Fair’s Fair – ‘In Conversation’ with Rob McIntosh about the Fun of the Wine Fair

POSTED ON 12/10/2010

If you enjoy tasting wine ‘to find out what you might like or to know what to buy’ says Rob, one of the best ways of tasting small amounts of many different wines is to go to a wine fair. Here the social media whizz, Rob McIntosh, comes up with some handy ideas and practical suggestions.

‘These events can easily be a little overwhelming and confusing’, he suggests, so let me summarise his useful pointers to make the most of the events. I add my own tips to Rob’s practical advice.

Revelry guaranteedRevelry guaranteed

1. Rob.
“Have a plan. Don’t just ‘go to taste’. The best way to get something out of a tasting is to have a specific objective in mind. So focus on e.g. Wines for Christmas dinner, Wines under £10, Pinot Noirs”.

Me. “Good idea, also Christmas gifts and wines you wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to taste. Confine your plan to half or three-quarters of the event and roam freely for the rest of it. You’ll make more discoveries that way” .

2. Rob. “Set a wine limit. Most of us struggle to differentiate between wines after a while. If you set yourself a limit, you can politely refuse to taste through an enthusiastic producer’s entire range but dedicate your attention to a specific wine”.

Me. “Yes, you know your limits, but the best way to keep within them is to spit out and drink water. A little sip may just go down the hatch but don’t be embarrassed to spit. Spittoons are provided at good wine fairs and it’s what you’re supposed to do if you want to stay upright after 3 hours of tasting”.

Spittoons on handSpittoons on hand

3. Rob. “Set a price limit: If you are buying wines, there is a temptation to try lots of lovely, expensive and unusual wines – but if you are not going to buy them, does it help? Remember your plan, and your limit. You can always taste a few ‘extra’ wines before you leave if you have the stamina and time!”

Me: “Part of the fun of the Fair is to try wines that aren’t within your budget. Be sure to yield to temptation and try both”.

4. Rob. “Prepare your visit (but be flexible): Most fairs will print a list of exhibitors and wines in advance. If you get a chance, make yourself a little map and plan of which stands are likely to be most interesting … “

Me: “Yes, the tasting brochure for the Wine Gang’s Vinopolis Christmas Fair on 6 November for instance has 60 pages of mouthwatering wines. Have a quick glance through before you taste to see who’s exhibiting, what wines they’re showing and what the prices are. Check out the special Masterclasses too”.

Do not expect thisDo not expect this

5. Rob. “Go with a friend (or three): There will always be a time you need a second opinion, or simply someone to help you get out of a hard-sell pitch. But more than anything else, wine is social. Even wine tastings are more fun in the company of friends”.

Me. “Totally agree. Wine is about all socialising and the company of friends and family. There will be no hard sales pitches at the Wine Gang’s Christmas Fair at Vinopolis on 6 November, but many exhibitors are offering up to 15% discounts for orders placed on the day”.

6. Rob. “Make notes: We’ve all done it. Found a great wine, been absolutely certain we’d remember it, then promptly forgotten its name. When you taste something, make a note – positive AND negative. It’ll help you when you are next looking for what wines to buy”.

Me. “Absolutely. The Wine Gang’s brochure has notes on all 600 plus wines. Why not pit your tasting skills against ours and see how much you agree / disagree with what we’ve said”.

7. Rob. “Bring a camera: Notes are great, but our minds LOVE pictures. If you like something take a picture of the label. It saves a lot of unnecessary writing and will also help you share your favourites with friends”.

Me. “Agree. You may even find yourself on camera. Ours! Check out the video: http://www.thewinegang.com/live/?p=74”

Don't be impressed by journalistsDon't be impressed by journalists

8. Rob. Be relaxed: The wine ‘experts’ (producers, importers, journalists, etc.) are there BECAUSE OF YOU! They need to impress YOU, not the other way around. Wine is meant to be fun”.

Me. “Wine tasting is fun. Great fun. I don’t know about us impressing you but I think you’ll be impressed by the quality of the exhibitors and the wines on offer at Vinopolis. Let me go further: I know you will”.

Rob’s take on the UPCOMING WINE FAIRS in London before Christmas:

15-17 October Fine Wine Fair, Chelsea Old Town Hall – @finewinefair

“Well known producers will be showing their wines that are a cut above what we normally buy, but are still “affordable”. A great way to taste wines that will impress friends and family at Christmas, but don’t require a second mortgage. There will also be ‘personal shoppers’ to help you navigate the room, PLUS Spanish food delicacies .. and CHOCOLATE”. Tickets cost £20

6 November The Wine Gang Xmas Fair, Vinopolis – @winegang

“The second edition of this fun event. The Wine Gang taste wines all year for their monthly newsletter and their top scorers are invited to show their wines at the tasting. Lots of masterclasses and wine tours. One day only, and you need to book a specific session, so book early”.

Tickets £20 with Early Bird discount offer of £17.50 if you book by 15 October, or £15 if you join the Wine Gang:

13-14 November Decanter Fine Wine Encounter, The Landmark Hotel – @decanter

“Decanter Magazine puts on several of these events a year and a re a chance to taste wines from the world’s top producers. Lots of high end wines, with prices to match, but the chance to meet some names that will impress even the most dedicated wine snobs!”

It's Common SenseIt's Common Sense

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