Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Wine Trade Tastings 101

Went to the Wines of Israel trade tasting today. It was actually a very pleasant tasting. Plenty of room, enough people that it didn't feel empty, but not so crowded that you had to fight for your chance at the spit buckets. I think there were about 20 or so wineries attending, which seems to be a good number in terms of actually being able to try most of the wines in a couple hours.

This sort of trade tasting seems to hold a certain fascination for people outside the industry. There are exclusive events where members of the special wine industry clan gather and sip rare wines from around the world while chatting with the demi-gods who grow the grapes and bottle the juice. And they take place during daylight hours....on weekdays...for free! Drinking free wine during daylight hours on a weekday...that's living the dream!

Luckily for those who want to live the dream, you can usually get into these tastings simply by walking in like you belong there. But once you have your glass in hand, here are a few pointers to help you act like you really do belong.

1. You MUST spit. Image 20 tables with 5 wines per table. That's 100 wines. And that's a very small tasting. If you don't spit, you'll get drunk very very quickly and will stick out like a very sore thumb. And every one will remember you...because there are really only about 100 people in the wine industry and we all have very good memories...because we SPIT!

2. Bring a toothbrush. Because your teeth will turn a lovely shade of purple and once you leave the safety of the event hall, people will look at you oddly if you have purple teeth.

3. Don't count on eating at the tasting...unless you really like crackers and picked-over cheese platters.

4. If you want people to think you work in the on-trade (aka, a restaurant), wear a suit and tie. And speak French. If you want people to think you work in the off-trade (aka, a store) wear anything you like, just make sure it's covered in dust.

5. Map out where the really old, expensive stuff is. Go to those tables first. Return to those tables as often as you like, but don't think the people pouring the wine aren't on to you. They fully realize it's your fifth time asking for "just a little taste" and they will talk about you after the event.

6. Understand that the person behind the table pouring the wine may not actually know anything about the wine. Sometimes it's the actual winemaker manning the table (who knows everything but may not be able to tell you because he can't speak English). And sometimes it's a distributor sales rep (who may know nothing but will make it up anyway.)

7. Don't take the collateral material on the tables. You know you're going to throw it away when you get home, so just leave it there and let it look pretty.

8. Did I mention that spitting is mandatory? It is...unless you're trying something fabulously rare and old and absolutely wonderful. Because really, why live the dream if you can't actually drink the wine.

That toothbrush however, that is mandatory.

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