Sunday, November 1, 2009

Decatur Wine Festival: Survival and Etiquette

For those who don't know, the Decatur Wine Festival is a fundraiser for the Decatur Arts Alliance. The event takes over the Decatur Square from the area behind the Old Courthouse (where the Bandstand is) to the part of the square on top of the MARTA station. Last year there were fifty tables, each from a different winery or distributor, lined up around the edges of the designated area.

One of the best parts of the festival is that several Decatur restaurants offer samples of items from their menus. A full list of participating restaurants is on the Decatur Wine Festival web site. Often they bring signature dishes; for example, Feast usually has a big pot of their famous white chocolate bread pudding (great especially when paired with the Banfi Rosa Regale).

Of course it's impossible to taste every single wine. First, the festival is only a few hours long. Second, a lot of tables start to run out toward the end of the day, especially the ones from popular or well-known wineries. Third, even if you have phenomenal tolerance, you've got to pace yourself.

Here are some survival and etiquette tips:

1. Bring a bottle of water and/or avail yourself of the ones there, if offered. Even though there are jugs with water at the table, an occasional glass of water is not going to be enough to stay hydrated while drinking wine, especially if it's hot and dry outside. Try to consume equal parts water and wine, ideally more water than wine. Hopefully they will continue to have the fancy portable bathrooms. Also, avail yourself of the food and keep something in your tummy. I'm looking forward to trying the samples from Pharm House and Iberian Pig because I haven't been to either yet (will likely try one or the other on Thursday).

2. To keep things moving, get a pour and move to the back of the line. Sip as you move forward again. There's nothing more frustrating than waiting forever for someone to go through four or five tastes while they block the entire table.

3. Rinse between tastes, especially if you're going back and forth between reds and whites.

4. Try to save the sweet wines for the end. They'll burn your palate. They also tend to have higher alcohol content, and really, who wants to be sick by 2:30 on a Saturday afternoon?

5. As I mentioned above, pacing is everything. Hubby and I have a "two sip, three strike" rule: If the wine isn't good after two sips (two to allow for the interference of previous tastes), it gets dumped. If you try three wines at a table and don't like any of them, move on. Don't try to sample everything!

Disclaimer: all of the content of this post is mine. I didn't get any perks or freebies from the Decatur Arts Alliance or any of the festival sponsors. No wines were harmed in the writing of this material, although I can't make any guarantees for later.


Dan said...

Cecilia asked me to jump in with advice from my own experience, so here are a couple of thoughts in addition to the fine points she's already made.

Start with the tables that are most in the sun, then work your way to the shaded tables later in the day. Many of the wineries/distributors don't provide adequate temperature control for their wines, and thus by the end of the day you have lukewarm, flaccid whites and overbearingly warm reds.

Rinsing - this is an area where I differ from many. I prefer not to rinse my wine glass with water, but I do make sure to dump it out very well. My thought is that I'd rather have a little bit of residual wine left in my glass to affect the next taste than to have some residual water to water down the next wine. The exception to this, perhaps, would be when moving from one table to another - then if you rinse with water at the end of one table's tasting, your glass will be pretty dry by the time you get to the next table's tasting.

Etiquette - well said! Don't be a damned table hog! If you really have some questions for the pourer(s), stand off to the side while you carry on your conversation so that others can get to the wines.

Pacing and selectivity - Take a few minutes to study the lineup before you start. Go ahead and eliminate wines you already know really well (unless they're so good that you want to quaff some anyway), and eliminate the mass producers of mediocre wine (I'll refrain from naming names here). Try new stuff! And as Cecilia said, don't be afraid to reject wines and wineries after a couple of swigs.


Hudson said...

have fun. i like the "2 sip rule"

prowine said...

First and foremost, WINE TASTINGS ARE JOURNEYS NOT DESTINATIONS and should be pursued accordingly. If you’re particularly enjoying the wines from one producer, why jump to another where the wines may be far less interesting. When attending large scale wine events first secure and review a program, making certain to highlight the wines you absolutely don’t want to miss. Once you’ve tasted through all your “highlights”, and then take time to sniff, sip and spit the balance of the wines. Now repeat after me, “WINE TASTINGS ARE JOURNEYS NOT DESTINATIONS”… It’s a three hour tasting. ENJOY!!!