wines, just like you.
Before tasting a wine, write down the name of the winery and the wine in your notebook. List the varietal, too.
Ask the winemakers or winery representatives about the wines they are pouring and listen to what they have to say. Listen to their clues of what you might smell or taste.
Then, before you take your first sip, pause and smell the wine and think about what you do smell. Is it something that was mentioned? Do you like the fragrance or not?
Then give it a taste. Let the wine roll all over your tongue so you get a full taste. Do you taste what the winery said you might taste? Do you like what you are tasting?
After you have smelled and tasted the wine, write down what you remember smelling and tasting and simply rate the wine on a 1-5 scale, with 1 meaning you absolutely hate it and 5 meaning you loooove it.
While you are tasting different wines, feel free to ask lots of questions. The winery representatives love their wines, or else they wouldn’t be pouring them. They are a wealth of information, usually ready to share. A simple “Tell me about this wine,” is a great start for any winemaker to get going and share what he or she thinks might enhance your experience. Obviously, if the crowds are big, keep that in mind and don’t take up too much of the winery representative’s time, but if you can, ask away!
Write down anything that strikes you as interesting or memorable about the wine, the winery or winemaker. This will help you to recall the wine later. If you have a camera or smartphone handy, snap a picture of the bottle so you can match it up with your notes later.
Spit. As you are tasting each wine, don’t feel obligated to actually swallow every taste. It is absolutely acceptable to taste, savor and then spit. Just do so discretely by spitting into a small cup and then dumping the cup into one of the dump buckets.
Have fun! Pretty quickly your palate is bound to get overwhelmed, so have fun tasting, talking and recording each wine as you can. That way, when the festival is over and you’re planning to buy more wine, you can look over your notes and see which wines you liked, which you didn’t and draw more conclusions as to what you might like in the future.
Don’t take yourself too seriously. Wine is supposed to be fun so enjoy it! The more you taste, the more you’ll know what you like.
I hope these simple tips help you to get the most out of your next wine festival visit and get closer to identifying which wines might be your favorites.