I often go to tasting events organized by importers: it is a great way to taste wines that you could not normally have, for lack of time or money. You may meet customers and producers, people you know or new acquaintances, and strengthen your network. Finally, tasting events can also be a great way to intoxicate yourself for free (be aware of who is watching though).
The last is especially true: you need to have a clear plan and the will to stick to it or even the most well intentioned taster risks wasting his composure and his time.
I envy those professional who can taste dozens and dozens of wine (en primeur even) and maintain their mind clear and their palate ready. I know that there are strategies and I try to use them, but the truth is that after 20 wines or, even spitting all the time, my lucidity drops abruptly.
Second, there are wines which perform better during tasting events: some are partly developed, some have a more expressive character, some are peculiar. These are easier to appreciate.
Other wines need more care. In the past I had some unconvincing bottles which suddenly turned to gold the day after, like 2011 Cristom Pinot Noir Mt. Jefferson Cuvée or 2009 Georg Breuer Spätburgunder. Should I have based my judgement on the first glass I would have completely missed their quality.
This is why when I attend these events, staring at that legion of available wines, I always wonder if I am really understanding what the wine has to say, if I am tasting it at the right conditions. It’s like I am speed dating the wines: yeah that girl was prettier, I got her number, but she was nuts. The shy, introverted one would have been better, but alas we’ll never know.
Seminars are way better: having 5-10 wines before you and a producer, importer or ambassador explaining you what has been done to the wine while you taste it is a great way to learn how production choices impact final flavour.
So are tasting events useless? Of course not. As I said, meeting customers, importers and producers is important, but you really need to be focused on what you are doing and why.
At present I am studying the Wine Scholar Guild Masterclass on Burgundy, so I’ll give precedence to Burgundy wines, bearing in mind that my judgement will get less and less reliable. If you are employed in a wine shop take note of what you need, which price band you want to fill, which Countries. Be also aware of overperforming and underperforming bottles, since often you don’t even know what time they have been opened. If you can participate in a seminar, with a limited selection of wines, it is even better.
And if you just want to drink, enjoy. Just please do not throw on the carpet – there are your customers watching.