Wine speed dating at the 2011 Winebloggers Conference
The 4th North American Winebloggers Conference has just come and gone and what a ride it was! I hadn’t been to the WBC since the inaugural edition in 2008 so it was great to see old friends and meet bloggers I only knew online.
I have to say the Virginia Wine did a great job of showcasing their wines despite the inferno-like temperatures of the weekend. It just so happened that the weekend all us bloggers descended on Charlottesville, VA., the US was going through a heat wave. Imagine sitting in a steam room, fully clothed with the dial turned up to high. Now double that and that was more or less what it was like to step outside of the hotel during the day. Average temp during the conference was 38 Celsius. Thank god for air conditioning. There was plenty of information throughout the conference about the wines of VA and loads of VA winemakers on hand to answer questions. I came to Virginia to learn about VA wines and that mission certainly was accomplished.
Happily, most of the conference was inside the confines of the Omni Hotel and my favourite event other then the after-hours parties (more on those later) was wine speed dating. I love this idea. Are we going home hooked up with wines? Well, more or less. Like many speed dating events, it is hit and miss but you never know when you might find Mr/Ms Right (Wine).
Much like speed dating, the winemakers had 5 minutes to impress us with their libations before a little bell rings and the next winemaker comes along. The added bonus (for us bloggers) is that we simultaneously tweet about what we are tasting. What would be worse than being on a blind speed date? How about your date giving running commentary to the world while you’re on said date? “Oh, not enough tannic structure…” “…a bit sweet for me…” ”Do they really think this wine has Burgundian qualities?” You get the idea.
I’ve read some posts and it seems not everyone is enamoured of wine speed dating as me. Some complained that there were many mediocre wines. It is possible that one’s mediocre wine could be another’s favourite and I think the speed tasting was meant to give us the opportunity to try wines we might not otherwise have access to and to separate the wheat from the chaff. I looked at it much like real life speed dating, you never know what you’re going to get, but if you sign up, you best be prepared to play along. I have to admit, there were many wines that, if this were a real dating event, I would be feigning a major case of food poisoning and running out the door. There were however, enough good and/or interesting wines to make it worthwhile.
It was, surprisingly, not all about Virginia wines. There was plenty of wine sponsorship at the conference and the wines of S. Africa, Chile, Bordeaux and Italy were also thrown into the mix. It was interesting to see others’ comments while we were tasting because I would often try a wine that everyone else raved about and think, what are they tasting? Did I get a bad bottle? Every now and then, I’d see someone whose assessment jibed with mine (we could all see what was being tweeted on the giant screen, set up at the front of the room, with all of our comments rolling continually throughout the event) and think, “Ah, there’s another sophisticated palate”
Seriously, this is one of my favourite events because you have to go with your gut. Too often wine prose is over-analytical and pretentious but with wine speed dating you don’t have time to do any of that, you just type what’s in your mouth and it goes straight out onto Twitter. No time for finely crafted sentences about the “nuances and contours of this gorgeous red, blah, blah blah…” just ”…Give it to me straight, Doc…” I like to think of it as the Wild West of wine writing.
Afterwards, the wines were available to taste at a more leisurely pace, if so desired, and many of the winemakers were hanging around just waiting to answer our questions.
I hope they bring this event back next year as the majority really seemed to enjoy pitting themselves against the clock and the wine. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if this idea caught on? “So, Monsieur Derenoncourt you have 5 minutes to tell me about your….”