One of the best ways to sharpen your palate and to learn and experience new wines is to attend a wine tasting. Having numerous producers at the same venue gives one the opportunity to economically contrast and compare regions and wines. That said here are a few suggestions you may want to follow to help yourself and others more fully enjoy the experience of a large format wine tasting.
Tips to Drink Like a Pro
- Get a good rest the night before. You'll want to be at your sharpest
- Stay hydrated and drink lots of water before during and after the tasting
- Wear dark clothes. You might not spill red wine but others may
- Once you have received your sample pour be mindful of others that may be behind you waiting to be served. Questions are good, but if you have an inordinate amount of them to ask, simply make room for others as you converse.
- Taste and spit.. very few people look cool spitting, but you'll remember more.
- Have a good meal shortly before the tasting. Consuming alcohol on an empty stomach is not a good idea.
- Have a game plan of producers you want to visit before you arrive and stick to your plan. If you finish your list and you still have time you can wander around at that point.
- Respect others and don't wear perfumes or colognes.
Tre Bicchieri San Francisco is an annual best of Italian wine events that we try to attend every year. Slow Wine San Francisco also showcased only Italian wine and presented a challenge.
This year's Slow Wine tasting was held at the Terra Gallery on Harrison Street at the base of the Bay Bridge. It was a great setting and location. The above referenced challenge relates to the fact that we were unable to get a list of the wines that would be poured beforehand. We received the list of producers when we arrived and trying to put together a plan for tasting at the last minute proved time consuming and confusing. We usually put together a firm list of producers' wines we intend to try before we arrive so that we can use our time wisely. For tastings of this size (there were over fifty-five producers) failing to plan is the same as planning to fail. We arrived on time after a satisfying lunch at Henry's Hunan Restaurant in the Financial district. The smoked ham with green beans and the Kung Pao chicken really hit the spot.
The Slow Wine event wines are judged using a standard of which we were unfamiliar. No one hundred point scale here. The standards of quality for Slow Wine are keyed to a different criterion. Their snail symbol is awarded to a winery that they particularly like for the way it interprets Slow Food Values ( sensory perceptions, territory, environment, identity) and offers good value for the money. The bottle symbol is awarded to wineries whose bottles presented excellent average quality at their tastings. Finally, the coin symbol is awarded to wineries whose bottles are a good value for the money.
We typically arrive early for events, so as to get a good jump on tasting before the event becomes crowded. We were not the only ones that followed this strategy, for there was already a short line when we arrived. Within the first hour of the tasting the place was packed, reminiscent of ZAP tastings from years gone by. As a result we were not able to taste as many wines as we would normally. We always try the white and sparkling wines first and follow those with the red wines. As a result, we did not taste many reds, as the event was too crowded to navigate from table to table without lots of effort. The wines we did get the opportunity to taste, as a group, were very good to excellent. There was a good representation of wines from up and down the Italian peninsula, although there weren't any wines from Aosta or Liguria. This is understandable as these regions produce so little wine anyway. It was surprising not to see any wines from Lombardy, especially since their signature sparkling wine Franciacorta has been receiving more recognition lately. Wines from the southern regions of Calabria, Campania, Molise and Sardinia were not represented this year. Several of the Cantine at Slow Wine were currently seeking a distributor, so some of the wines we recommend may be challenging to find in the states. Many of the producers were quick to tell of their embrace of organic cultivation methods, which they believed would preserve the health of their soils. It became clear as we worked the room that most of the wines were made by small biodynamic and organic producers. Listed below in two categories and in alphabetical order are our recommendations and approximate prices for the wines.