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Wine Festivals: The Easiest Path to a Wine Education

Wine Festivals Come in All Sizes

They may be small local events that showcase the wines of a certain region or international events that attract visitors worldwide. Some are multi-day events that may include winemaker dinners, lectures, seminars and guided tastings. Most events conclude with a massed public tasting, often outdoors. Participants wander at will among the presenters, tasting whatever wines they choose. Food items are almost always present. In most cases you will find displays of cheeses and breads along with cured meats. Larger events may include catered foods from local restaurants or community service groups.

Wine tasting events are exactly that. The wines are offered as an introduction to the products of various wineries. A typical pour is around one or one and a half ounces. You need not swallow the wine. Dump buckets are always in evidence and the presenters expect you to use them.

Learning from a Wine Festival

To many people wine festivals are big parties, but to the student of wine they present wonderful opportunities to learn firsthand from winery owners, winemakers, and viticulturists. Whatever your wine background may be, there are always things to be learned-and the education is free. You can learn about the latest trends in vineyard management, trellising, organic farming; why many wineries harvest their grapes at night, different pressing techniques, the different effect of various kinds of cooperage; and any question you may have relating to wine. You are among experts.

Charting Trends in Winemaking

One of the most valuable kinds of information these festivals offer is the current state of the art in a particular region. As you return year after year you will observe firsthand the growth of wine production in that region. You might be amazed. A couple of decades ago the spectrum of quality was very wide in most regions and still is in many parts of the U. S., U. K. and Canada-places where the wine industry is still in an early stage of development. But in places where the industry has matured, such as California, Oregon, and Washington State, you are unlikely to find any poorly made wine. But you will find differences between the wines. Over the past decade we saw a sharp rise in the alcoholic content of most wines as winemakers sought a richer, more flavorful product that might bring higher scores in wine reviews. That trend has peaked and many wineries are backing down on alcohol levels to achieve better balance and food-friendliness. Trends like this become apparent to anyone attending the same festival over a period of years.

The Paso Robles Wine Festival

The Paso Robles Wine Festival, held each year on the third weekend of May, has become one of California’s premiere public wine events. The three-day festival features a sommelier-guided tasting of wines specific to the region, a silent auction, and concludes with a grand tasting under the spreading oaks of City Park. Now in its 28th year, over 90 wineries participated in 2009.

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