Do mass wine events work?

Thursday, 10 October, 2013
Shante Hutton,
Looking at the kinks in wine tasting events.
Tasting 41 wines in 2 hours might seem like a dream to some, but in reality, it’s incredibly straining.
Perhaps it’s less harrowing when you can spit but at certain evening functions there just isn’t place for that. Let’s take for instance a public wine show where there are numerous wineries showcasing their wares. It’s designed for the masses (and the buyers) and not just for the critics. Spitting isn’t generally going to be an option.
The equation goes something like this:

(Winery + 3 wines x 40) + (100 people) x 3 hours = total memory loss.

If you’re a winemaker manning a stall, chances are, there are only two of you against at least 6 people every 2 minutes . In that time, you have to pour, clean someone’s glass, describe the wine and make a good impression whilst trying to create a personal rapport with each individual. Do-able? No.

The problem being that wine, for me, is an experience, something that needs to be savoured and enjoyed…especially if the wine is over R100 a bottle.

You can even equate these issues to trade shows because chances are, not everyone who attends know exactly what they want or how to drink 'sensibly'.

Having been to a few of these wine shows, I've come up with a few guidelines that I would love to see implemented more.

How to kick-ass at a wine event/show.

Tips for attendees:

1)   Try what you don’t know. Those out-of-the-way wineries need your attention. Don’t stick with stuff you’ve tried before. Be adventurous.
2)   Try and have a plan like perhaps choosing to pursue one variety and comparing it.
3)   Remember that this is an unnatural situation, insomuch as you are speeding through the tasting of a mass amount of wine which, on a normal occasion, would be enjoyed purposefully in your own environment.
4)   Not all winemakers are gifted talkers so don't judge a wine by the stutterings of the pourer.
5)   Do take notes. Even if you just take a photo of the wines you like, you can then see what you should try again at a later stage.
6)   Don't eat over-flavoured food beforehand. You will need your taste buds to be clean and in command. Remember that after around 6-8 tastings (without spitting), you will be losing some taste buds. As an added tip, don't smoke beforehand and don't over spray yourself with heavy fragrance - your poor nose needs to breathe.

Tips for the organizers and winery exhibitors:

1)   Don't spend more than 2mins per person. I know that is a tall ask but you've got to read your audience. Those just wanting to drink (and you will get those), don't need your 10 minute spiel on balling.
2)   If you're going to serve food, make sure it doesn't ruin people's taste buds. Serving overtly spicy food would be fine, if you were just pouring Riesling.
3)   Don't serve a wine that needs time to breathe. People don't necessarily have the patience and why disrespect your lovingly crafted wine by not serving it at its optimum capacity.
4)   Do break out the good sh!t if you see that someone is generally interested in the wine but make sure you have another person present at your stall to pour for you.
5)   Do take a leaf out of David Niewouldt's book. That man can pour, rinse and explain all at the same time with just two hands.
6)   Have chairs available. In the real world, people don't walk around for hours drinking; people sit down and socialize therefore, we should be creating an environment that is conducive for just that.
7)   Last but not least, be visible. Branded clothing and name tags do so much in making you memorable and recognizable. Standing by your wines in casual attire could mean that you're a) the winemaker, b) the owner, c) a brazen soul trying to steal the wines, or both a) and b); people want and need that personal appeal and to know that you know what you're talking about.

Any other suggestions from other wine show goers?