Of all the luck: the New York Wine Expo was going on at the same time as the New York Times Travel Show – in the same building, no less. So after the travel show, I headed to the other side of the Javits convention center for the Expo’s first Grand Tasting.
I’ve been to a few of these big tastings before (my favorite is still the New Orleans Food & Wine Experience). They can be zoo-like, depending on the crowd, but the grand tasting wasn’t too crowded on Friday night (probably due to the crazy snow that had been falling all day). I imagine Saturday will be much more crowded.
Believe it or not, there is a strategy to getting the most out of a wine show. If you go, here are a few tips:
1. Check out what wineries are going to be there in advance - and then pick out your favorites. When there’s more than 150 wineries in one place, it’s inevitable that some are going to be better – as in, A LOT better, than others. If you’re a novice and don’t know what to choose, share the list with a helpful sales person at a wine store. They should be able to tell you which wineries are the “must dos.”
2. Don’t taste every wine at a table. Instead, ask the distributor or winemaker for his or her favorite. Chances are, they’ll pick out their best (and often more expensive) varietal. Doing this also gives you insight into the specialties of that winery and how they see themselves. I always ask, “If I could only try one of your wines, which would you recommend?” It weeds out the lesser bottles.
3. Use the dump bucket liberally. If you don’t love what you are drinking, feel free to dump it out and try something else. You don’t want waste the time (or calories) on bad wine.
4. Don’t be seduced by the marketing. A Chilean wine called Sassy Bitch had a huge line – and while the wine was OK, it was fairly standard and not too special. Meanwhile, a New Zealand winery at the next booth was MUCH better. Let’s face it, sizzle sells – but a cute name often masks the fact that it’s not all that good.
5. Eat before you go. Even if you only taste a fraction of the 600 or so wines at the New York Expo, you’ll still consume enough to catch a buzz. Unless the event also includes food in its title, don’t expect a lavish spread – and few vendors that are giving away food are likely to be mobbed.
6. Pace yourself. Take a break, sit down with a glass of water. During peak hours, a wine show can get overwhelming and it’s easy to get buzzed early and tire yourself out.
Do you have any other wine festival tips to add? Tell me below!