When I was in the wine business, the thing I hated the most was to pour at a public wine tasting event. Considering how gung-ho I am about de-mystifying wine for people, and how much I enjoy teaching people about wine, I recognize the irony. What better way, one might ask, to help people feel more confident about their own taste in wine but to help them taste more? And be able to talk to them while they’re tasting?
This optimistic viewpoint completely discounts humankind’s animal tendencies. One of the scenarios in which people act like animals is when they’re in crowds. Another scene that brings out the animal in even your mildest-mannered of auntie is when people are giving something out for free. Yet another animalistic behavior encouragement is alcohol.
These are the building blocks for the miraculous equation that takes normal men and women at a large public wine tasting and turns them into ravening, parched, ill-tempered zombies. Crowd + free (or cheap) alcohol = UGLY. It’s true, I don’t care who you are.
I bring this up because now that I am no longer in the biz, and I am now one of the shuffling horde, clutching my crystal as I lurch from tasting station to tasting station at events like this week’s TastyTues at Specs. I was surrounded by the masses, nay even one of them, and it was interesting to observe their behavior from the stem side of the glass. See if you recognize any of your own actions here:
The Rudeness, trailing a palpable cloud of perfume, pushes her way to the front of the waiting crowd, talking loudly all the while to her companion. She points her empty glass at the pourer, and does not greet him or speak, much less ask for a taste of the wine. She may gesture with the empty glass if the pourer is slow to respond.
If the pourer simply pours into the empty glass without speaking, she asks what wine this is. If the pourer identifies the wine while he’s pouring, she ignores him. The Rudeness takes her time tasting and commenting with her companion, all the while blocking other tasters from approaching the table and getting their own taste.
If she really enjoys a wine, she presses the pourer for another serving, putting him in the awkward position of having to refuse. She may ask for a double pour of the white, for example, because she doesn’t drink red…
Reject The Rudeness in you! Public mass tastings may hack right into the beastly side of your cerebral cortex, but resist, and overcome. Make eye contact with the human being who is pouring you wine. Ask for a sample, and say “may I,” and “please.” Say “thank you.” Listen politely if they choose to tell you about the wine in your glass. Make room for others at the table. Be cognizant that your hapless wine server, beset on all sides, has no choice but to follow the rules of the event, if the rules limit portions. (Other people get to have some of that Chardonnay too, even if you like it a LOT.) Eschew perfumes and odiferous unguents on the day of the tasting. Be a mensch. Be civilized.