Friday, February 24, 2017

Boston Wine Expo: An Overview

Last year, 13 of the 42 wines on my annual Top Ten Wine lists were tasted at the 2016 Boston Wine Expo. The 2017 Boston Wine Expo took place last weekend and how many of the wines I tasted there will end up on my year-end Top Ten lists for 2017? I suspect the total will be at least similar to the prior year and I wouldn't be surprised if it were higher.

Some of my wine finds this year include the following: a 20-Year Old Spanish Palo Cortado Sherry, an Alsatian Pinot Noir, a number of intriguing Georgian wines fermented in traditional qvevri, Slovakian Mead, an extremely old Port from 1870, fascinating wines from Luxembourg, a Spanish Bobal Rosé, South African Pinotage and Chenin Blanc, Old-World style California wines, tasty Israeli wines, and much, much more. What were some of your wine finds this year?

This year, the Boston Wine Expo was held on February 18 & 19 at the Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center. Produced and managed by Conventures, Inc., in collaboration with the Boston Guild of Oenophilists, the Expo gathered together thousands of wine lovers, producers, importers, distributors and others. As a media guest, I attended both days of the Expo, seeking out new wines, talking to wine makers & importers, enhancing my wine education, exploring new foods, and hanging with some good friends who also enjoy wine. Overall, it was a fruitful weekend as I discovered plenty of interesting wines, and I'll be writing about my favorites over the course of the next few weeks.

Once again, I devoted most of my time to the Grand Tasting room, which featured over 200 producers and over 1800 wines, though I also visited the Vintners' Reserve Lounge and attended one of the Seminars. Overall, I tasted about 175 wines and spirits over the course of the weekend, which is almost 10% of what was available. However, that also means that I didn't get to taste over 90% of what was offered for sampling. It is a huge event and everyone can only taste but a mere fraction of all the wines which are showcased. I'm sure I missed some excellent wines, but hard choices needed to be made, and I had to confined my tasting to only a small slice of the available wines.

Once again, the Grand Tasting offered intriguing diversity in some respects, but failed in certain other areas. On the positive side, you could find wines from lesser known wine countries including Bulgaria, Georgia, Israel, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. More well known regions, such as California, France, Italy, Spain, South Africa and Portugal were well represented. I was pleased to see more spirits showcased at the Expo and hope that trend grows in the next few years. However, some countries and regions had very limited or no representation.

For example, there was only one Sake producer at the Expo and as I have often said, I fervently wish many more Sake breweries were represented at the Expo. I would also like to see more Alsatian wines, Spanish Sherry, Ports from Portugal, Italian Franciacorta, wines from U.S. states besides the major ones, and Uruguayan wines. The Vintners Reserve Lounge also suffered from a lack of diversity, presenting many California wines but much less from other world regions. In addition, a significant number of the wines in this Lounge were the same as in prior years, albeit some might be newer vintages.

I understand some of the reasons for the lack of diversity in some areas. It isn't cheap to have a table at the Expo and not all producers, especially the smaller ones, believe they receive a sufficient economic benefit for the cost. As I mentioned last year, maybe the Expo organizers could try to address this matter by providing reduced pricing for small wineries, maybe based on production levels. In addition, maybe Expo organizers could also be more proactive in trying to bring more exhibitor diversity to the event by actively seeking out producers in regions which have been under-represented in the past.

During the trade hours, from 11am-1pm, it is a quieter time so I was able to taste plenty of wines and speak to the producers, distributors and importers. Once the public hours began, at 1pm, it was tougher to do so, especially on Saturday, when the crowds fill the great hall. You often have to wait in line to reach a specific table, and the producers, distributors and importers have less time to speak with each person who comes to their table. On Sunday, the crowds were smaller so it was easier to access the tables and talk to the pourers.

While tasting wines during the public hours, at several different tables, consumers asked to taste the wines that I was tasting, saying that as I was taking notes, I probably knew what I was doing. It indicates to me that some consumers want guidance of what to taste at the Expo. With over 1800 wines available, it is difficult to know what you should taste. Prior to the Expo, I provided my own Suggestions for what I thought that attendees should taste and some people took advantage of my list. Hopefully I can get my recommendations out to more people next year. In addition, maybe the Expo could offer private tours to attendees, taking them from table to table, trying to show them some of the most interesting wines at the Expo.

The Expo is a social occasion, and the vast majority of people that attend the Expo do so with friends and/or family. I got to see a number of my own wine loving friends at the Expo, including Andrew, Karin, Chanie, Terry, Brad, Susan, Roz, Jonathon, and Larry. We shared some of our favorite wine finds and though I enjoy discovering new wines, I also get much enjoyment from sharing those discoveries with others. And it is even better when your friends find joy in the wines you recommended.

The wine seminar which I attended, on wines from the Douro Valley of Portugal, was well attended. A number of fascinating wines were presented for sampling and the speaker was personable, humorous and informative. I'll be posting a more in-depth report on the seminar in the near future. Did you attend any of the seminars? If so, what did you think of it?

Besides all the wine available at the Expo, there were a number of food exhibitors, many offering free samples of their products. As I've often repeated, at such a large wine event it's beneficial to have plenty of food samples to help absorb the alcohol and cleanse the palate. I have also recommended before that attendees should try to pair some of these food samples with the wines they taste. I enjoyed a number of different and new foods and will talk about them in the near future as well. What were your favorite foods? Did you try any food and wine pairings at the Expo?

Stay tuned for my upcoming reviews of the foods and wines I most enjoyed at the Expo. 

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