Barrel tasting is a unique experience that should not be missed! Tasting wine just before its debut in a bottle, straight out of the barrel that has nurtured its development for so many months. But how do you get the privilege of participating in a barrel tasting? Not so hard, if you move fast. It is time for the 7th annual Livermore Barrel Tasting Weekend!
This is an event coordinated by the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association. It is happening Saturday, March 21, 2015 and Sunday, March 22, 2015, from noon until 4:30pm. This year, 35 wineries are participating, with special events, barrel tasting (of course) and in many cases the ability to buy wine futures. Wine futures? That means that you pay now for wine that you’ve just tasted from the barrel, to be delivered once it is bottled. In return for your pre-payment, the winery extends a special discount.
Participating couldn’t be easier. You pay $40 in advance on the Association web site, indicating which of the 35 wineries will be the first stop on your tour. That winery will have your wrist band and commemorative glass waiting for you when you arrive. What could be easier? Procrastinators can purchase day-of-show, but they will pay $45 and live with the shame of not planning ahead.
Barrel tasting is just as easy. A wine guide will use a “wine thief” to draw some wine out of their barrel. That curved glass object with the red handle in the top picture is a wine thief. Once you see it in action you will understand the name.
Other than the unique way of filling your glass, barrel tasting is exactly like tasting from a bottle. The same etiquette applies. The most important thing is to have fun with it! You will be tasting wine that is ALMOST ready for prime time, Expect a bit more edge to the wine, maybe some aggressive spice. Also be ready for the lack of filtration. Most wines are filtered during the bottling process, but barrel tasting doesn’t have that nicety. Some tasters get a bit of a headache after an afternoon of barrel tasting, so pack some Advil, just in case.
Once you’ve evaluated your taste, consider how this wine will progress on the way to bottling. The underlying nature of the wine will persist, but the sharp edges will drop off. Is this a candidate for a futures purchase? Be sure to ask about futures pricing and when the bottles will be available for pickup. This is a great way to same some money on your wine!
Doesn’t this sound like a great way to spend an afternoon? See you there!
About the Author: John grills a mean steak and is always in the market for another wine fridge. Believes that if a winery has more than 10 employees, it's probably too big. Buys wine faster than he drinks it, but who cares?