Make the most of Winefest

Winefest: Calgary is coming up this week (February 24 – 26, 2011) to the BMO Centre at Stampede Park. WineCollective staffers will be at the trade tasting on the 24th, but we’ve been to the public tastings many times, so we’ve put together a quick list of our recommendations so that you can make the most of Winefest as well.

For those who aren’t familiar with Winefest this is how they describe the event:

Winefest is an all-inclusive event, offering you the chance to sample from hundreds of local and international wines, port, sparkling and dessert wines… Explore over 60 wineries one sip at a time

These types of events can be extremely educational. It is not often there are so many great producers all in one area! Depending on your goals there are a few different strategies to make the most of the opportunity.

  • Are you looking at expanding your palate?  Then pick and choose the varietals you sample. Maybe stay away from Shiraz and Chardonnay (if that is what you drink) and try to find samples of (for example) Carmenere, Petit Verdot, Grenache, Bonarda, Albarino, Gewürztraminer or Vinho Verde.  You can get a better sense of what you enjoy and expand your palate as well.
  • Are you looking at finding a new favourite producer?  Consider constructing your own horizontal tasting and trying the same vintage and same varietal from a number of producers.  How does an Australian Shiraz compare with a Californian Syrah, or a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with an example from Chile or Canada?
  • Want to understand how the wine’s terroir impacts its taste? Look to stay with one geography at a time. Stick to all California producers to really understand the “style” of a Cali wine.

None of those examples is the correct one, but each could be used to educate your palate and expand your horizons.  Some general wine tasting tips could be useful as well:

  • Start with whites and move to reds. In any tasting you should try for lighter wines first and end with full bodied examples.
  • Smell every wine before you taste it.  Swirl, swirl, swirl. Stick your nose in there and set up camp. Does it smell like you’d expect? Is there anything which surprises you about the smell?  And then once you taste it, does the nose match the taste? Too many people just start drinking and miss out of a huge element of wine tasting!
  • Try not to rinse your glass out with water after a taste. You are diluting your next sample and could be imparting foreign smells/tastes to the next wine. We like to rinse our glass with a tiny bit of wine but that isn’t always possible at a big tasting like this.
  • Don’t feel like you have to drink every drop of every wine which is poured for you. Save room for the next sample by emptying your glass into the buckets provided.