Taste Test

Navigate a large wine tasting like a pro.



I consider giant wine tastings like Toys R Us for adults. You walk in and the sheer number of wines assaults your senses. You don't know whether to play with the new whites or the upgraded versions of your favorite reds. Yes, it's overwhelming, but conquerable. There are grown-up ways to manage the toybox without wasting precious sobriety.

What you need is a plan — which will include some calculated spitting. I know it seems wrong to spit out perfectly good wine, but if you're trying to taste as many wines as possible, this is a necessary, albeit disgusting, evil. But please practice at home so you don't miss and splatter someone's shoes or shirt.

Before getting drawn into the liquid smorgasbord, study the brochure the friendly volunteer gave you at the door. Look for familiar wineries, then shun them like last year's Playstation — you paid big money to taste new wines, right?

Often, larger tastings are organized by distributor and then winery, which is a nod to industry politics, but not necessarily the consum-er looking to play. There will be a mishmash of wines everywhere, so you'll have to dive in and hope the wines don't disappoint. Start with white wine, since coating your palate with reds will dull your tongue to white wine's delicate flavors. If you're into sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio (gris) — likely the lightest of the wines available — scout those out first, then move to chardonnays. If you like a winery's offering, try their other whites. Then move to the next winery's whites. Once you start hankering for reds' sustenance, move on. Dessert wines should be left to the last round, since the sweetness can also ruin your mouth for other wines. If you sense your tastebuds starting to numb, here's a revival tip: Consume some sparkling wine and bread.

Keep in mind that wine tastings aren't all-you-can-drink events, so don't feel compelled to finish the serving, especially if you don't like it. You won't hurt anyone's feelings.

And a tip for those people trying to appear savvy: Don't rinse your glass with water after every taste. Not only does it make you look like an amateur — professionals rinse with wine, if anything, and usually only if returning to whites after reds — it wastes time and waters down the subsequent wine. Don't let the people behind the table do it to you either. Some wineries don't want to waste wine for rinsing, which is understandable, but watering down the wine won't give you the full effect of its flavor.

Be sure to bring a pen and make notes about wines that intrigue you. It helps, especially after you've been sloshing for a couple of hours. I assure you, the next morning's haze causes wine label memory loss.

And, finally, a word of boring responsibility: After these big tastings, at least 75 percent of the eventgoers are not ready for the wheel. So be responsible and take a cab, or designate a driver. 

Editor's note:

The Brooks Uncorked! wine tasting is Friday, April 13th. Tickets are $125. Call 544-6209 for more information.

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