Sunday, March 04, 2001

Ten steps to fine wine fest

Tips for great sips

By John Vankat
Enquirer contributor

Virginia Pankratz observes the clarity and hue of a glass of wine.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
| ZOOM |
        The 11th Cincinnati International Wine Festival goes into full swing this week, and the centerpiece Grand Tastings are Friday and Saturday evenings at the Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center.

        If you're planning to attend one of the Grand Tastings, here are 10 hints that will enhance your evening:

        1. Read the Enquirer's Food section Wednesday. I've looked over the list of wines to be poured at the Grand Tastings, and in Wednesday's section, I'll recommend wines you shouldn't miss.

        2. Attend the “Taste of Chamber Music.” This event precedes the Grand Tastings by an hour, so beat the traffic to prime parking near the Convention Center and then relax while sipping sparkling wine and enjoying fine chamber music. It's a bargain at $10.

  For a full schedule of events, see or call (513) 723-9463.
        3. Have a plan. As you walk into the Grand Tasting, don't just head for the nearest table of wines. Instead, take a moment to skim your program and mark the wines you want to taste.

        4. Taste your price range. Indulge by tasting some expensive wines, but don't ignore bottles in your normal price range. One of the benefits of attending a tasting is finding wines that you like and can afford.

        5. Try the unfamiliar. The Grand Tastings provide the opportunity to sip wines that you otherwise might not try. Spend half or more of your evening practicing your ABCs: “Anything but chardonnay and cabernet.”

        6. Taste, don't drink. This is a wine “tasting,” not a wine “drinking.” Spit and pour out, even when the crowd makes it difficult to reach the dump buckets.

        7. Don't be rude. When you find a wine you really like, don't go back for seconds, thirds and fourths. Think of others. No one likes to go to a table late in the evening and find that a wine is gone.

        8. Talk with companions and pourers. The best way to learn about wine is to verbalize what you're tasting and listen to others, especially when the person pouring the wine is the winemaker.

        9. Note what you like. Of course you're not going to take extensive tasting notes, but at least circle your favorite wines in your program. Better yet, jot down a simple grade of A, A-, B+, etc., and later contact your local wine store about those wines.

        10. Get home safely. If you don't spit, spend the night downtown, arrange for a designated driver or get a cab. Do whatever it takes to safely end your evening.

        John Vankat of Oxford publishes the Quarterly PocketList of Top-Rated Wines ($25.95/year). To subscribe, see or call (800) 524-1005. Send questions c/o The Enquirer, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati 45202; fax: 768-8330.


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