Every once in a while wine trade events come up where industry professionals are invited to taste wines from certain areas around the world.
Trade Show for Wine Folks
Trade shows happen when wine producers from a wine region get together to showcase their wines in one spot…so instead of the trade professionals going to the winery, the winery comes to them. This provides the producers of the wines easy access to everyone in the profession. Think of it as a trade show for wine people.
Showcasing New Wines
These events are not for the public. To get in you normally have to be invited and RSVP. Your credentials are checked and when you arrive you usually have to provide a business card. Don't think because the public isn't invited that it is not any use to the public. It really is. The purpose of these trade tastings is to showcase new arrivals of wine so that you as a buyer, distributor, writer, etc., can preview the wines before the general public. As a buyer or distributor the benefit is you can pre-order the wine and have it arrive in your store along with your tasting notes on it, since you've already tasted it. As a writer you can write about the wines so you can inform the general public about things like the new vintages and what wines to look for.
In 2004 vintages from the premier Bordeaux producers in San Francisco held trade show at a beautiful venue at an old hotel in the Financial District. At these events, the producers were all laid out in alphabetical order by region. In one area you had the great producers of St. Emillion, St. Julien, Margaux, Paulliac…all of them. You had people who were directly involved in each winery pour, usually the owner or the winemaker. It's an incredible opportunity to talk face-to-face with the people directly involved with each of the wines. Let me tell you how valuable that is. Usually you get to hear about the wines second or third-hand from representatives or distributors. It's nice to be able to hear it from the horse's mouth so-to-speak.
Not All Fun and Games
Of course the trade tasting events are fun, but they are also a lot of work. You are not tasting the wines for fun, you're tasting them to evaluate, understand and learn-usually writing down copious notes on each wine to later take home and expand upon. It's overwhelming to walk into a room with 100's of wines that retail for $65+. Where do you start? Obviously you have to spit each sip you take, which is not always fun when you discover a wine that you truly enjoy or you know would cost a pretty penny, but if you want to be standing by the end of the day, it's required.
Other Purposes of Trade Tastings
Sometimes the events don't have to be so high-profile. A trade tasting event showcasing wines from a small region of Spain called Navarra was recently held. Not many people have heard of that area, let alone tasted wines from there. The wines were primarily in the value arena as far as cost goes. We're talking about $3-8 per bottle. These producers had not had much exposure to the U.S. market and they were hoping to break in. The quality of the wines was simply amazing and at the price point they have huge potential. Without trade tasting events like this, it would have been hard to break in to the market. The trade tasting was a great opportunity for them and for those who had not had the chance to try any wines from that area previously. It was definitely a win-win for them, for those in the industry and for you the consumers.
So even though it may seem that wine professionals drink wine for a living, it's not quite as simple as that. Industry events such as trade tastings are really a valuable tool for industry folks to learn about and try wines that we can turn around pass that information along to the consumer.