Regardless of whether you’re a wine connoisseur or just entering the scene, a wine festival is a great way to expand your knowledge of wines. OK, who are we kidding? It’s a great way to TASTE a wide variety of wines without driving all over the place.
This simple guide covers everything from how to pace yourself and not overdo it, to how to transport the bottles of wine you purchase, written by someone who has spent most of their time on the pouring side of the counter.
Plan Your Day
“Which winery booth do you want to go to next?”
“Doesn’t matter to me, you decide.”
“No, you decide.”
“I don’t care, you pick.”
If you’ve ever been frustrated by a group that can’t make up its mind and spends half the day standing around talking about what to do next, you might want to think about planning your day in advance. Get online before the event to see which vendors are participating and where you want to start. Create a plan and stick to it as much as possible. Don’t start with the winery whose booth is right at the entrance and then go clockwise; that’s what everyone else is doing.
Broaden Your Horizons
It can be tempting to hit up all your favorite wineries that are there every year because you know you like them. But that’s the thing… you already know them. You’re only able to take so many sips in a day, don’t waste too many on wines you’ve had a hundred times. Branch out and see what’s new. You might be surprised at what you like when you try new things.
Talk to the Vendors
Guess what? The people pouring the wine usually know quite a bit about it. Instead of saying, “Oh, I want the one with the cat label” and sticking your glass out, ask the vendor about their wine. They’d be happy to tell you about it. Or say, “What can you recommend for a person who likes dry reds that aren’t overly oaky?”
A pet peeve of mine is when someone tells me to pour them a dry wine, then makes a face after drinking it, saying, “Oh gross, I only like sweet wine.” If they would have told me that in the first place, I’d have had quite a few that I know they would love. Instead they walk away thinking that we make terrible wine.
Regardless of how ambitious your tasting ‘to-do’ list is, consider setting a timer in order to take a break from wine sampling and drink some water. This is also a good time to break into your picnic basket or stop off at a food vendor to grab a snack. Taking advantage of the live music that is usually present at wine festivals is a great break from sampling too. Drinking too much too quickly may result in a less-than-pleasant experience.
I’ve seen way too many people purchase wine and then get a shocked look on their face when they realize they have to carry it around the rest of the day in paper bags. Consider getting a tote bag with a strap to help you carry your bottles. I always recommend this one, which was given to me as a Christmas gift a few years ago and has gotten so much use that I’m not sure what I’d do without it.
Other ways to prepare include making sure you wear sunscreen, bringing some water, and possibly the most important – leaving the kids at home.
Don’t Let Sour Grapes Ruin Your Day
Lastly, know ahead of time that you’re most likely going to run into a few ‘over-indulgers’ who will be loud and obnoxious. Don’t let them ruin your day! You may very well encounter some unsavory situations at a large public event like this. Even Mother Nature can put a damper on things, but try to stay positive. The Gettysburg Wine and Music Festival had huge downpours one year, and there were two kinds of people: the kind that complained, threw fits, and demanded their money back; or the kind that had a blast and made the most of it. Which would you rather be?
Do you have any great wine festival stories? Or are you planning on going to any this summer and fall? Let us know!
Time for a glass…