I recently attended the Decanter New World Fine Wine Encounter, held in the Landmark Hotel, London. It was my first ‘big’ wine tasting fair, so I thought I’d share a few reflections on the event and suggest an approach for future such events.
My first piece of advice is to be selective. There are typically dozens of producers showing their wares at these events, many of whom are displaying around 8 different wines. That is a lot of wine and no matter how efficient you are, you’re never going to get through them all in a day. Select by notable producers, wine styles, regions or countries you are interested in. Make a plan before starting and try to stick to it. This event was entirely new world wine with 7 different countries represented. I made a point of seeing the New Zealand producers (of which there were comparatively few) to get a flavour of my homeland, South African producers as it is a region I am not especially familiar with, Oregon producers as American wines are often expensive and difficult to find in the UK, and finally Brazilian producers as it seems to be an up and coming wine region and I am always keen to learn new things about wine.
Secondly, decide on an appropriate tasting order. Highly acidic wines, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Noir for instance, can fatigue your palate very quickly. Likewise, once you’ve tasted a swathe of tannin-filled beasts of wines from South Africa there’s no point going back to delicate white wines. I started with the New Zealand wines – all comparatively light styles – before venturing to Brazil, and then to South Africa, keeping most of the highly tannic wines until the end. I saw many people doing the rounds for the white wines first, before following with the reds. This approach is fine, as long as you keep yourself to a time limit and get round to the wines you most want to see.
Thirdly: spit, spit, spit! There are a lot of wines to get through, you don’t want to be feeling horrible halfway through the day.
In that vein, take a break for some food, or bring something along to eat. I didn’t and that was the worst mistake. Despite my rigorous spitting regime, I was exhausted come 4 p.m. and not in the mood for any more wine tasting.
Additionally, bear in mind any other events that are taking place throughout the day. The Decanter event had a number of tasting workshops spread throughout the day. These serve as an excellent way to get off your feet for an hour and to learn from the experts about a particular wine style or region.
Finally, enjoy yourself and make the most of it! I set out to learn something new about wine. Once I forced myself to be realistic about the number of producers I could conceivably visit, I enjoyed really zoning in on the styles of particular wines I had chosen to look at and how I could recognise them from a blind tasting perspective. I’m sure that’s just my inner wine geek coming out though! Many people were there just for a good time, and that’s what it’s all about.
I’ll be posting some more of my thoughts from this Fine Wine Encounter in the next few entries.