A Fair to Remember: tips for tasting at wine fairs
Two weekends ago the Henry Jones Art Hotel in Hobart played host to a huge wine fair featuring more than two hundred wines from Tasmania and all over Australia. It’s fair to say it was a wine lover’s paradise. The one thing that gets me with these kind of events is how to taste all the wines you want in such a short time? At first I used to skim through each table as fast as I could, scribbling notes and spitting furiously before moving on. But it occurred to me that I couldn’t really get a handle on so many wines in so short a time. We all owe winemakers a debt of gratitude for the efforts involved in each and every single vintage. It’s not just pruning vines, hoping for good weather and harvesting later. There are decisions to be made about viticulture, winemaking, packaging, and much more. I couldn’t, in good conscience, try to accurately gauge hundreds of wines in a couple of hours. It wasn’t possible, and it was a bit rude, really (unless you’re on an epic bender and just want to continuously pour down your throat).
Tips for tasting at wine fairs
My first tip would be: think about it beforehand. What kind of wines do you like? I guess this could also be called curb your enthusiasm. If you want to taste more of the kinds of wines you like, all good. If you want to taste something else, you need to key up your strategy!
Tip 2: Go with a plan! Do you want to just have a good time? If so, no plan needed! Do you want to buy for your cellar? Think about what you might like to be drinking over the next few years, and never, ever think that you’ll definitely love a wine in five years that you’re drinking right now. Tastes evolve.
Tip 3: Learn to spit. You don’t have to spit everything, but you can swallow and appreciate the wines you love the most if you spit the ones that don’t impress you. Spitting is an art – I highly recommend sticking your head as near to the bucket as possible, and once you’re a pro, you can do them from a distance (which is still dicey).
Tip 4: Don’t always buy the marketing hype. Just like in a wine store, labelling and pitch isn’t everything. Some of the best wines I’ve experienced have had dreary or dull packaging and zero marketing. It’s what’s in the bottle that counts. I guess here you’ve got to think about Tip 1. What do you like? And if you like something, think about what makes it good, and judge the wines you like on that basis.
Tip 5: Talk to winemakers. Wine fairs are your only real chance to get to chat to winemakers about the wines on offer – they will rarely be in your local wine store at the same time as you, and shop assistants don’t always know everything they should! Winemakers also convey the passion for their wines, making the experience all the better.
Stay tuned for my write-up of the Hobart Wine Fair, and tasting notes!