Wine Tasting And The Company We Keep

Roberto Viernes
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Wednesday - October 19, 2011
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A mega-Grenache cuvee

As one would imagine, I attend wine tastings and wine dinners more often than the average person. I’m in the trade after all and, heck, I even enjoy them. But some are better than others, and through my experience I have distilled what is required to have a great wine tasting event.

To me, the most important thing at a wine tasting is not the wine. Shocking, right? But the most important thing at the tasting is actually the company. The people I am going to spend that time with are almost always the determining factor in how much fun I’m going to have. You could have some of the greatest wines of the world, but if the company is bad you just want to leave.

It has happened to me. My wife and I were invited to a dinner by a friend, where he was to feature some top-end Burgundies and Champagnes. During the course of dinner, the people at our table began political bashing, complaining and going on diatribes about how this wine was overrated or this wine was too expensive. We left the dinner shaking our heads thinking it was a waste of our time, and were disappointed by the whole experience. To this day, I can only remember one wine from the dinner, and it was the one that I brought. It was a great wine, but it was ruined by the company.

Not only do you have to choose the people at the tasting and/or dinner wisely, but also the wines. If you want to have fun, make sure you have wines that you like. Notice I didn’t write that you must bring “great” wines. Yes, great wines can only add to the whole experience, but I would rather drink wines I like that aren’t necessarily the top 100 wines of the world than to drink what someone else deems to be “great” and not like it. Think about it this way. If you are not a Champagne lover but you’re going to be surrounded by Champagne fanatics, you’re much better off bringing what you want to drink than suffering through drinking a dozen Champagnes. (Although I can’t imagine anyone “suffering” through Champagne).

An unreal value

The other thing that should be required at every wine tasting is learning something new. Even if you are a connoisseur or have tasted the wines before, there is always something new to learn. There is always the new vintage, a new producer or something you never knew about a producer. The discoveries don’t only have to do with the wine, either. Just the other night I met a lovely couple whose son goes to the same school as mine, and they gave me some great advice on things to look forward to at his school. Learning keeps your mind alive. Share your thoughts and knowledge about the wines and always be learning, too.

The right glassware, attire and even food are much further down the list. Food is important, but I always say, drink what you like with what you want to eat. Chances are they aren’t going to clash if you like them so much. If you start off with these three things, you are almost guaranteed to have a good time and enjoy them just as much as I do.

Recommendations: 2010 Maxime Laurent “Il fait soif” Cotes du Rhone ($25) This ain’t your daddy’s Cotes du Rhone. This is a full throttle megaGrenache cuvee made in a modern style that makes everyone flip when they taste it. 2009 Monte Antico Rosso IGT ($12) This inexpensive “Super Tuscan” is an unreal value. Utterly drinkable without any pretense, just delicious red berry and plum flavors from Sangiovese.


Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. E-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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