I don’t have many pet peeves in the wine world as I still consider myself a beginner. And I rarely take on an opposing opinion with someone with a wine pedigree much more impressive than my own. But sometimes, argh, those with the long pedigree do and say things that they think they are somehow justified due to their education. And it can just be plain rude.
Cutting to the chase: I was at a large tasting, where the first few hours was set aside for media, distributors and a few sommeliers. I was chatting with a winemaker I knew, just about to taste the two wines he brought to share, when a somm (I knew this from the badges we all wore to show our affiliation) took a whiff and a taste and declared what he thought of the wine in one word: bacon.
I waited for more. The winemaker waited for more. I said to the somm that there was more in my glass than his, and it surprised me that that was all he found. I don’t even recall his answer, but to suffice it to say, he got my drift but didn’t have another descriptor at hand. He moved on to another table.
Lingering with the winemaker we discussed how hard it is to spend time sampling each wine offered at a large tasting, and to share our thoughts with the winemaker or winery representative just because there is so much to taste. However, keeping in mind that a winemaker has spent two years on each variety, tasting repeatedly, and then is giving it away for free to gain feedback as well as sales – then we that attend these tastings are doing a disservice, a rude habit that even I have been guilty of at times just due to the time I have at an event.
Here are some suggestions for laypeople at tasting events:
- Express any and all positive feedback.
- Acknowledge the work put into every wine, aka be appreciative of a talent we don’t share.
- Thank them for the taste.
- If you don’t have time to fully describe but you do like the wine, let them know that you will want to revisit the wine, and pick up one of their business cards.
- If you can share what you think of the wine, beyond liking it, do. All descriptors are subjective. There is no right or wrong. Some words, like bacon, are common for Syrahs. But no one word can encapsulate a wine. The aromas flavors that you pick up can be influenced by terroir (soil, proximity to salt air, etc.) but are also due to chemical reactions. But mostly, what you get from a wine is due to the talent of the winemaker.
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits. You can also seek her marketing advice via Eve@EveBushmanConsulting.com