I also really enjoy working at larger "walk around" tastings for the general public and the wine trade. This hasn't stopped me developing a wry sense of humour, as I recognise the 5 main types of people you Do Not want to be at any wine tasting. If you recognise yourself below, don't panic. I have tips to help you blend right in at future events.
• Mr Beer doesn’t really like wine. He’s not sure why he’s at the wine tasting. Maybe his boss sent him at short notice to help improve the wine list. Or maybe his friends have dragged him out for a sophisticated afternoon. Either way, we’re not really sure why he’s at a wine tasting either. But telling the person pouring wine that you don’t like wine leads to one response only: Challenge Accepted.
We will do our level best to change your mind and bring you over to the bright side.
Mr Beer can get the most from a wine tasting by opening his mind, and trying the recommendations.
• Ms Lipstick is very pretty. And she has a beautiful smile. But she’s leaving a trail of wax on her tasting glasses that we will never get off. We are also left wondering if she’s tasting a floral note in the wine, or extract of beeswax from her lipsalve. By all means dress up for your wine tasting, but try to go for a non-waxy lipstick, and blot.
Mrs Purple Teeth confesses she is an erstwhile Lipstick Queen. She recommends Nyx Full Throttle lipsticks. They don't transfer too much, and they stay on during the whole day.
• Mr Pleasant knows what he likes. He’s read the wine list and he’s figured out the most expensive wine we are pouring. He’s skipped the entry level wines and demanded to be served “the big one”. He’s described it as “pleasant”. In wine circles, that’s the equivalent of saying your girlfriend has “a nice personality”. When you’re drinking our most expensive wine, the cult classic, the one we love, the last thing we want to hear is “pleasant”. Hate it if you must. Don’t worry. We don’t expect you to buy a bottle.
Mr Pleasant can get more from a wine tasting by asking the pourer for insights. If he can't find the words to describe the aromas and flavours, the host will help by prompting with their own ideas.
Miss “Have you got Prosecco”
• Miss Prosecco knows what she likes. She also thinks she knows what she doesn’t like. She thinks she doesn’t like Chardonnay.
She thinks she doesn’t like red wine.
But she loves a bubble. Except, she doesn’t really.
What she really likes is lemonade.
Sweet Prosecco makes her day.
Related to Mr Beer, we’re not sure why she’s come.
She only wants to taste wines she already knows and loves. Seriously. That’s not the point of a wine tasting. Open your mind and let some of the bubbles out.
Miss Prosecco could get more from a wine tasting by asking to taste the "fruity" wines, and she'll probably love all of the dessert wines on offer, white and red.
Mr “Self-Service and hope no-one is looking”
• Mr Self Service usually starts out alright. He’ll try a few of the wines. He’ll make some witty remarks. He’ll even make a decent attempt at a tasting note, or ask for more information at the winery.
But as soon as our backs are turned, or we are busy serving someone else, he’s there like a shot...
“I’d just like to try this one again to be sure it’s my favourite,” as he fills his glass to the brim. “I brought my friend to try this one, is it okay if I just...” he’ll say, pouring them both the best part of what’s left in the bottle.
That cheeky charm, the flattery, you think you’re as beguiling as the wine, but really, you’re just a freeloader.
Mr Self-Service is already getting the most from a wine tasting. He's noshing the cheese and drinking his money's worth in fine wine. He needs no tips, but we beg you, please, leave us some for other customers.
And finally, my insider tips for getting the best from any wine tasting.
Wine tasting is fun. It’s all about trying as many wines as you can and maybe learning something new. You could discover a new varietal, or what difference a vintage makes. Perhaps you’ll find out about a wine region, or whether or not oak is for you.
Ask questions. There's no right and wrong. Although "pleasant" comes close. Don't be afraid to express your opinion.
Have an open mind, tell the wine professional your likes and dislikes and they'll recommend for you.
Don't be afraid to use the spittoon. That way you can taste many more wines and hopefully find the wine of your dreams. Hint: It won’t be Prosecco.
Bonus Pro Tip: Wear black, or at least something that won't stain if your spittoon technique isn't up to scratch. It's easy to get messy.
Use fizzy water to cleanse your palate between wines, eat the bread sticks or bread, but note that cheese etc will have an impact on the flavour of the wine.
Take simple notes. If the tasting has a catalogue, simple ticks or scores will do. Better still take photos of the wines you love with your smart phone so that you can find the wines again later, next time you're out wine shopping.
Most of all, njoy your wine this weekend and try something new. I recommend trying wine bars or stores which offer very small samples from oenomatic machines as a nice alternative to a formal tasting. Eg Vagabond or The Sampler (both have several branches around London), or The Tasting House in Reading.
If your local wine store doesn't have sampling on offer, put yourself on the mailing list to ensure you get notified of any tastings.
And, if you'd like a tasting at home, you can always host a Purple Teeth Party.