How to Get the Most Out of Wine Events

Wine columnist Bob McGinn shares his top sip tips.

By Bob McGinn November 26, 2019

Image: Shutterstock

The winter season is upon us, and a plethora of wine events beckons. Wine tastings, dinners, and seminars can educate and stimulate us and expand our wine horizon. Take advantage of an intimate retail event at Michaels Wine Cellar or Total Wine, or perhaps the grand Forks & Corks. You might learn to enjoy red wines instead of only whites, or learn more about a producer you weren’t aware of. But no matter what, these opportunities allow you to become a more sophisticated wine consumer—and you might meet new friends who enhance the experience. Having attended and poured at numerous such events, let me offer some advice.


Wine tastings are not intended to supplant your college binges. The key word here is “tasting.” The purpose is to sample wines, not acquire a quick buzz. Therefore, you need to spit. Yes, spit! Many wine events will have 20 or more wineries pouring samples. In order to stay reasonably sober, it’s necessary to sip the wine, analyze it and spit. Usually spit buckets are provided at the pouring table, but many attendees become intimidated and find it gross. However, it’s much more gross to stumble out of the tasting and get hit by a bus. After all, consuming only 1 oz. at each of 10 tables is nearly a half bottle of wine, which for many is DUI territory.  An effective alternative to a spit bucket is to carry a paper coffee cup and spit into it after tasting. You can dump it at any time at a pouring table. Very discreet yet classy.

Eat Cheese, Not Bread

If there is food available, take advantage of it. Cheese and fatty meats will make any wine taste better and slow alcohol absorption, while bread will have no effect. Plus, it’s always a good idea to have a plan. Tastebuds become dulled after sipping 10 or more wines, so why bother to sample more after that? Concentrate on winesthat you prefer and spend some time at their producers’ tables. Also, consider visiting winery tables that are famous, popular or recommended. You may find this more satisfying.

Attend Seminars

In addition to organized tastings, consider attending an educational seminar. Forks & Corks will features them, and many Sarasota retailers offer them as well. Seminars are held in an educational format and may feature specific wines, geographical concerns, stylistic preferences or focus on an individual producer. (Spitting is encouraged.)

Try a Wine Dinner

Wine dinners can be expensive, but they are valuable in demonstrating how wines pair with a meal. A noted chef will prepare a meal to showcase the wines and perhaps use the wines in the preparation. Often these dinners are hosted by a distributor representative who is familiar with the wines. However, an even better choice, if possible, is a dinner with a winery representative or the winemaker. (Spitting is not encouraged.)

Take Notes

At any wine event, I recommend taking notes or keeping a journal. Serious wine lovers often take photos and may use appropriate apps to record voice comments. Memories are made this way. 

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