A Fair to Remember: tips for tasting at wine fairs

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!





  1. I'd never thought of attending a wine tasting with an actual strategy before! I'll use these tips to get more out of the next one and come home with some sensible purchases. Has anyone ever experienced the wine scent vials the exhibitors sometimes have? Fascinating - I managed to identify leather and orange only!

    Faith Thomas @ The Berry Farm

    1. Hi Faith, thanks for the comment! It's good to go with a strategy otherwise it can become a free for all - which isn't necessarily a bad thing! I haven't sniffed scent vials but it would be an amazing training tool :D

  2. I happened to be lucky that my friend couldn't find a date for an event so he generously took me with him, which happened to be one of the best experience for me in recent times. I was lucky enough to see these Chicago venues. If you get a chance to check this out please do so.



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I think I was captured by how essentially natural or organic the whole process of winemaking is. It's farming, it's viticulture, it's weather and soil, and many more things. It's the winemaker. But after all these things, after the cap is unscrewed or the cork popped, I (and you) get to enjoy it. Then we talk about it and learn some more. Which is, I guess, the reason why you're here! Here you'll find stories, links, wine education samples and wine reviews. I am entirely independent and my wine reviews and ratings are based on my own thoughts and opinions. I accept no endorsements for products or good reviews. Enjoy! I can be reached for comments, feedback and questions at dbtaylor01@gmail.com. Good drinking to you! David

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