"Stash a water bottle in your pocket or purse. Hydration is key, and you can use it to discreetly rinse out your glass between pours if you like."
The best way to learn about wine is to taste, taste, taste. And the best way taste a lot of wine is to attend a large-scale event that offers plenty of pours. But some of these events are beyond enormous, offering miles (and sometimes that's no hyperbole) of aisles, each packed with wines to try. Here are ten steps to not losing your mind at a massive wine tasting.
1. Eat something before you go. And while you're there, too, if food is available.
2. Travel light. Check your gym bag or bulky tote with your coat, or leave it at home. All it takes is one good jostle and you'll knock a row of wineglasses off the table. (Been there, done that!)
3. Go early. If you can purchase a VIP pass that lets you in before the masses, do it. You'll get to easily navigate the aisles and try what you really want. There's not much advantage to showing up late: sure, the crowds may taper off, but those left will be tipsy and many wineries may already be packing up to go.
4. Decide if you're attending for business or pleasure. In other words, if it's for "business," (and that can mean personal education, blogging, etc.) take a small notebook and pen, and a camera/phone to record your impressions of wines and note the ones you'd like to purchase later. If you're attending for "pleasure," feel free to graze away, and just enjoy the experience of being there. You may also be more inclined to sip instead of spit if you're just there for fun.
5. Stash a water bottle in your pocket or purse. Hydration is key, and you can use it to discreetly rinse out your glass between pours if you like.
6. Don't drink full glasses. Just a small pour should do it. And don't feel obligated to down the whole glass. Instead...
7. Use the dump buckets. Pour out your glass, or ask for a paper cup (or bring your own), and discreetly spit into that. Later, spill the contents of your cup into the dump buckets.
8. Remember that you only have two hands. Often that means one for the wine glass and one for a plate of food. And then comes the juggling so you can maneuver said food into mouth. If you're planning to take notes, snap photos, or even shake hands and socialize, you're back to one hand. How to handle this dilemma? Some clever folks have developed gadgets like the wine glass necklace (though watch out for wet shirt...), plate clips or plate palettes —all fine gizmos to consider. But one friend who attends these events regularly suggests this no-frills solution: just balance your plate on top of your wine glass.
9. Start with the whites and the bubblies, then go for the reds. Just like selecting wine for dinner, start with the lightest wines, and then work to the darker and heavier-bodied wines, or go from dry to sweet.
10. Feel a buzz? Take a break. The point isn't to get completely hammered, it's to try as much as your palate will permit and learn something new. If you feel tipsy, take a break and have some food or water. Then come back and start again.
About the author: Kara Newman has written about wine and spirits for such publications as Wine Enthusiast and Sommelier Journal magazines, and is the author of Spice & Ice, which explores 60 tongue-tingling cocktails.