Maybe I should rephrase that question as “What process do you use at wine tastings to review and determine whether you might recommend or purchase a wine?”

During a visit to a recent wine festival, my daughter suggested that I write this article after I explained my tip for remembering what I tried, liked, and “really” liked.  So I will share a few tips that I use to prepare for, and participate in, tastings.

These tips go beyond etiquette, sight, smell, and taste, as that can all be found on the wine tasting page. Instead, my approach to wine tasting is one of education, socialization, and indulgence.

My first tip, whether attending a wine dinner or festival, or visiting a winery, is to investigate the wineries and wines that may be presented. This can simply be a quick online search for the wine and a visit to the winery’s website.

When it comes to a wine dinner, you never know who will be presenting the wines or even how well they may be introduced. If the menu is advertised along with the event this provides an opportunity to investigate the wines, winery, vineyards, grape varieties, or other related items.  This then provides you with context when the wines are introduced and provides an opportunity for conversation with the presenter and other attendees.

This is of course much more unrealistic if attending a festival with a large number of wineries presenting, but sometimes just knowing who is there can help.

The festival I attended with my daughter had 24 wineries presenting. So what was my plan of action?

First, I knew that tasting wines from every winery in one afternoon can be a little much. So I reviewed the list of wineries and determined those whose wines I had tasted at prior events.  Those were eliminated from my tastings for the day.

Next, I decided to narrow the tastings down to a limited number of varieties. For that day it was dry whites, dark bold reds, and red blends. I chose to try the same varieties as much as possible so I could see how they varied between the Illinois wineries.

I made it a point as much as possible to speak to the winemakers or winery owners if they were present. I also always take notes and ask what varieties are used in the red and white blends.

My tip for quickly tracking what I taste, like, and “really” like is to use three marks: 

 ╱ = Tasted the wine.
╳   = Tasted the wine and liked it.
⊗ = Tasted the wine, like it, really liked it, and should purchase.

It really doesn’t matter what methods you use, but if you take time to plan and learn as you taste, it can make the experience much more fulfilling.