I’ve been to both the American Wine Bloggers Conference (Santa Rosa 2008) and the European Wine Bloggers Conference (Lisbon 2009).

What I’m about to write is something that’s controversial and now rumbling underground, as people think this through and begin to discuss their opinions. I was just reminded of it as I read Paul Gregutt’s blog about the conference. He asked the wine brands who were pouring to comment on their thoughts… from that perspective… and then he wrote his story.

Bean commented:

Chiming in on Joe’s #2, I talked to a lot of Washington wineries about participating in the conference and heard several reasons over and over again for not joining in, especially in the speed tasting.

#1 was lack of confidence that their wines would stand out in the crowd. I heard this even from wine makers who make some really good wines.

#2 Or some smart aleck would trash talk them. They thought the chance of bad press/tweets was too high for the gamble

#3 Speed tasting was too fast to connect with bloggers in a meaningful way. They didn’t want to be “part of the machine”

I’m really curious to see where this all goes, because I’ve been holding this one in since the first conference I attended in Santa Rosa in 2008.

  1. American Wine Bloggers Conference ~ Speed tasting ~ Vintners have five minutes to pour their wines, tell the tasters the story of their companies, and describe what they’re pouring. Palates go from white to red, and back to white and red, with each new vintner. There could be a wine with residual sugar, then back to white, to red, and off to rose.
  2. European Wine Bloggers Conference ~ Class room setting ~ The focus could be wines from a region (with the vintners talking about the wines), a class in fortified wines (sherries and ports), whites of a region, and then the reds.

I’ve given you this comparison, just in case you think that the tasting set-up at both conferences are handled in the same way… They’re definitely not. One is definitely old school, and the other is definitely new school. It’s a matter personal taste from the organizers.

In my own personal learning (and teaching), I always favor quality over quantity, because more is absorbed on any subject when it’s more than just sound bites.

This is just my personal and professional opinion, as humble as it may be.

It’s not meant to dismiss all the other good that’s coming from the American conference.

The organizers are doing a lot right. This one ~ Speed Tasting ~ is just not my cup of tea… ah… glass of wine.

It lends itself toward getting drunk, and that’s not where I want to go with wine. This setting’s scenario really encourages those less exposed to wine to really get hammered. (Tell me nobody got drunk during this tasting, and I’ll retract that last sentence.)

I know that it’s been mentioned to the organizers of WBC… that this element of their conference is challenging for some tasters… and they’re adamant that this is their style, and will remain as is.

The arguments ~ off the top of my head ~ against this style of tasting are the following:

  1. Is speed drinking ever a good practice, or am I just an old fart?
  2. What’s being done to encourage those less experienced with wine tasting to spit, so they don’t over indulge?
  3. What of value is being retained in the speed tasting process?
  4. Is it respectful to the vintners who have taken their time, staff, travel and entertainment budgets, and brought their wine to this event, only give these winemakers/producers just five minutes at a table of tasters to speed talk and pour?
  5. Could the people skipping out of these tasting be doing so because the underground tastings that are emerging (focused on one product for a good period of time) are more interesting and satisfying?

I’d love to hear all the pros and cons from those who have attended.

Help me to understand how cool and groovy speed tasting is… What am I missing?

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