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Mar 12

What Works in a Tasting?

Each weekend, we try to go to a couple different free wine tastings in the area. In fact, there’s sort of a little trail you can follow around in a semi-circle of wine shops each Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Talking with the folks behind the counters, you get asked a lot of questions, including "What do you like in a wine tasting?"

The question isn’t referring to the wine. It’s referring to everything else. So here’s what I think makes a wine tasting an educational and fun experience.

  • The folks pouring the wine can also tell you about the wine. It’s not just some young kid who happened to draw the tasting straw that day. It’s even better when I can be told not just about the wine, but about the winery. Stories are how people learn and remember. Tell us what you know.
  • Let me write things down. Yes, I always carry a notebook, but not everyone does. Good tastings offer me a pencil and a blank sheet of paper. Great tastings offer me a piece of paper with the wines already listed. If it includes price and aisle number, that gives you two extra stars. I know I tend to get on a "learning" soapbox, but adults learn by writing things down. So I guess it depends on what you want. If you want your customers to buy your wine and then forget why, and where, then tasting notes aren’t necessary. If you want your customers to buy your wine and remember why, then do a comparative tasting later, then you need to make it easy to write things down. My favorite Friday evening free tastings, at Liquor Direct Ft. Thomas, always have several people leaning on counters, scrawling things down on the provided sheets and comparing notes with complete strangers. I love it.
  • Answer my questions with honest answers. Just because you are pouring the wine doesn’t mean you like the wine. And that’s okay. Wine is subjective, or emotional (as I like to say) and the reasons you don’t like it might be the exact reasons I do. We can learn from each other’s opinions. Don’t answer every question with a quote from a press release.
  • Don’t push me to buy. Sometimes I’m just coming in to taste – that’s all. I’ll write it all down and in a few days, or few weeks, I’ll come back in and buy that wine that I wrote down and rated with a big happy face. Just let me enjoy the tasting. There’s a better chance I’ll buy it if I had a good time.
  • Keep track of what you’ve offered. This is great. If for some reason I didn’t write it down, and I return in a few weeks wanting that great white wine I tasted, you can hopefully tell me what it was. You’d be surprised at how many stores cannot tell me what they offered at the past few tastings.
  • Plan ahead. Okay, this is just a personal thing. As a wine blogger posting all the events, I want to get as specific as possible. If you know what you’re pouring ahead of time, let me know and I’ll list it.

Those large wine tastings – 200+ wines – those are different.  I recently asked Alder of Vinography  how he survives so many large tastings without fatigue everywhere. His answer? Practice. But he had some great suggestions and instead of reiterating, I’ll just point you to his blog.

Feel free to post in the comments. What do you like in the weekly local tasting? How do you survive the big ones?


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Posted by Michelle at 3:06 pm in Cincinnati, Local, Tastings, Wine Notes, Wine Shops | Permalink | Comments ()

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