Ten Tips From TexSom 2017
After taking a couple weeks to recover from the craziness that was TexSom 2017, we wanted to share a few insights from what is one of the largest and best wine conferences in the country.
First, tasting at this level is simply different than anything you're ever going to experience at a winery, food and wine festival, a local wine gathering, or even the big monthly tasting put on by your local wine bar. The volume is astounding! There isn't 10 or 20 or 50 wines to try. There's 30-50 wines per room, and there's 8-10+ rooms each night. Multiply that by 3 nights, and you've got over 1,000 different high-quality wines to get through. Let that sink in, and come prepared. It's really a big job to get through that volume of delicious, yummy, beautiful wine. Hard work indeed!
Second, timing is everything when you're tasting at this level. Each night provided 2 to 2 1/2 hours of tasting time to get through 300-500 wines. You have to stick and move. There's no reward for the timid or the Chatty Cathy. You stick your glass out, you get your pour, you sniff, swirl, sip and spit. Next wine. Next table. Next room. Bam, bam, bam. There are several hundred other people right there behind you, so keep it snappy and don't get stuck in a conversation with the guy from the obscure Austrian wine region. Personal tip on that one. Just keep it moving, or you'll wish you had.
Third, it pays to ask for what you want, when you want it. While there are generally several bottles of each wine to be poured, there are "special," "select," or just plain rare bottles hiding at (or under) some tables. If you see a bottle you want to try, just ask to try it. It's an industry conference, not some super-secret wine conclave. The rare bottles aren't there to impress the wine glitterati who are present (and who have likely had that particular wine before anyway), and aren't being hidden so that you can't have access to them. They're simply being hidden because there's probably only one bottle available to share. If you happen to be there when that bottle is out and about, feel free to make it's acquaintance. Who knows, you may become great friends with that bottle of 1990 Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame peering shyly at you from under the tablecloth.
Fourth, no matter how highly touted as cool or "up and coming," English sparkling wine just isn't that great. One large pour was more than enough to come to that conclusion. Unfortunately, there was more than one pour involved. Sorry England. Stick with beer. Or fish and chips.
Fifth, as nasty as it may sound, you're going to need to utilize a spit cup or bucket while tasting. They give minimum 1 ounce pours at TexSom. Sure, that doesn't sound like a lot. Who can't handle that? Am I a giant wimp? "Man up" says the peanut gallery. Well, dear reader, one ounce pours become a huge problem quickly when you're potentially looking at 200-300 pours per night. While I've never been mistaken for a math major, simple division is instructive here. There are approximately 25.4 ounces of wine in a 750ml bottle. Let's say that you were very diligent at TexSom, and hit 250 of the wines served in a particular night. That's roughly 250 ounces of wine. 250 oz of wine poured / 25 oz per bottle = 10 bottles. Yes, children, if you don't spit, you won't be standing for very long. Life lesson on that one. If you have great aim, and don't fear backsplash, use the large spit buckets provided (at your own peril). If you're like me, bring along a plastic cup to more discretely expectorate the wine you shouldn't be swallowing.
Sixth, you can still taste wine just as well when spitting as if you actually drink the entire amount you've been poured. Sniff it. Swirl it. Slosh it around your mouth, aerate it, let it move over the front, middle, and back of your tongue (each part of your tongue senses different flavors), move your tongue around until it coats your entire mouth. Some have even suggested chewing it like it was gum to get more flavor out of each taste. Then spit. Discretely. In your nice plastic cup. Away from the giant communal bucket of purpleness.
Seventh, keep track of where you're at. No one likes the guy who can't remember what wine he's actually on out of the 12 being poured at a table. When asked "which wine are you on," make a quick decision and go with it. If you're wrong, that's fine. Just don't take a ton of time deciding. Pay attention. People appreciate it, and the servers will hate you just a little bit less. After all, they're probably exhausted and don't have the time or energy to babysit you!
Eighth, please don't drive to these types of conferences. Even when spitting everything that gets poured in your glass, be responsible and take Uber (or Lyft, or whatever). Inevitably, some amount of wine (purposely or accidentally) will make it down your throat, and as the math above has shown, even small pours in large quantities can equal big trouble!
Ninth, DRINK WATER! You have no idea how astringent 150 red wines in a row can be. It's like having a wine desert in your mouth. Also, you are still drinking some amount of alcohol even if you consistently spit. Water will keep your mouth from becoming the Sahara, and will make you feel better the next day. Trust us.
Tenth, HAVE FUN! Sure, TexSom and other conferences like it are industry events largely open to professionals who take wine seriously. But, that said, it's still friggin wine after all. It's largely delicious and magical! Jesus turned water into wine as part of His first miracle. And, you know what? It wasn't at a political meeting or a scientific lecture. It was at a giant multi-day wedding party. If that doesn't set a good example, I don't know what does. So, while you're contemplating, sipping, swirling, and spitting, remember to enjoy yourself a little too. This is good stuff, and part of what makes life absolutely wonderful to live. Enjoy!