Subscribe (free) to
The 30 Second
Wine Advisor

past issues of
The 30 Second
Wine Advisor

30 Second Wine Tasting Tip:
A moderate 50-wine weekend

Leo and Candy Fox and Dave Mosko survey a table covered with wine bottles at a Philadelphia wine dinner.
When you enjoy wine as a hobby as much as most of us do, it's tempting to taste as much of it as we can.

But we all know wine contains alcohol, and particularly when you're enjoying fine and perhaps expensive bottles, it's just plain silly to over-indulge. Let's be blunt: Good wine is too interesting to waste on anyone who's too impaired to appreciate it.

Can these seemingly conflicting issues be resolved? Certainly, with a little planning and care. The best way I know of to enjoy a variety of wines is to assemble a group of friendly wine lovers for a leisurely evening of dining and wine tasting, each participant bringing one or two interesting bottles so everyone can share.

During a quick business trip to the Northeastern U.S. last weekend, I enjoyed such dinners with fellow participants from our Wine Lovers' Discussion Group (WLDG) forums. Nearly 20 people gathered Friday at Cafe Loup in Manhattan; Saturday night, another group of a dozen assembled at Siri's Thai French restaurant in Cherry Hill, N.J., near Philadelphia. The two groups sampled more than 50 wines with excellent dinners in a friendly, sociable setting, without over-indulgence or immoderation.

If you'd like to gather a group of wine-loving friends for a similar event, here are some tips;

  • Plan ahead. It's critical that your restaurant host understands and supports the idea. Can the restaurant easily accommodate a large group? Do they have enough glassware? It's best to have three or four glasses per participant so people can sample several wines side-by-side. A private room or semi-private area of the restaurant is best.

  • Legal issues. Bear in mind that, in many states of the U.S. and some countries, it may not be legally possible to bring your own wines in to a restaurant, so be certain that the restaurant will permit this.

  • Corkage. Many restaurants charge a "corkage" fee per bottle. If the fee is high, try to negotiate a special rate. (Hint: Offering the maitre d'hotel or sommelier the opportunity to taste your wines may enhance cooperation.)

  • Alternatives. If local law or custom makes it impractical to bring a large amount of wine into a restaurant, consider having an event at someone's home.

  • Practical arrangements. Be sure to have plenty of buckets or other containers for dumping leftovers; the secret to avoiding excess is to taste only a sip of each wine. It's good to have plenty of water, too, both for sipping between tastes of wine and for rinsing glasses.

  • Organization. You may wish to ask participants to bring wines based on a theme, choosing wines from a specific region or grape variety, for instance, or wines to match the restaurant's cuisine. Or go the "free-for-all" route, throwing the field open to any wine of interest. In either case, it's a good idea to look over all the wines available and sort them by type, opening the aperitif, sparkling and white wines with the earlier courses, for example, the reds with the main dish and dessert wines at the end.

  • Common sense. It really all comes down to this: Serious wine enthusiasts will pace themselves, taste thoughtfully, dump the excess, and feel no obligation to finish the leftovers (which may be donated to the waitstaff for their enjoyment at the end of the evening). Still, the same guidelines apply as with any social event where alcohol is served: Keep an eye on your friends, and gently suggest moderation - or a designated driver - if it's warranted.

If you would like to read more detailed reports of these dinners, including my notes on a total of more than 50 wines, see "A Wine Dinner in NYC,", and "A Wine Dinner in Philadelphia,",

Have you organized similar gatherings, or have you tried other approaches? Tell me about it by E-mail to I regret that the growing circulation of the "Wine Advisor" makes it difficult for me to reply individually to every note, but I'll answer as many as I can; and please be assured that all your input helps me do a better job of writing about wine.

We hope you'll invite your wine-loving friends to register for their own free weekly copy at

30 Second Tasting Notes:
A hearty Italian red
Tenuta Carretta 1997 Bric Quercia Langhe ($22.99)
During my visit to the New York City area, I dropped in on an excellent wine shop in the suburbs: Wine Ventures in Tenafly, N.J., which also houses a first-rate chocolatier. It was a pleasure meeting proprietor Craig McManus, who suggested this wine for me to take to the Philadelphia dinner. Dark purple in color, it is a red wine in the geographical style of Langhe, the Northwestern Italian region that is home of Barolo, Barbaresco and Dolcetto. Rich with aromas of leather, wildflowers and black fruit, it is a hearty wine, full-bodied, extracted and tannic. U.S. importer: Winebow Inc., NYC; Leonardo Locascio Selections.

FOOD MATCH: Excellent with an entree of crispy boneless duck breast in a berry sauce.

30 Second Advertising Partner:
This Father's Day, get him something he really wants ... wine!

Whether it's a wine as classic as he is, or one as rare as he is, has the perfect match for Dad. Choose from a wide selection of everyday wines or splurge with a rare wine. Even better, send him a gift pack, like the "Classic Duet" - a California Merlot and a delicious Russian River Valley Chardonnay for only $39. And now, with free shipping on orders of $25 or more, there's even more reason to get him a gift from

Click for the details.


30 Second Administrivia
This free weekly E-mail publication is distributed to subscribers every Monday. Previous editions are archived on The Wine Lovers' Page. See

You are on the subscription list because our records indicate that you registered during a visit to Robin Garr's Wine Lovers' Page. If for any reason you don't want to receive this publication, simply send E-mail to '' and we'll remove your name from the list. We do not use this list for any other purpose and will never give or sell your name or E-mail to anyone.

If your E-mail program is having trouble handling the images in this edition, feel free to request that we switch you from the HTML to TEXT edition ... or vice versa. Please contact us if your E-mail address changes. And of course we welcome feedback, suggestions, and ideas for future columns. Send us E-mail at

All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.

More time for wine?
You don't need to wait for Mondays to read about wine! Drop in any time on Robin Garr's Wine Lovers' Page, where we add new tasting notes several times each week and frequently expand our selection of wine-appreciation articles, tips and tutorials.

If you'd like to talk about wine online with fellow wine enthusiasts around the world, we'd be delighted to have you visit the interactive forums in our Wine Lovers' Discussion Group. If you're from another part of the world and don't feel entirely comfortable chatting in English, visit our International Forum and introduce yourself in the language of your choice.

Vol. 2, No. 20, June 5, 2000

Subscribe (free) to The 30 Second Wine Advisor