If not a wine snob or a beer geek, you might feel intimidated at the prospect of attending a tasting event. There is a perception that wine connoisseurs are condescending, pretentious snobs who wring the joy out of man’s most joyous beverage.
By far the most popular and informal format for charity tasting events is the stroll-around tasting, in which various purveyors offer small pours along with accompanying hors d’oeuvres.
This format will be featured at the Foothills Day Camp benefit at the Anniston Museum of Natural History on Friday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Representatives from International Wines and Craft Beers and Alabama Crown Distributing will be pouring 24 wines and 24 craft beers.
Foothills Day Camp is a community outreach effort of Anniston’s Grace Episcopal Church to offer a free week-long camping experience to children ages 6-10 who would not otherwise have such an opportunity.
Tickets to the tasting are $30 at the door or $25 in advance, available at Grace Church or Tyson’s Fine Wines and Things in Golden Springs.
If uncertain about attending a tasting event, here are some general rules to follow.
1. Keep in mind, the event is called a "tasting," not a "gulping." Expect pours to be small sips. The object is to expose participants to a wide variety of wines and beers (which will be available for purchase if desired).
2. Upon arrival, you will be presented with your glass for the evening. Keep up with that glass, even if tasting beers. (Yes, beer geeks agree that a glass is the best conveyance for beer.)
3. With glass in hand, visit each table, where you will find an array of wines and beers, a carafe of water and a bucket known in wine circles as the "spit bucket."
4. Your table host will have wines and beers lined up in the order they should be tasted. Customarily, they are displayed in order from lightest to heaviest.
5. When a sip is poured, swirl the contents of the glass. (Swirling intensifies the aroma, which we’ll get to in the next step.) Grip the wine glass by the stem and swirl the contents while the base remains on the table. Some pros swirl glasses with the flick of their wrists. (Better to practice this move at home rather than a public wine tasting.)
6. Once the sip has been swirled, smell the beverage by putting your nose down into the glass and taking a good sniff. This is called "nosing," for obvious reasons. When professionals do this, they are looking not only for pleasant aromas but also for faulty odors. A wine should not smell like a wet dog or a rotten egg, and beer should not smell skunky.
7. After swirling and nosing, taste the beverage. It is all right to swallow what you taste.
8. Spit. Do not be afraid to spit if the beverage is not pleasing, as long as your aim is good. The spit bucket is your friend for the evening. It is also where you will pour unconsumed sips.
9. Rinse your glass. The carafe of water on the table is not for drinking but for rinsing. It is not necessary to rinse after every wine tasted, but if you are changing from wine to beer or vice versa, then rinsing is advisable. If sticking with wine, don’t be surprised if your table host offers to prime your glass with the next wine. When this is done, pour the small amount of wine used to prime the glass into the spit bucket.
10. Remember simple rules of etiquette. Don’t hog the table, don’t break in line, don’t give unwanted, in-depth critiques to your hosts unless they ask for them.
11. Don’t ask for larger pours.
12. Never pick up bottles to pour for yourself. This is a violation of ABC rules. However, it is not bad form to ask to revisit a libation you especially enjoyed.
13. Do ask questions of your table hosts, who have information about beverages being poured. Talk with other tasters, sharing impressions of beverages served.
14. Do eat. Though pours will be small, they will be plentiful. Never start a tasting with an empty stomach. Always have a bit of food as you taste. You are less likely to over-imbibe.
15. Do dress casually and come out and taste, nose, swirl and spit (but not on the floor) for a worthy cause.
Contact Pat Kettles at email@example.com.