The guide to terrible tasters

by  |  17-03-2017

While spring means changing clocks and remembering to take an umbrella with you, for those of us in the wine world, it means that it’s the season of wine tastings. I have yet to understand why everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, they all happen at some point between March and May. It is what it is and one tries to attend as many as possible although each year, I seem to find myself avoiding as many as possible.

Why do I not enjoy wine fairs anymore? It’s simply because I’m a focused guy who goes to them to try and taste wines out of professional improvement. I don’t go to wine fairs with the idea in mind that it’s some kind of bar to get drunk at and truth be told, after a disastrous tasting in Jerez where I seriously underestimated the potency of sweet Sherry, I drink nothing at these events and spit everything.

There are however many people who do drink a great deal like in the US where middle aged women walk around with ‘Got Wine?’ t-shirts. It’s similar to people here who get pissed that the winemaker doesn’t give them more than 20cl. Everyone does know that the winemaker is giving away ‘tastes’ of wine at these events after having paid to attend them, right?

While it always pains me to use them as an example, the French do wine tastings, especially for trade, in an incredibly professional way where people back away from the winemaker to taste the wine and let others in. Conversations are kept to a minimum and if a full cellar visit is needed, they arrange one for a later date. It’s quite civilized and spoils you a bit for how it is… well, pretty much everywhere else.

Note that I’m not including wine tasting at festes majors in this as those are a whole different beast with different or really, no rules. But on the topic of the more professional fairs, if you encounter a large “catalifornià” standing behind you and in his hand is an empty glass and on his face is the look of someone that just ate rotten cheese, here are some examples of one or more attendees that might be causing this:

The Earbiter

As the name implies this is someone who latches on to the ear of the winemaker and asks them no end of inane questions (how many days of maceration? are these really natural wines? what’s your dog’s name? how was traffic getting here?) while standing in front of the table blocking anyone else from tasting the wines. It’s as if this pesat is fully convinced that the winemaker is his own personal winemaker. Word to the wise, detaching such a pest is impossible so don’t try, move on, and say a prayer for the winemaker.

The Spittoon Squatter

The greatest addition to any tasting are spittoons in the middle of the floor–anyone planning a fair, make note of this. But a new problem has occurred with these in that groups will form around them and chat like it was a bar with a spitting hole in the middle of it (undoubtedly I have just started the newest trend in hipster bars). These groups will often shake hands across the spittoon when you’re spitting in to it. Word to the wise, spit freely and teach them a lesson.

Gossip Central

Much like the squatters, these are groups of friends who make an outing of going to a wine fair (even at professional ones) and will stand as a group of 4-6 in front of the table while one friend (usually the earbiter) “talks” to the winemaker. This isn’t a bar, go get a coffee folks.

The Social Media “Expert”

It’s one thing to try and stay out of tourist photos on Les Rambles (although I naughtily photobomb at will) but it’s a whole other thing to have an “artist” assemble wine bottles on a table for what he or she ordains to be the ultimate Instagram shot. Someone needs to whisper in the ear of these individuals that, while they’re squatting in front of the table, blocking everyone from tasting and showing us what is truly their “bad side” that no one gives a damn about photos of bottles on Instagram. Wine is to be drank, often.

The Drunk

And of course, this is the worst. The drunk can combine all of the worst elements from the previous types but will add into it, not being able to stand or pronounce anything correctly, “Pee or what?”. While we were all young and have been there at least once, if you find yourself doing this often, you just might have a problem and you’re showing it to the rest of us. Lay off the grape juice and maybe try finding a date.

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