6 tips for enjoying a wine festival

by Chris on February 27, 2010

Six tips for surviving a wine festival, based on a Grand Tasting at the New York Wine Expo.

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!

| Chris Gray Faust is a veteran journalist, travel expert, social media butterfly - and editrix of this site. Like what you read? Check out her writing, editing and social media services.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan February 27, 2010 at 2:41 pm

I went to the wine expo in Boston, these are great tips! Sassy Bitch was there too, HUGE line, didn’t measure up.


Chris February 28, 2010 at 2:10 am

Thanks, Susan! It’s amazing how much marketing can sway things, isn’t it? Their logo definitely stands out.


brian February 28, 2010 at 1:19 pm

I saw the Wine Expo too but I was tired Friday from shoveling snow and then heading to the Travel Show I just skipped it. But good to know for next time.


marta March 4, 2010 at 9:22 am

i never being to a wine festival before, probably cause a glass of wine would be enough to make me dizzy eh eh
the best wine i ever tried was the sauvignon blanc while in NZ


Ben Harris March 10, 2010 at 6:41 pm

I really thought the Sassy Bitch Wine was awesome. The Pinot was incredible. And considering the modest price in stores ($9.99), it is not only a bargain, but awesome for the price. And it’s Chilean! You go sassy bitches!


Sharon March 27, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Great tips! Especially using the wine bucket…I learned the hard way.
Austin has a fantastic 2 day TX wine festival over by the Domain in North Austin. Besides some incredible wines, there are popular artists, unusual but fun foods, live music around the clock. It’s definitely done Texas style.


Chris March 31, 2010 at 10:28 am

Sharon – A wine festival in Austin sounds awesome. I went there way back in 2003 and think it’s high time that I returned. Some good wines are coming out of Texas these days too.


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