Catalogue of disasters – the in’s and out’s of tasting booklets

Did a post last year (here) about etiquette at tastings for those both behind and in front of the tables. Clearly not enough people read it – table hoggers and restaurants hunting in packs were in evidence at a number of the events I’ve been to this week. But their annoyance factor was nowhere near as much as that provided by the tasting booklet at one particular bash earlier in the month – won’t mention which one, that wouldn’t be cricket, cobber, would it? So to prevent such reoccurrences, here are some guidelines for those whose job it is to put these things together.

1)      Is the booklet a sensible size? Bigger than A4 and it won’t fit in the filing cabinet. Smaller than A5 and it’s fiddly, and makes an unsightly bulge in the filing cabinet.

2)      If the notes are more a sheet of paper than a booklet with a stiff back, can you provide some clipboards or even just bits of cardboard for us to rest it on.

3)      You want us to write notes, so give us enough space to write them. However…

4)      We do not need an entire sheet of A4 to write about a single wine, so pack a few onto each page.

5)      Is the book organised in the order in which the tables and (if possible) the wines line up around the room? If not, we sulk.

6)      Do the wines correspond to what’s in the book? The right vintage, the right cuvée, the right spelling etc? If not, make sure there’s something on the table to point out the discrepancies.

7)      Does the book have easily accessible information for those who want to find out more about the wines? We shouldn’t have to look in an index for things such as UK importer (and their address/e-mail/phone number/etc).

8)      Finally, is the background information genuinely useful and/or interesting? Or is it awash with phrases that activate the ‘Bollocks’ alert? There are thousands of family-owned companies with historic estates (where art, nature and passion combine, of course) using sustainable viticultural practices with minimal environmental impact to grow premium (or should that be super premium, or even super-ultra-premium?) grape varieties which are then made into (top) quality wines using sensitive/meticulous/hands-off/non-interventionist/artisanal winemaking in a state-of-the art winery to show off the best of the terroir and the talents of [fill in winemaker’s name] who has spent many years hand-crafting (top) quality wines – what’s different about yours?

I’m sure there are more – do add them in the comments section below

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7 thoughts on “Catalogue of disasters – the in’s and out’s of tasting booklets

  • Andrew Stevenson

    I agree with your comments, Simon.

    I’d add that it’s really annoying when the wines listed are the same wines as are being poured, but the order isn’t the same.

    How difficult is it to print the wines dry before sweet, white before red?

    How on earth anyone comes up with order that wines are sometimes listed in is utterly beyond me.

    Then there are the producers who couldn’t resist slipping in a few extra wines that aren’t on the list.

  • Simon Post author

    No problem with the extra wines – often exhibitors are officially limited at some events to a certain number of wines – but if you’re going to do this, the good guys often print out an extra sheet so we don’t have to write out all the relevant info.

  • Wink Lorch

    I’d like much more information about the wines written down as a matter of routine, so when it’s not obvious from the name of the wine I’d like to see:

    Region/Appellation (e.g. if it’s Chilean, please tell me which valley it comes from; if Italian the province; if Greek the region – sorry I just can’t always guess)

    Grape Varieties (% mix for a blend, then we don’t have to bore the person behind the stand asking the same old questions or for non-varietal, non obvious wines, just state the grape please – I’m sorry I don’t remember the grapes in all the DOCs etc)

    Winemaking e.g. oak etc – can help to state the oak use to save all those repetitive questions. (I know at least one generic or supermarket does this).

    Not only does this help while tasting, it also helps later at home when looking through the wines tasted or even not got around to tasting.

  • Colin Smith

    And an index in the tasting booklet which is useful eg:

    does it show which producer is on which table and in which room?

    what about listing all the wines by key grape varieties and by table?

    producer listing by region?

    Don’t want too many combinations but if you only want to taste the pinot noirs say, it would be helpful to list them in some way to make them easily found.

  • Isabelle Clark

    While we’re on the subject of useful information, can visitors please remember to put their badges on and not stuff them in a pocket? It’s really helpful for exhibitors and especially visiting winemakers if they know who they are talking to.

  • Simon Post author

    Good one Isabelle – and name badges are also useful for when you’ve been speakling to someone for ten minutes and suddenly realise you can’t remember their name!