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October 21, 2016

16 Ways to be a Wine Festival Pro!

Wine festivals have become ubiquitous around the United States. I live in Los Angeles and there seems to be a different festival every other weekend. Most are in the $50-$75 price range and tout anywhere from 20 to over 100 wineries participating. If each winery pours 2 wines, you’re looking at anywhere from 40 to 200 wines. Mama mia! How do you handle this?  Here are 16 tips and tricks to be a Wine Festival Pro and stand out from the crowd!

Before the Festival

1.  Go online and see who is pouring. Any standouts? Or anything that sounds interesting to you? Be sure to list them in the “Notes” section of your phone, so you can pull them up when you arrive.

2.  Workout or do something active today. This won’t help in your wine tasting skills or help you sprint faster to the wine tasting finish line. But in my opinion, if you get a workout in, the chances of you over imbibing go down. Take care of your body before and after wine tasting and your body will thank you.

3.  Eat a substantial lunch that will line your tummy with a good base for wine tasting.

4.  Have a few handy items with you: a small bottle of water (festivals usually have this, but it’s nice to have one right in your bag), breath mints (your breath will get funky after hours of tasting, it’s science), antacids (wine can cause indigestion), and a pen (to take notes in the program).

5.  Arrive at the festival at or just before it opens to the public! As a trade/press professional, I have been to countless wine festivals. Festivals both open to the public or just open to the trade. Guess what, they all get more and more crowded as the day goes by. And in my opinion, an overly crowded wine festival is a waste of time. No one wants to wait in a line 5 deep to get a 1 oz pour. No one.

During the Festival

6.  Get a program. Most, though not all, wine festivals have a program that lists all the wineries participating, and might even leave some room for tasting notes, which is AWESOME!  Take a look at the notes on your phone, and circle those you want to visit.

7.  Do a lap first, then commit! If you got there early or just when the gates open, this should be breeze. I like to take a lap first and see if there’s anything I’m missing. Anything shiny and sparkly that looks too good to miss?

8.  Drink progressively. For God’s sake, don’t just walk through the tables and aimlessly do tastes of whites and reds in any order! Start with bubbly, then to whites, then reds, and then dessert wines. TRUST ME. You will get palate fatigue…It’s bound to happen….even to the professionals. Drinking progressively will mitigate that a bit.

9.  WATER. I repeat. WATER. There is no such thing as too much water.

10.  Spit!! And I really mean this. If you go to a wine festival and drink all of the pours, you’re sure to be “the drunk one” and will most certainly feel terrible that evening with an “overhang” (an overhang is a word I created in college. It’s when you already have a hangover before you even go to bed). And you’ll surely be hungover the next day. I used to (in my early 20s) have a motto “no wine left behind” and I can safely say that I retract that statement. Leave a lot behind….please! Maybe taste through some whites first (be sure to spit), then revisit a small handful of your favs (you can drink these). I usually limit myself to 10 whites and 10 reds. After that, my tongue has no idea what’s going on.

11.  Ask questions. Even if you don’t know a lot about wine. Some fun ideas: ask 5 different winemakers/winery reps what they love about the wine they’re pouring. Or ask them to tell you one interesting thing about the wine they are pouring. You might find out some cool stuff!

12.  Eat something (if they offer it). This will break up the afternoon and be a nice palate cleanser. It also ensures your tummy doesn’t get empty and get sour from all the wine.

13.  Step aside immediately after you get served. This is a big one. When you walk up to the table, you’ll get a pour, then immediately step to the side. Even if you’re having a conversation with the pourer. A small step or two to the side does wonders. It allows the pourer to continue chatting with you, yet still be able to pour to the next guest. When you’re the “next guest” at one of the tables, you’ll greatly appreciate it!

Amid all of these “how to’s” be sure to take pictures, take notes, or whatever strikes your fancy. Bottom line is to have fun!

After the Festival

14.  Depending on what time you are done, have another meal. This one doesn’t have to be as carb heavy as the “before” meal. A good mix of protein and carbs should be fine.

15.  WATER. Yup, you’ll still be dehydrated. Drink up!

16.  Feeling any tinge of a headache? Take some headache medicine just in case to nip it in the bud.

If you follow these tips and tricks, you will enjoy your wine festival day MUCH more than the next guy! You’ll have had a great time and woken up without a hangover. Mission accomplished!

Don’t forget to upload all of your fun pics and relish in the fun wine tasting day you had with good friends! I have a bumper sticker on my car that says: the meaning of life is to live it! A wine festival is DEFINITELY living the life!

I recently went to the Bubblyfest sparkling wine festival in Pismo Beach. I brought this little gadget with me and got props on it ALL weekend. It is a necklace you wear to hold your wine glass.

It makes sense for me when I am attending wine events as trade/press, because I am usually busy taking notes, taking pictures, and posting on social media. This allows the wine glass to be hands free to allow me to do everything I need to do. Click HERE to see the Amazon link where I purchased this for $8. Great buy!

What wine festivals will you be attending before the end of the year?

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you’re looking to Up Your Wine Game and Drink Better, consider booking a private in-person or virtual wine tasting experience.
Brianne Cohen Wine Educator
Brianne Cohen is a Los Angeles-based certified sommelier, wine educator, consultant, and writer.

Brianne has educated and entertained over 10,000 people through her in-person and virtual wine tasting experiences.

Brianne holds the WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust) Diploma certificate, one of the most coveted wine certifications in the world. When she’s not helping people Up Their Wine Game, she can be found judging at international wine competitions

Brianne aims to make wine approachable and conversational, to surprise and delight with unexpected wine finds, and to give people knowledge (and confidence) about wine in their everyday lives.

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As a wine writer, I frequently accept samples for review on my  website and on my social media channels. Please contact me at to discuss sending samples for review. I promise to always be honorable with the samples. I will evaluate all wines in good tasting settings and with no distractions.

All reviews are my opinions, and mine only. Because of the volume of samples I receive, I cannot promise that all samples received will be reviewed, but I will do my best.

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