In case you didn't notice, last week there was no Uncorked column. I had every intention of getting one in before my deadline, but alas, my son chose that day to be born.
So, for the first one back, I am going to announce a fun little tasting event. I will be making my first Uncorked public appearance from 6 to 8 p.m., Sept. 16 at the Park Lafayette Condominiums, 1918 E. Lafayette Pl.
The format is simple: Come and hang out, see the new space, eat some food, taste some wine. We can chat wine and you can take a tour of the facilities.
The wines will be some super fun items, including:
- Marquis de La Tour Rose Sparkling, Loire Valley
- Newton Red Label Chardonnay, Napa Valley
- Newton Red Label Claret, Napa Valley
- El Portillo Malbec, Argentina
- Citra Pinot Noir, Sicily
- Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc, California
All the wines will be available for special order through Thief Wine shop in the Milwaukee Public Market (which currently has several of the items already in stock).
A representative from Wine Thief will be on hand pouring samples.
This is a tasting event and there is no charge. Space is limited, however, so please reserve your spot by sending an e-mail by Sept. 15 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, here is a look at 10 tasting etiquette tips from a previous Uncorked column:
1. Plan ahead. Remember that any time alcohol is involved, judgment is impaired. Lots of wine is poured at big events and if you are planning on enjoying plenty of it, make sure you have arranged for proper transportation.
2. Fashion sense. Whatever you do -- DON'T WEAR WHITE.
3. Spit it out. There are spit buckets on the tables for a reason. You don't have to drink all the wine that's poured. Most of the time, the bottles will have portion control spouts to limit the quantity poured to an ounce or less. But often enough you will get a larger pour. If that's the case, you can taste a small portion and pour the rest in the bucket.
4. Not just for men. Ladies, you expect it from men, but in the wine world, it is not unladylike or gauche to spit into the bucket. The buckets are big and all you need to do is position your head just above the opening and aim toward the sides of the bucket so you don't splash all over yourself or your neighbor. When I go to industry tastings (read: professional cork dorks everywhere) you seldom see anyone who doesn't spit.
5. Look around. Always be aware of your surroundings. There are times when you will be shoulder to shoulder with a lot of people all carrying wine glasses. Back up or turn around without looking at your own risk.
6. Keep the line moving. Believe it or not, there is a method for wiggling in for a taste pour. Unfortunately, not everyone abides by No. 5. When there are lines of people waiting to get a sample, ideally everyone moves in a rotation. If everyone forms an orderly line in front of the wine selections, the front two or three are able to receive a taste and should then move toward the right or left (whichever side has the spit bucket). This allows the next in line to receive a taste and so on. Typically, even a very busy table will have no more than eight people or so waiting, thus allowing everyone to rotate through again.
7. Keep it simple. If you engage the vendor or winemaker in conversation, remember that there are still others behind you who want to try the wine. If you inquire about the product, ask simple and easy to answer questions. If you really want to know when the harvest dates were for last 10 years, what percentage of new French oak barrels were used for each vintage and what pruning methodologies were employed -- ask for a business card and look it up online. In the technological age, wineries almost always post all of the geeky goodies.
8. Don't show off. Nothing spoils the mood more than someone who tries to sound cool and impress people. Everyone should be there to have a good time, not to see who knows the most or has been to which exotic vineyard. Relax, share stories that others will be able to relate to and whatever you do, never try to show up a winemaker. It will make them dislike you instantly (they stand in front of thousands of people just like you every year) and it will guarantee you won't get the phone number of the cute girl standing next to you.
9. Learn to juggle. Shuffling food and wine is a tricky proposition. When I go to tastings, it's for education and sampling. I spit every drop and eat beforehand, so I don't have to worry about juggling a wine glass and a plate of food. I'm the odd one, though, and most of the time, to add to the enjoyment, cheese and crackers and other assorted goodies are available. On the rare occasion that I do eat at a tasting, I have found that grasping the base of the wine glass allows me to hold the plate up against the stem on top of the base in the same hand. I have seen some extra smart people bring their own little clip-on wine glass holders. These people are obviously way brighter than me, and have fewer stains on their clothes when they leave. The two examples pictured above may be had on a variety of online sites.
10. Act tastefully. Depending on what your goal is for the tasting, be it calculated education or relaxed enjoyment, there are methods to prolong the ability of the taste buds. Starting with white is always a good bet -- sparkling wine, even better. For whites, start with lighter, high acid whites and move toward the bigger, rounder-fruit white wines. After you make the switch to red, use the same principle -- start with light pinots and such then move toward big, bad cabs. You will begin to determine how many total wines you can handle without losing your entire palate. As you progress, there are some cheats you can employ to go the extra mile. If your tongue can't stand another big oak and tannin red, go back to some dry sparkling for two or three tastes. The bubbles sting your tongue a bit, but it will thrash your dulled palate back to life for another short stint.