Prepare Yourself for Wine Events: Business & Pleasure

Tips for success from John Ollenburg, Partner.

Enjoy this 2019 revision of John’s timeless tips which have enjoyed page 1 Google-ranking success for the better part of this past decade. 

15 Things You Should Know Before Attending a Wine Tasting...

1. Know your Audience and their Level of Wine Knowledge.  Don't Try to Bluff the Wine Enthusiast!

2. Learn How to Properly Taste...Aromas, Introduction, Texture, Palate and Finish.

3. Do Not Overindulge.  Tasting Does Not Mean Drinking.

4. Drink Water.  Alcohol Dehydrates.

5. Do Not Overpour Yourself or Others.  At a Tasting, a Single Bottle of Wine May Need to Make it Around the Room.

6. Don't Taste on an Empty Stomach.  Avoid Overpowering Foods.

7. Wear No or Very Little Perfume or Cologne.  Be Courteous to Others who are Enjoying the Wine's Aromas!

8. Enjoy Yourself by Researching a Few Wine Basics Beforehand.  (See Below.) 

9. Don't Try to Overpower Others with Your Knowledge.  Wine is Largely Art, Perception and Opinion with Only Certain Components of Fact and Science.

10. Never Add Ice to Wine.

11. Please Don't Make a "Spritzer" with a Nice Bottle of Wine.

12. Never "Top Off" Someone Else's Glass... Unless You KNOW it's the Same Wine and they Wish for More of that Same Wine.

13. Learn How to Properly Open a Bottle of Wine Before Attempting.  Only Open a Wine Bottle When Invited by the Host to Do So.

14. Rinsing Your Glass Between Pours is Controversial, Especially Using Tap Water.  Do Not Leave Water in Your Glass Before the Next Pour.

15. If You're Attending an Event at Someone's Home, Bring a Bottle of Wine.  Research the Wine, and Tell a Bit About It!



Wine FAQs... 

Q. What is the difference between sparkling wine and Champagne?

A.  To be Champagne, the grapes must be grown and the wine produced in the Champagne region of France.  Some sparkling wines classify themselves as "Champagne Methode."  This refers to a process of secondary fermentation in the bottle, but still doesn't make them Champagne.


Q. What are the rules of pairing food with wine?

A.  It's more opinion than fact.  Typically lighter fare should be accompanied by lighter wine.  One should compliment the other and not overpower.  Red wine to red meat is not a rule, nor is white wine for white meat.   If you are concerned with pairing, buy from a reputable wine shop and don't be afraid to ask.  Seek out "shelf talkers" (display notes), reviews and advice of professional wine enthusiasts... and remember these are just opinions! 

1. Beef:  Some safe pairings for beef are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah.   Interesting pairings that work well: Dry Riesling or Malbec.

2. Fish:  Pairings depend entirely upon the fish type and preparation.   Shellfish or whitefish with lemon butter can be enjoyed with Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc.  Ahi Tuna pairs nicely with a robust red such as Cabernet Sauvignon.

3. Pork, Veal or Chicken:  Again, pairings depend upon preparation.  These meats grilled or broiled pair well with Pinot Noir.  Chicken with cream sauce works well with Dry Riesling.

4. Try popcorn with Champagne!


Q. What is the real difference between dry and sweet wines?

A.  Not what most people think.  People confuse "fruit forward" taste with sweet.  Dry vs. sweet refers to composition and often finish, not necessarily overall taste.  Red wines made from grapes are most often dry.  Sweet wine examples are late harvest Rieslings and Moscato d'Asti.  If you think you like sweet wines, ask for a "fruit forward" dry wine, and see what you think.  You may be pleasantly surprised.


Q. If I'm serving or bringing wine to someone whose wine tastes I don't know, what is safe?

A.  Chardonnay, Shiraz and Pinot Grigio are all safe.  Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir are interesting and well-liked. 


Q. What is the difference between Shiraz and Syrah?

A.  Mostly the spelling.  They are produced from the same grape.  Some people think Shiraz is a bit spicier, and this may influence a winemaker's choice in naming.


Q. What is the difference between Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris?

A.  Same grape but different style.  Grigio is typically lighter.  Gris typically has more body (viscocity).


How to Taste, Simplified...

1. Fill glass no more than halfway. 

2. Gently swirl glass at stem to "open" the wine, releasing the aromas (bouquet).

3. Observe bouquet.  Yes... stick your nose in there, above the liquid line, of course.

4. Take a small sip while intaking small amount of air through the mouth.  Notice the "introduction." 

5. Observe the "palate" by lingering the wine on your taste buds for 5 seconds or so.  

6. Swallow and enjoy the "finish"

7. Evaluate the flavors.        


A Few Additional Tips...

Chilling wines:  Typically, chill whites 45 minutes in the fridge.  Too cold kills the flavor.  Reds are typically served room temperature or with a slight chill.

Different varietals deserve different glasses.

To decant or not to decant:  Wines "change" within their first hour exposure to air and thereafter.  Air can be wine's best friend or worst enemy.  Experts often disagree on air's influence to any given wine, depending upon the wine's characteristics.  It's also a matter of taste.  A wine that needs to breathe may be referred to as "tight." A wine exposed to too much air may become vinegar.


Our expert, John Ollenburg, has excelled in the wine industry for more than 15 years, working in winemaking, distribution, retail, hospitality and hosting wine tastings.  Our resident "guru" has traveled extensively to work with winemakers worldwide, is also a hobbyist, wine collector and has built his own wine cellar.   John organizes our wine tasting benefits and fundraisers in support of community and charitable give back.