This week has been a wonderful mix of different tastings. I went to three national tastings sponsored by the wine agencies of Australia, Portugal and Spain. Here are some brief takeaways from my experiences at all three tastings.
The first two were held in Chicago and the third in New York City.
The first tasting I went to featured wines from Australia. It was held at the Chicago Athletic Club and I was very grateful that the sponsor provided valet parking for those, like me, who drove. This is very helpful for busy wine professionals and it should be noted that it makes attending an event in downtown Chicago much easier.
The experience was a bit overwhelming for me. I am not a big fan of Australian wines and I also have issues with noise and crowds. This was not my type of tasting. But I was impressed with how many wineries were represented and how willing the reps were to explain their wines and the current state of wine making in Australia.
My second tasting was with the Wines of Portugal. I am a big fan of Portuguese wines and would like to learn more about this country and the numerous growing regions it has within a very small area. The event featured famed Chicago sommelier and wine personality Alpana Singh and I attended the first seminar of the day which she hosted.
Portuguese wines represent good value at all levels and they pair well with food due to their acidity. Most famous are the Ports (fortified wines) and for good reason. To my palate they really stood out and represent something unique on a global level. I was pleased to see a map of Portugal and a glossary of wine types in the tasting guide book. This is very helpful for someone like me who has never visited the region and cannot be considered a wine expert as many who attend these tastings. The event was held at the Mid America Club in the AON Building so the views were stunning. And the food was excellent as well. The ambience and attendance was at the right level for me. I could hold a conversation while talking with the reps and there were enough tables to set up and enjoy some wine and small bites.
My final tasting was in New York City and it featured wines from Spain. This event was held at Mercado Little Spain by Jose Andres. I was expecting big things from the food part of the tasting and this did not disappoint. There were a wonderful variety of well-prepared tapas served with wines from over 37 wineries and importers.
The wines were excellent overall and I really enjoyed the assortment of sherries that were served in one area which allowed a more in depth comparison.
While the wines, food and location were fantastic, the guide book could have been more complete. It was missing maps and summaries of popular Spanish varietals which I found so helpful in the tasting I had attended the day before. Also missing were pricing for many of the wines that were featured. Some wineries had pricing, others did not. I was never given a good explanation as to why this was so. For a small distributor like me, it's very hard to get to know which wines represent good value if there is no consistency in the booklet.
All in all, I am grateful to be invited to these events as I learn and appreciate the hospitality these events represent to the wine industry professionals in the cities in which they are produced.
Thank you to the producers of all three events!