This week marks the 13th annual Winefest, an event created to celebrate fine food and wine while bettering the community. With more than a dozen events, Winefest welcomes all types of wine lovers. But one doesn't need to be a Master Sommelier to partake in the festivities. Many people enjoy drinking wine but find it intimidating to socialize at wine events. Just like with any social event, know the audience and learn a few social tricks to easily enjoy your wine experience.
First Sip: Jump right in and start tasting. Splash's Sommelier Ben Nelson advises to start with dry whites or champagne as they are a neutral starting point for your palate. Build your way up to big, bold reds. And finish with dry or sweeter whites. Be adventurous and branch out when tasting. Not many people are true wine experts so there are no stupid questions when tasting.
Drinking vs. Tasting: Drinking wine is a social, fun experience. Tasting wine is more focused to be an educational endeavor. Serious wine tasters usually spit and don't have the intention or desire to get intoxicated at the tasting. Attending a wine tasting is usually a more formal process than having a bottle of wine at a friend's home.
Wine-speak: As a beginner, don't overthink when tasting wine. Just focus on what the wine tastes like and how it compares to others. You'll build up your wine palate by the more you try. The easiest words to work into your wine lexicon are dry, sweet, big and rich. Also, ask the vintner what the flavor notes are so you can learn the words of the trade.
Wine Style: Ladies, avoid wearing bright or heavy lipstick to a tasting. It smears the glass and can impact the flavor of the wine. Heavy colognes or perfumes can also impact the tasting so go light on the fragrance. When drinking heavier reds, watch out for teeth stains and red wine breath. Also avoid red wine spills on light colored attire.
The Art of Spitting: Mr. Nelson with Splash states it best: "There is no shame in spitting wine in public, although it seems to be reserved for those in the trade and should be done with care. One should take a sip of wine, one ounce or two, savor on the tongue and then direct a stream of wine into the wall of the bucket so as not to splash back. This is key when trying several wines." Spitting is a normal action and very appropriate at a wine tasting, but do so with tact.
Crowd Control: Tastings can get crowded so move with the flow of the event. Start at the beginning and watch for formed lines of people. Don't linger too long at a table or vintner. If you really enjoy a particular wine, stop back later to ask more detailed questions. Try to visit as many vintners as possible to take in the full experience of the tasting.
When it comes to tasting wine, it should be fun and not taken too seriously. Try new wines, ask questions and embrace the experience. Don't get stuck too long in the same spot. And when it comes to socializing and wine, Mr. Nelson has the right idea, "Wine is meant to be shared with others, and so are the great discussions that go along with it." I couldn't agree more.