wineglass

HOW TO WIN AT A WINE FESTIVAL

Yes, I did say to wear comfortable shoes, but... no birkies please 

Yes, I did say to wear comfortable shoes, but... no birkies please 

Are you heading to a big wine tasting event?

Fight the overwhelm, check out my top 9 wine tasting tips for having an awesome time at a wine festival:

~Don’t drink everything in sight (despite the temptation), be discerning, try to read up a little on the wineries you want to check out ahead of time. I take a look at the wineries participating in the event, and make a list of 3-5 must try wines that I’m excited to sample. I head to those tables first, which helps me get oriented in the room and avoid being overwhelmed by options.

~Circle the floor once before you start tasting to get the lay of the land, plan your attack, make note of your favourite wineries.

~It’s more than OK to spit out the wine. It can be a long night, and there are many wines to try. Have a sip if it’s really delicious, but don’t be embarrassed to use ‘ye olde spit bucket’ or tip out your glass into it after you’ve had one sip – you don’t have to finish everything they pour for you. I spit out 99% of the wine – unless it’s mind blowing or 50 year old port 

~Eat a solid meal before the party. Pasta, bread, anything that will fill out the corners of your stomach. Food served at tasting events is usually of the bite-sized canape persuasion, there are lineups, and they are snacks not a substitute for a real lunch/dinner.

~Dress for success. Of course, you can wear jeans and a t-shirt, but this is a fun event to dress up a little. A cute dress, or nice blazer will really help you stand out as stylish. Leave the 3″ heels at home though, your feet will thank me. I opt for cute but comfy wedges or ballet flats.

~Be polite and friendly to the people pouring your wine, it can be a long event for them, especially as the crowd gets buzzing. Don’t forget to compliment the wines you love, you may even be talking to the person who made them!

~Once your wine glass is filled, step aside so others can reach the table. If it's busy, don't monopolize the table's host. If it's reasonably quiet, feel free to ask your questions about the wine (or grab a card from the table to look up later).

~Have a plan to get home safe. No drinkin’ and drivin’ of course. Plan your transit route, grab a cab/uber, or take advantage of the festival's hotel packages.

~If the table you want to visit is too crowded, head to the quiet booth you’ve never heard of before. I’ve tasted delicious wines and met interesting people just by being open minded about trying something totally new.

~Lastly, have fun and keep an open mind. Try a new grape, a new winery, a new region that you’ve never had before. I also challenge you to try a grape you’ve had before and not enjoyed. If you’ve completely written off Chardonnay, you could be missing out just because you had that one off-putting bottle, when another style may blow your mind!

HOW TO SWIRL YOUR WINE GLASS

There’s poetry in the glass, they say. I agree, but I think there’s perfume in the glass too. Today we’re talking “Why We Swirl”.

Most #winelovers can all agree that we love to sniff our wine, especially when trying a bottle of something new.  It’s one of the key steps in the see-swirl-sniff-savour school of tasting. But did you know that swirling creates a wine vortex in your glass?

This delicious vortex makes it easier to identify which flavours we’re smelling and can make our wine taste better. As the wine courses up the sides of the glass, it creates a lot of surface area to interact with oxygen, like a mini-decanter treatment. This loosens up all the volatile scent compounds, and the swirling vortex takes them up to your nose.

If you want maximum pleasure out of your wine (don’t we all), this move is your new best friend. It’s especially helpful for what the wine snobs calls “Elegant” wines, aka those that don’t have much of a bouquet, or tannic wines that need a bit of softening. The wines I take care to be gentle with are sparkling or really old; I don’t want to disperse those gorgeous bubbles or injure them!

The Trick to Swirling

Now that we know how much tastier a wine can smell by creating our wine vortex, let’s talk the #1 trick you need to know: put less wine in your glass than normal. What? Less wine in my glass, are you crazy!

That’s right, I’m asking you to hold back on your pour, leaving your glass more half-empty than half-full. The ideal pour will sit just below the widest part of the bowl of the glass.

*More empty space = more room to swirl up a storm*

In my WSET class, we use the pro ISO tasting glasses, that hold about an ounce of wine, and taste every kind of wine from them. At home, I like a glass that isn’t too big, has an elegant stem, and a nice thin rim.

Two Techniques to Try

My time tested, party-approved swirling methods are the Freehand Swirl and the Tabletop Swirl. Fox maximum effect, you need to swizzle for just 5 to 10 seconds. Don’t wear your wine out!

To achieve the more attention-getting Freehand Swirl, grasp the glass near the bottom of the stem, just above the foot, with your thumb and two fingers. Pinching the stem, rotate your wrist in a counterclockwise circle, as vigorously as you dare (southpaws: go clockwise). Extra points for Gryffindor if you can hold your glass aloft to admire its colour at the same time. If you need a little extra help to stabilize the glass, tuck your pinkie finger under the foot.

When a more subtle move is called for, employ the Tabletop Swirl. Setting your glass on the table, place the stem between your first two fingers, and rest the top of your palm lightly on the glass’s foot. Move your hand in a small counterclockwise circle, and watch the magic happen. This move is a little more devil-may-care, but like Jamie Lee Curtis in True Lies, don’t be afraid to “make it sexy“!

So go on, grab your wineglass, pour in just the right amount of wine – remember: less than normal – and give both techniques a try.

Breathe Out Before You Breathe In

Last tip of the day, and it’s an important one: as you finish swirling, breathe out fully, then as your nose approaches the glass inhale the sweet, sweet wine vortex you’ve created.

Enjoy, and leave a comment below: which technique do you prefer?