Joining a Wine Tasting Group

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Joining a Wine Tasting Group

Postby TimMc » Sat Oct 06, 2007 7:58 pm

I need your expert advice: I have been invited to join a wine tasting group hereabouts.

The only thing I was told to do was bring six glasses for tasting.

Here's my concern:

I have been tasting wine for decades now, but only a few times where I had made tasting notes based upon a flight of wines. I have made various notes to myself based upon what I was tasting at a winery, but nothing on a higher level.....only for personal use.

My chiefest experiences come from winery tastings, barrel tastings, cave tastings and private parties where we each brought a bottle of a favorite wine or a favorite varietal to pair with others bringing the same varietal.

I fully appreciate the ritual of sip-swirl-sniff-swirl-sip, but I am not versed in the finer art of naming the particular palate tastes [citrus, anise, cherry, etc] or naming the particular bouquet [tobacco, berry/fruit, leather, etc].

And the only multiple glass set [8] of wine glasses I have are 5 oz goblets on a long black stem.

Should I be worried? Should I decline the invitation?


Um....help?

:|
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Re: Joining a Wine Tasting Group

Postby Rahsaan » Sat Oct 06, 2007 8:07 pm

TimMc wrote:Should I be worried? Should I decline the invitation?


Depends on how snobby the people are.

How well do you know these people? Do you have any idea how analytical they plan on being? Any idea of the experience level of other people?

In general I would say that you should always feel comfortable, even if the other people have more experience than you, because that way you can learn. There's no right or wrong way to do things. The only trick is meeting up with other people who have roughly the same vision you do. But there shouldn't be any worry/shame involved.

If you know the people well, then none of this should matter.

If not, you can give the first session a go, and see whether you would like to return.
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Re: Joining a Wine Tasting Group

Postby TimMc » Sat Oct 06, 2007 8:16 pm

Rahsaan wrote:
TimMc wrote:Should I be worried? Should I decline the invitation?


Depends on how snobby the people are.

How well do you know these people? Do you have any idea how analytical they plan on being? Any idea of the experience level of other people?

In general I would say that you should always feel comfortable, even if the other people have more experience than you, because that way you can learn. There's no right or wrong way to do things. The only trick is meeting up with other people who have roughly the same vision you do. But there shouldn't be any worry/shame involved.

If you know the people well, then none of this should matter.

If not, you can give the first session a go, and see whether you would like to return.


Good point.


I met these folks at a local symphony concert [my son plays cello] and found we had many mutual acquaintances, but nobody yet I know first hand. The folks I met seem to be fairly regular, though it appears the membership is pretty well healed, so to speak.

Basically, I'm just a blue-collar guy with an advanced college degree, but [I think] fairly knowledgable in wines and what one might expect each varietal to offer the taster.

We meet this Tuesday....I'll give it a go and see what happens. I figure the worst that can heppen is I'll try some good wine, meet a few nice folks and see if they are come-at-able for a "rookie" like me.
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Re: Joining a Wine Tasting Group

Postby Rahsaan » Sat Oct 06, 2007 8:21 pm

TimMc wrote:it appears the membership is pretty well healed, so to speak...Basically, I'm just a blue-collar guy with an advanced college degree...


From my perspective as a young person, sometimes joining certain groups is not possible for financial reasons (i.e. expectations of contributions).

But, depending on their attitude, they might be happy to have you along for your experience, knowledge, personality, etc. Because even if these guys have money and like to set up fancy glasses, they might not know as much about wine as you do :wink:
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Re: Joining a Wine Tasting Group

Postby Ian Sutton » Sat Oct 06, 2007 8:46 pm

Tim
Go along for a 'taster' evening. If they're welcoming and supportive (as most wine enthusiasts are), then these questions will go away. If they're anything else, then they're not really ready for someone else to join them!

I hope you have a great time and make some new friends

p.s. We joined one group, however for the first tasting, they asked us to bring 9 glasses each. A crazy way to present the group to newcomers, so we declined.

With our informal group we use 1 glass each & rinse with water if needed - and if someone needs glasses we'll ensure they're brought to the tasting.

regards

Ian
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Re: Joining a Wine Tasting Group

Postby Bob Ross » Sat Oct 06, 2007 9:38 pm

Tim, my personal experience has always been positive at tastings -- somehow wine tasting brings out the best in people in my experience.

You've got lots of good advice already -- try it -- if you like it and if you're invited to come again, you've got a winner. If not on either point, at least you will have learned something and enjoyed some nice wines.

Have fun!

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Re: Joining a Wine Tasting Group

Postby Howie Hart » Sat Oct 06, 2007 10:42 pm

TimMc wrote:...
And the only multiple glass set [8] of wine glasses I have are 5 oz goblets on a long black stem...
Tim, if you shop around, you can find some decent stemware cheap. There are "Dollar Tree" stores in our area that have decent wine glasses for $1 each. If I happen to stop in there every 2-3 months, they have different styles - one visit might have bubbly flutes, the next a white wine glass, the next a red, the next time a Burgundy style. I do have Riedels, but save them for better wines when company is expected.
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Re: Joining a Wine Tasting Group

Postby TimMc » Sat Oct 06, 2007 11:36 pm

Thanks, Guys....excellent suggestions.

As to stem ware...I have several excellent glasses for red or for white or for desert wines.


I just don't have six of them.


Undaunted, I will go with what I've got and pray to God I don''t embarrass myself.
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Re: Joining a Wine Tasting Group

Postby Max Hauser » Sun Oct 07, 2007 4:56 am

I agree with others who counsel go along, give it a try.

Re notes. I've been in regular groups like this for, let's see, 309 months (as of next Wednesday) and still take notes just for personal use, with my own language. If I post for other people to read, I try to translate to more general language. Guess what, I know wine merchants and critics who publish their notes regularly, and they do the same. If that is not good enough for the group you visit, maybe the group is not good enough for you.

Regarding glasses, despite recent (and not unfounded) fuss over different aromatic behavior etc., content is what counts. I have never been embarassed at tastings with the compact Schott-Zwiesel glasses I bought in (?) 1983, despite some feeble quips from fellow tasters that theirs was bigger than mine. When P--- D----- (a respected US winemaker of the last 35 years) has joined one of these tasting groups he has brought the same glasses I use, in well worn boxes. No more quips. (Instead, discreet queries on where one might still get such glasses.)

In my experience of these co-operative tasting groups, it is common to ask people to bring multiple glasses to evaluate wines side-by-side, blind.

(Should the group unluckily prove snobbish, contact me and I'll lend the equipment to implement Plan U, prepared in 1990 for such contingencies -- happily it has never been needed. At that time I visited with a family in the rural cattle-raising business and they were drinking a frothy yellow liquid, it turned out to be beer, from little heavy glass jars about 200ml molded with big raised letters URINE SPECIMEN. Seems the family bought these in large number for professional use. I explained the risk of potential snobbery at wine tastings and, mirabile dictu, they pressed on me a sufficient set of these glasses that I could bring them to a tasting, deadpan, and taste and evaluate wine from them, should the need ever arise to pull things back down to earth.)

All the best -- Max
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Re: Joining a Wine Tasting Group

Postby Victorwine » Sun Oct 07, 2007 11:34 am

Hi Tim,
Everyone has offered you some good advice and tips, and I’ll just chime in to echo their thoughts- Go For it!
Back in 1995 I joined a national organization called the American Wine Society (AWS). Besides receiving a quarterly AWS Wine Journal Magazine, Newsletter and yearly pocket ID and vintage chart, all the literature I received indicated that the national office submitted by name to the chairperson of a local chapter in my area, and he/she would contact me. No contact however was made, and while attending the 1999 AWS National Conference in New Jersey, without realizing it on my nametag under my name was the heading Suffolk County Chapter (a local AWS chapter in my area, which up until this time anyway, I wasn’t really a member, since there was no contact made my me or the current chapter chairperson). Well to make a long story short, a woman approached me at the conference and said “Hi Victor, you’re not a member of the AWS Suffolk County Chapter”. Being the “newbie” I was and without looking at her nametag I replied with some smart___ remark like “Ya those “wine snobs” want nothing to do with me”. For the next three days, every opportunity I got I apologized to the woman, for under her name on her tag was the heading Co-Chairperson Suffolk County Chapter.
Today I’m happy to say we are all good friends and the other group members are a great group of people, we gather once a month and have a tasting. We come from all “walks” of life and as long as we keep focused on wine we can talk and discuss it for hours. The only time you need multiply glasses is if the theme of the tasting is a blind vertical or blind comparison otherwise two glasses should do it.

Salute
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Re: Joining a Wine Tasting Group

Postby Bob Ross » Sun Oct 07, 2007 12:28 pm

Tim, one thought on multiple glasses; if there is room at the table, I like to take a number of glasses -- I use the stemless O types -- because many wines develop over a period of time.

The best tasting group I "belong" to is at Park and Orchard where there are 16 glasses for each taster (provided by the restaurant); Buddy, who runs the tastings, makes great use of the glasses during the two to three hour tastings.

REgards, Bob
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Re: Joining a Wine Tasting Group

Postby Ernie in Berkeley » Sun Oct 07, 2007 2:43 pm

For distinguishing flavor details, see if you can find a copy of the Aroma Wheel. The great thing about it is that the specific descriptors (blackberry, cloves, etc) are placed more general categories (berry, spicy) and then even more general (fruity, earthy). It's easier to identify the more general categories and then drill down from there.

There are several versions, such as this one:

http://alumni.media.mit.edu/~jofish/thesis/Images/Image15.jpg

More information at

http://www.winenet.com/aromawheel.html

or google on "wine aroma wheel" (without the quotes).
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Re: Joining a Wine Tasting Group

Postby TimMc » Sun Oct 07, 2007 8:33 pm

Thanks, Guys.

As per usual, your graciousness is exceeded only by your knowledge of wine. I am indebted to you.


Too bad we couldn't get together and form a wine tasting group. :wink:


Ah well...I'll let you know how it went.
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Re: Joining a Wine Tasting Group

Postby Howie Hart » Sun Oct 07, 2007 8:38 pm

TimMc wrote:Too bad we couldn't get together and form a wine tasting group. :wink:
We did - we just didn't invite you! Just kidding, but in all seriousness, in the Sunday and Wednesday chats we do compare what wines are in our glasses, and then there are offlines, which, if you haven't been to one are a lot of fun, meeting the folks who hang out here and sharing some mighty fine wines.
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Re: Joining a Wine Tasting Group

Postby TimMc » Sun Oct 07, 2007 8:48 pm

Howie Hart wrote:
TimMc wrote:Too bad we couldn't get together and form a wine tasting group. :wink:
We did - we just didn't invite you! Just kidding, but in all seriousness, in the Sunday and Wednesday chats we do compare what wines are in our glasses, and then there are offlines, which, if you haven't been to one are a lot of fun, meeting the folks who hang out here and sharing some mighty fine wines.


:D

Thanks, Howie....I'll check into it.
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Re: Joining a Wine Tasting Group

Postby David Creighton » Mon Oct 08, 2007 3:31 pm

yeah, go; it will be fun. but back to the glassware. ummmm you and your spouse or whatever may have - at some point in your life - 4 friends you would like to invite over for red wine - or even white wine. just maybe, you might be overdue to have 6 matching red (or white) wine glasses; and if you had 6 of each, you and a friend could go to this tasting and both have glassware! you are worth it!
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Re: Joining a Wine Tasting Group

Postby TimMc » Mon Oct 08, 2007 10:15 pm

Good idea....but stemware is difficult to find in my neck o'the woods and for a reasonable price.


If all goes well, I'll check into it for their next gathering.
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Re: Joining a Wine Tasting Group

Postby David Creighton » Tue Oct 09, 2007 2:52 pm

i think i still have 8 or those glasses you mention - purchased in the 70's. only recently bought a dozen riedel - had been using them ever since - and taking them in old beat up boxes to tastings. was it the 'columbia 0' or the slightly larger one you had?
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Re: Joining a Wine Tasting Group

Postby Max Hauser » Tue Oct 09, 2007 6:19 pm

creightond wrote:i think i still have 8 or those glasses you mention... was it the 'columbia 0' or the slightly larger one you had?

Greetings, which "you" did you mean?



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Re: Joining a Wine Tasting Group

Postby David Creighton » Wed Oct 10, 2007 11:28 am

you were the 'you', max. columbia 0 is my guess but there was a larger size also.
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Re: Joining a Wine Tasting Group

Postby Max Hauser » Wed Oct 10, 2007 5:09 pm

Mine are "Burgundy Goblets' of the Zwiesel "Columbia" line. (There's an O near the glass profile, I don't know if that's your O. The Zwiesel form number os 4440/0. They have short stems.)

This (and Durand and other very established makers) was the sort of European wine glass, not very expensive, which people in the US bought for tasting and serving for most of the recent decades. I only saw Riedel rise to high visibility within the last few years, and suddenly that became all the newbies talked about in glassware. (Kind of like RP in wine newsletters earlier.) I hear Riedel has been around for many years but that a younger generation came in and turned up the US marketing, which obviously worked.
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Re: Joining a Wine Tasting Group

Postby TimMc » Wed Oct 10, 2007 10:31 pm

OK.

So...I went to the restaurant the wine group met and with my six cheesy 5oz gobblets.

All men, they seemed gracious and kind enough. I'm cool with that. They had no problem with my wine glasses. Nice guys, IMHO.

We did a blind tasting of six California Zinfandels.


It was tough to judge, but I was on target or ajacent with two of the top three wines and with the last wine.


Nice guys, my host was gracious....we see if they accept me as a member.
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Re: Joining a Wine Tasting Group

Postby Bob Ross » Wed Oct 10, 2007 11:15 pm

Sounds like a nice experience, Tim -- well done!

I remember my first tasting with a group, a blind tasting with two wines side by side, six sets of two, one a Cabernet Franc the other a Cabernet Sauvignon. I was really a little afraid to join for the evening, but it turned out great.

One suggestion: write up your notes as well as you can remember. They can be great fun to re-read over time, and although I was a little reluctant, I posted the notes and got some great comments from folks on WLDG as well.

Regards, Bob
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Re: Joining a Wine Tasting Group

Postby TimMc » Thu Oct 11, 2007 12:09 am

Thanks, Bob.

I wrote notes but I am reluctant to share them here for fear it won't match up with the collective experiences on this BBS.


All in all, it was a worthwhile experience....glad I went.
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