I experienced the ultimate tasting yesterday; a FOUR HOUR CHAMPAGNE (and other sparkling) tasting. I have done tons of wine tastings in my years as a Wine Person but I truly believe when you add bubbles, it gets extra interesting and the fact that there are 5 types of Wine People at a wine tasting becomes obvious quickly.
Wine Person #1: The “Expert”
I am going to go ahead and get “The Expert” out of the way. S/he is at every single tasting no matter the cost, no matter the product, they are ALWAYS there to taunt the Wine People doing the pouring. They start out by doing the very intense tasting: they hold it up to the light and then back down to the paper with the pricing, swirl so hard you’re not sure how they haven’t spilled it everywhere and by the time they settle down, all the bubbles in the champagne have disappeared. Next they do the gurgling, air sucking thing (which I understand is proper protocol) and then sloppily spit into the bucket being shared by the entire group of 100 people who have paid to be there. A bit of it splashes into his/her face but s/he seems not to even notice.
Now, Wine “Expert” realizes s/he has some questions. “Is this authentic Champagne?” At this point Wine Person Pouring thinks s/he’s gotten off easy; that perhaps this is just a normal Wine Person asking the usual questions and is happy to confirm, this is, indeed, real Champagne from France. Don’t worry Wine Person Pouring, Wine “Expert” is NOT done.
“Oh, yeah? Which Crus specifically is it coming from? Which Crus specifically are the Chard grapes vs the Pinot grapes coming from? Why aren’t they sourcing from the same Crus as insert name of very specific competitive champagne house sources from? Who are the growers? Why did they make a 2002 vintage? That’s not a very good vintage.”
Okay, Wine “Expert” – we get it, you’re trying to stump Wine Person Pouring. When you couldn’t you went with an insult. But then, just to make sure Wine Person Pouring doesn’t accidentally begin to engage with another consumer, you ask to “re-visit” one of the champagnes. S/He politely obliges hoping maybe you’ll move on to the next table after – and it seems to have worked – but not before you turn around and comment, “I have no idea WHY Wine Spectator would have given THAT 92 points.”
Thank you, Wine “Expert” – we are sure that following your questions and condescending commentary you are more capable of rating the products than those at respected wine publications. Why don’t we just take your palate for fact, discount that others at this very large gathering have enjoyed it or may enjoy it, and dump the rest down the drain. You, Wine “Expert”, truly are the only thorn in the side of a very fun event, so instead we will all move on and continue enjoying ourselves.
Wine Person #2: The Happy Hour-er
Okay, this is much more Wine People than Person because the Happy Hour-ers travel in packs. They don’t believe in spit buckets, they don’t believe in maximum 2 oz pours, and they don’t believe how lucky it is that $20 just bought them 4 hours of drinks.
The Happy Hour group are like the high school cool table – even though they’re in the exact same place doing the exact same thing, they are having more fun than every one else. They’re laughing and dancing and taking selfies and are becoming new BFFs with whichever Wine Person Pouring has their new favorite in an attempt to get infinite refills throughout the next 3.5 hours.
As for whether the Happy Hour Group will actually buy anything – probably not. In my experience only about 25% of the time will they consume so much that they actually turn around and buy a case or 2 of their new favorite but usually they just get an Uber and head home.
Wine Person #3: The Wine Purchaser
This one is hands down the Wine Person Pouring’s FAVORITE attendee. They are legitimately there to find new wines to love and will buy anywhere from a few bottles to a few cases of wine. The Wine Purchaser is knowledgeable but not condescending.
Some Wine Purchasers are looking to collect (buying big $$ bottles) and others are looking for daily drinking (meaning many bottles). Regardless, The Wine Purchaser is the reason these events are suppose to exist, the reason the Wine Person Pouring has a job, and unfortunately are usually only about 5% of the group. Regardless, without them these events would seize to exist so if you’re not one of them, thank one.
Wine Person #4: The Storyteller
I used to not totally love this category of people, especially at free wine tastings. The conversation would go something like this:
Wine Person Pouring: Can I offer you a complimentary taste of wine?
Passerby: I don’t drink as alcoholism runs in my family starting with my great grandfather…
Passerby: Alcohol is a gateway drug that will lead down the path to hell. Let me quote this passage…
Passerby: Let me tell you this tragic story of a drunk driving accident/alcohol poisoned friend/abusive alcoholic person I once knew.
… Thanks for the fun sucking. A simple “No, thank you” would have sufficed.
But I’ve found those Storytellers are strictly at free events. As for paid events, I LOVE the Storytellers and I can listen to them all day. Their stories are about having traveled the world, seeing Bordeaux and Champagne, Tuscany and Umbria. The Storyteller has met some of the world’s top winemakers and Sommeliers. Although their stories may include some facts and information, the stories are mostly the root of wine – romance. You can see their memories coming out of them with a smile on their face while they imagine the scenes they are trying to describe to you. The Storyteller makes me want to drop everything and travel the world trying all the wine just to return in a non-specific amount of years and eventually become a Storyteller myself. I aspire to be you, Storyteller.
Wine Person#5: The Drunk
So I actually cannot dump on The Drunk. The Drunk usually starts out as one of the above Wine People but due to intoxication – things begin to escalate quickly. The drop of a wine glass, the knocking over of a wine bottle, the hugging of friends and strangers, and proclamation of their love of every wine they try. As long as it stays innocent enough it’s pretty humorous. They like to toast with each 2 oz pour, “To my ex-husband, who would have never joined me at anything this fun!” or “To you, Wine Person Pouring, without whom I would not have 2 oz of wine in my glass!”.
As long as The Drunk avoids falling over or going all Miles (Paul Giamatti) in Sideways and chugging the dump bucket, s/he is like the live entertainment at any wine tasting.
Can you think of any other kinds of Wine People at Wine Tastings? Which category do you most fall into?