Eve of Destruction: How Guests Should Behave at Large Tastings

I got the idea of writing on how consumers should behave at a large tasting for my wine 101 readers. Besides backing away from the table after you receive your pour, so others can approach, what say you? (Reps, winemakers, consumers alike.) How do you think consumers should behave? Uber-Personal replies can go to ebushman@earthlink.net

I’m afraid this is the face (see photo) that most Reps see at these mass tastings…and I really want to know what they like and don’t like. As a consumer, and writer, my goal is to learn, not to get drunk. (Editor’s note: Eve of Destruction was an old column header of mine in the newspaper when I was being particularly bitchy.)

So, first of all, back up. When you approach a tasting table be cognisant of any lines behind you. Even though it is best to taste the entire line up offered, and talk to the winery representative (Rep), you may have to back up and return to the table if others are waiting. The Rep doesn’t want to lose the crowd while you turn to your friend to discuss the wine. You can also just taste, and pour out quickly, if you want to keep moving. The goal isn’t to be plastered at the first table; it’s to learn and start discerning the differences in the wines offered.

If you are taking notes, even better, but back up to do it. Most events will supply you with a list, some of the tables may have more, so all you need is a pen and a simple 1-4 star system for your thoughts. You can try and make more notes but that’s better left for a sit down smaller tasting or wine pairing dinner. (Then send them to me for a blog post!)

Tamara L. carries her own cup to spit into instead of splashing on others in the sometimes overflowing pour-out buckets. She is so smooth she doesn’t need to even finish what she has in her mouth. For her, and other sommeliers, a plastic cup or extra wine glass will work. The job of expectorating can be accomplished without any mess or publicity.

When a Rep is tending to another guest, whether it be talking or pouring, if you can’t wait – just move on. No dirty looks or sighs necessary. Funny thing about mass tastings – their MASSIVE.

When you see a Rep all alone, because there is a line for the Rep right beside them, it probably wouldn’t kill you to try their wine. A winery is not like an empty restaurant, the planners invited them there for a reason. You will find something you like amongst what they pour. Promise. Don’t ever let your wine experience be subjective. That is why there is so many different wines; for the differences in us.

“Under the table” doesn’t mean a place to go when you’ve had too many. It’s where the Reps keep the good stuff. The stuff their sipping all day and sharing with the other Reps. You can ask, but most likely, it will be offered if you behave extremely well. My Yelp friend Laura, who I thought was after what was under the table, had this to share:

“Tablas Creek was founded by the Perris Family of Chateau de Beaucastle. I know that winery well and I think the gentleman who was pouring was appreciative that I knew their roots! He gave me a bottle of 06 Esprit to take home – NICE. My husband will like this one! Great seeing you. Keep me posted on any tastings you hear of!”

I brought a novice wine friend with me to a large tasting and asked her what her take on the protocol looked like. She thought, as I had to agree, that it got a point in the day where everyone was telling us where to go, what to try, what not to miss…but it was that lonesome Rep, that one that still smiled, that didn’t look as tired as she should be, willing to pour and talk about the wine she had brought…to just give to appreciate guests.

So, that would mean we have one job when meeting and tasting: Be an appreciative guest. And, with all you’ve been drinking at these big events, it shouldn’t be that hard to do.

6 thoughts on “Eve of Destruction: How Guests Should Behave at Large Tastings

  1. Thank you for writing this. I have been to some tastings where it seems the goal of the guests is to get as plastered as possible—not to taste the wine. It's embarrassing really. Sip and get rid of it. I'm sure the reps see people behave that way all the time, but if they were bartenders at a bar, they'd toss people out on their butts for behaving badly.

    And I like your advice to see everyone—even the lonely rep. You never know what jewel you may find.

  2. Thanks for your comment DS. I think part of the problem is we've paid in advance, not as we go, so we see it as "our due" to treat it as an all-you-can-eat buffet.

  3. That's one of the reasons why I stopped going to the ZAP Tasting in S.F…They sell more tickets than the venue can handle, and the lines at some of the tables are 10-people deep.

    MY biggest peeve at tastings is that there is ALWAYS at-least one person that attends that smells like she/he just came from a French whorehouse. Leave the perfume and cologne, at-home…

  4. Chad,

    I hope some of our connections will read this. They know exactly how many tickets have been sold and should stop sales when they know it will compromise all of their guest's experiences.

    And the perfume? A good one to add to the list of what not to do at ANY wine tasting. This used to be public info, kind of a "what to expect" check off list that venues sometimes supplied. Wine 101ers need to still know this. Thank you Chad!

  5. Interesting comments. I admit that I try to spend some time talking with winery personnel, especially those that I know. I try to do this when there aren't other people waiting to taste. Also, regarding the lonely wineries, my tasting strategy is usually to try to taste early the wineries I have the most interest in, and then spend the rest of the tasting wandering around and tasting at tables that are less crowded.

    Regarding the buffet issue, as you know, I prefer attending the all you can taste events. [Note my choice of words.] The pay-for-play tends to be where I feel I need to drink the entire pour.

    And the perfume, should be a no-brainer, but it still does happen.

  6. Zin-Man Michael,

    Always the gentleman, wish there were more like you at tastings. I think if you were to tell a lady not to bathe in Channel she would accept it. Now if you told me not to bathe in wine…too late!

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