I love wine festivals. I love the excitement of a gigantic room filled with a dazzling array of wines waiting to be tasted and interesting and fun people to talk to about wine. I love strolling around, perusing the tables with their bottles all lined up, many flanked with medals for various wine awards, being loaded up with pours, swirling my glass, downing divine liquids. Heaven!
But I don’t love the toll the higher than normal amount of alcohol takes on my body. Personally, two big glasses of wine (no, not this kind), spread out over the course of an evening, is my limit. And I have zero desire to try and break personal records here.
So how do you enjoy a wine festival without going overboard and waking up the next day with a raging headache, empty wallet, or other ill fates? In short, regret?
Fear not, it’s not impossible; you can have your wine and drink it, too! Remember you are not here to compete; you are here to do as many tastings as your body will allow you to do comfortably. A wine festival is kind of a weird amalgam of speed dating and a trade show. But done with balance and moderation in mind, it’s great fun.
I lay before you my wine festival wisdom! In no particular order…
1. Have a designated driver. Non-negotiable, and probably the most important consideration. Even if you don’t “plan on drinking that much” – it’s just best practice to have someone assume this responsibility.
2. Go with friends. Obviously if you have a DD the assumption is that you are going with friends. It’s hard to see people in person these days (life, busy), so it’s almost a superhuman feat when we do get ourselves together. Make this experience worthwhile and enjoy this time with your friends.
3. Make friends. Get chatty (that won’t be hard after a few sips). 😛 Don’t be obnoxious, but you’re in a room with a bunch of fellow wine lovers – swap stories. Make more friends!
4. Hydrate. Alcohol dehydrates you. The rule is at least one glass of water for each 5 oz. glass of wine. Take it seriously. Bring that water bottle and use it. Keep refilling it.
5. Take away the pain. Bring an OTC pain reliever in case wine headache sets it.
6. Take notes! Since I’m on my phone enough already I prefer to take wine tasting notes with a pen and basic cheap spiral notebook. That works for me. Do what works for you. Snap photos with your camera, use your favorite app, etc.
7. Set a budget and stick with it. Also take into account your wine storage situation at home. You might not have room right now for a whole extra case of wine.
8. Mind your blood sugar. Go with a fairly full stomach, but not so full you don’t have room for wine. Bring bland crackers like water crackers to clear your palate and some salted nuts & dried fruit to elevate your blood sugar should the need arise (and it will!). Bring funds for meals and snacks, depending how long you are there.
9. Pace yourself. This is not a race! Relax. Easy does it, tiger.
10. Don’t just swallow your wine. Those of you wine tasting pros, keep reading. Those of you less familiar with proper wine tasting form, a quick lesson:
Take a sip, keep it in your mouth while you swish it and swirl it around, letting all the details of the wine register on your tongue and through your retronasal olfaction (your sense of smell that comes up to your nose from your mouth). Trill the wine, sucking some air into your mouth while you have wine in your mouth to aerate the wine. The air will actually help encourage the release of more of the wine’s aroma molecules. Then swallow. Exhale through your nose with your mouth closed for even more aromas.
For Olympian-level trilling action (and also plenty of talking), check out WineLibrary TV for endless examples of trilling and expectorating. 🙂
11. Don’t be afraid to spit out your wine (“expectorate”). Ask your wine server for a dump bucket. You can try a lot more wines without getting buzzed if you do this. It lets you get 90% of the picture of a wine, although you do miss out on the finish a little, since you are not swallowing in this instance (“finish” is how a wine concludes after swallowing, or the end experience of a sip of wine). BUT you still get all the information you need about the wine’s body, structure, and flavors. So it’s a win-win (wine-win?).
If you are really digging the wine you’re tasting, swallow; if not, spit.
You can also just take a small sip, savor, and swallow your wine, then dump the rest of your pour into the bucket to save your alcohol bandwidth for other wines.
12. Know and own your personal limit and practice acceptance. Remember, you absolutely cannot sample every single wine from every last winery here, and you won’t. Enjoy the ones you pick and remember that just leaves more for another time. Don’t be afraid to throw in the towel when you are truly done tasting for the day. Stop before your body starts complaining loudly!
And remember, palate fatigue is real. Our palates start to tire after tasting a high number of wines. This is when everything starts to taste AMAZING and when you frequently decide to purchase wine (naturally!), so just remember that when you bring home that bottle and it doesn’t taste quite as AMAZING as you remember it tasting at your beloved wine festival. This is why it really is better to only do so many tastes at one time, because you truly can’t enjoy the wines to their fullest with a muddled palate.
How about you? Have you been to any wine festivals? Love ’em? Hate ’em? Fun stories to share? Comment!