Three Tastings this Week: Differences in the Detail

In the past I have viewed Trade Tastings in the wine trade as sometimes being a complete waste of time, money and yes, Wine!

Are they there to sell? Very seldom.

Educate? Yes but (very often) Why?

Marketing? Yes.

Many of these trade fairs, of course, attempt to do all three at once. From an education perspective we are treated to ‘The Masterclass’; as a sales vehicle we are offered bottle prices – both RRP’s and trade. The marketing spend is focused on taking out a table, presence and open bottles for pouring. Am I missing something? Ah, yes – a social occasion for all involved.

Every weekend the brilliant Whelehan Wines in Loughlinstown opens bottles at its W Tasting Bar and encourages us all to learn. They do this with panache, style and expertise. Of course we are encouraged to buy what we taste but this feels more like a Service – Education and Marketing – soft sell! It works.

Last weekend at the W Tasting Bar

Distributor Tastings post pandemic are now in full swing. These come in all shapes and sizes. Bearing in mind that they are expensive we need to temper our criticism and be careful of being unfairly dismissive. That said, these are not supposed to be celebrations and thank you events on behalf of hard working sales people. Keeping customers onside and away from competitors. however, often means that wine fairs are used to sway clients with fake messaging or, at the very least, silly boasts. Maybe the trade should look at a really top class wine event held this week by one of Ireland’s premier merchants – Mitchell and Son.

Mitchell’s seldom holds a portfolio tasting. I think the last was a full decade ago. This weeks event was held at the relatively new Hyatt Centric hotel in the Liberties of Dublin. A great room. Not too big, well fleshed out with wine and principles from across Europe. Has anyone ever seen such an extraordinary display of Lustau Sherry’s! (Sorry, my bias … )

This was an honest persentation by a very serious wine family, attended by a selection of (humble) family oriented wine producers who were capable of giving us complete answers in as much detail as we needed. Mitchell’s has a super portfolio. Great event. Watch out here for a lot more on Mitchell’s soon.

Then there is the country of origin generic tasting. These tend to the be the Big Ones.This week we were treated to the Annual New Zealand Trade Tasting. The tag line was ‘Bringing New Zealand to You’. It had the (almost ubiquitous by now ) MasterClass, a Free Pour table (miserable selection btw) and a number of distributors showing their wares. Held at the Radisson Blu hotel it barely filled the room. The New Zealand Fair has traditionally kicked of the year with the buzziest and busiest of all the annual tastings. Because of the pandemic it had to be delayed twice and was eventually held this week. It might have been better to have spent its money elsewhere. No buzz. Just opened bottles. I felt sorry for the likes of Liberty Wines, Cassidy Wines, Comans, Febvre and Villa Maria (Barry and Fitzgerald) who really made a fabulous effort. Or, how about the tables who had travelled in the hope of meeting a new agent (would have been better off knocking on doors!). Big names such as Findlaters and Classic Drinks didn’t even bother to turn up and show anything at all. Moral of the story? Don’t do something for the sake of it. The very, very least this could have done for us would have been a New Zealand wine expert giving the masterclass – there were a couple there.

So, this week has brought all of my Wine Tastings thoughts back into sharp focus. Money well spent, time well spent, money wasted, time poorly serviced. It had it all!

What makes a really good Wine Fair/Tasting? A Memorable one that makes you want more. Want to Taste More, Learn More and let’s face it to Buy More. They can be brilliant. The difference is in the detail.

Domaine le Novi from the Luberon at the the Mitchell’s Tasting. I want to Learn More!