What Wine Tasting Type are You?
I spent a good part of Sunday standing behind the Astrale e Terra table at the Family Winemakers of California Annual tasting pouring a mountain grown Cabernet blend and Syrah for anyone who wanted to taste it. And that was a lot of people. I’ve done this sort of thing before, many times, on behalf of numerous wineries. You have the opportunity to observe people pretty closely under these conditions. Specifically, you have a chance to distinguish the variety of wine tasters. And there are a variety of types.
The SAGE is not the most common taster at these big events, but they are among the most interesting to just sit back and listen too. Of course with the SAGE, you really have no choice but to listen. They do all the talking. The SAGE knows everything about your winery, the wine you are pouring, the growing conditions in which your grapes grew and the exact quality of the wine they are tasting. It’s pretty amazing to come across someone who knows everything, which is why the best strategy is to sit and listen. My favorite SAGE Comment from yesterday’s event came from a distributor sales representative who walked to the table and held out his glass and listened to me explain the grapes were grown at 1,300 feet in the Atlas Peak appellation. He proceeds to explain to me that the only reason Atlas Peak was able to get ripe grapes was because, "you get that wonderful afternoon sun from being on the west side of the Napa Valley." When I explained that Atlas Peak was in the south eastern part of the Napa Valley I was sternly corrected then told that "Merlot is really the best grape to plant up there." It’s at that point you just step back from the table and allow yourself to soak it all in.
They are questioners who are so purely interested in learning more you are almost taken aback by the multitude of questions they ask and their willingness to stay, talk, listen and question. They tend to be younger and you just know that they’ve decided to make a career in wine. You know you have a STUDENT at your table when they ask, "How deep is the top soil on Atlas Peak?" Or.."Can you compare this wine to the other mountain appellations surrounding Napa Valley. I love these people.
THE SILENT ONES
They are either anti-social or so into tasting they can’t be bothered. The SILENT ONES almost always operate like this: 1) approach the table with carrying bag over one shoulder, glass in one hand, note taking book in other hand. 2) Silently point to a bottle and hold out glass. 3) Spend a good minute with each wine, smelling, sniffing, swirling and spitting. 4) They write notes…long ones…silently. 5) Repeat with every other wine at table. Leave table. I’ve found the best way to accommodate the SILENT ONES is to service their apparent desire for efficiency as promptly as possible and hand them something informative to take away. Sometimes I’ll ask a question about their affiliation noted on their name tag they are wearing. This is just about the only way to break them out of their shell.
THE NAME DROPPER
They have been in the wine business about five years of so and have met a few well known people, or at least tried their wine while the well known person looks on. This usually means to them that they’ve made an intimate contact with a famous wine person. As they taste the Astrale "ARCTURUS" or Syrah they begin dropping names of other wines they’ve tasted that are similar, but more important they make note of the people they’ve been hanging with. My favorite from yesterday was this: "You know I was just hanging out with Josh and we were…..Oh, Jenson, Josh Jenson of Calera…and we were talking about the craziness of the business over the past few years. Josh and I both think, and you know so does Carole Shelton, we all think the Industry isn’t in it’s boom stage yet." They have nothing to say about the wine in front of them. But they are very excited to be able to drop names of people they’ve just met. I like these people for their enthusiasm. They are clearly happy to be where they are.
THE BUSINESS TYPE
These people have attended more walk around tastings than many people at the tasting. They are there to find new wines that fit into their wine list, their brokership, their wine shop, etc. They know what they like. They always ask the same things: Who handles your wine? "What’s the price (They mean wholesale price)? How much to you make? "Who’s your winemaker. These are the people you talk business with, find out what you can about their business and appreciate for their directness.
THE HAPPY DRINKERS
They stay late. They do not discriminate. They drink rather than spit. They socialize. They seek out common acquaintances. They are often very fun people. And they tend to get tipsy.
I’ve always enjoyed pouring at these types of wine tastings. It’s always nice too when you are pouring a wine that has a good story behind it and that was the case yesterday. But what I really enjoy is meeting and talking to the different types that make it to my table, trying to quickly evaluate what they are looking for and engaging in conversation.
As for tasting at these events, I’ve identified what type I am. I’m a combination of the Happy drinker and the student. Depending on how long I’ve been tasting I can be more one than the other.
Finally, it was great to meet so many FERMENTATION readers yesterday. Thanks for coming by and introducing yourselves. It was really a pleasure.