ThePortForum Tastings: A Guide

Organise events to meet up and drink Port.
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Martinez 1985
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Joined: 07:45 Mon 18 Feb 2008
Location: NJ & NY

ThePortForum Tastings: A Guide

Post by SushiNorth » 06:10 Wed 14 May 2008

Tastings are events we organise to meet up and drink Port (or sometimes a lesser beverage). It is permitted, of course, to forego the drinking and just meet, but drinking would be more fun. Provided for your amusement are some answers to common questions about these events:

Q: What are tastings like? How are they organised?
We are very friendly and informal good drink and good food in good company. Theme, date and location are worked out here in the forum as the event planning unfolds.

Q: Where are they hosted?
We have had these hosted in peoples homes. We’ve done these in restaurants, sometimes with corkage being paid. We are open to suggestions. Many tastings in London have been at The Bung Hole, High Holborn WC1V 6DT (streetmap, google). Tastings in New York have been in a variety of places. New locations are welcomed.

Q: Who comes to the tastings?
Whoever wants to, but space may be limited by port quantities. Simply reply to a thread that you are interested, and indicate if you will be bringing guests.

Q: Who organises the tastings?
We all do, but generally one enthusiastic person proposes it and takes the lead. We do this for the love of the red stuff; organisers don’t get paid.

Q: How long do they last?
Tastings typically last the whole evening. If in a restaurant the table is booked for at least four hours; if at a home they typically start at about 6½pm and run until midnight or later.

Q: Port can be expensive: how are bottle costs handled?
We have done everyone-brings-a-bottle tastings. We have done one-person-brings-all, the cost being shared. We have also done an adopt-a-bottle program, that is, everyone is deemed to bring a bottle, but that might happen because you ‟adopt” someone else’s port with private settlement between the two of you. Whichever of these it is, generally there is prior agreement about who is bringing what, to ensure that everything matches the theme without duplications. But with regard to sharing costs, the rule is that something fair will happen.

Q: Are other wines served at a Port tasting?
So far they have been purely port as it is hard to taste claret side-by-side with port. Other tastings (for wines, beers, etc) are also organised in the Organising Tastings and Get-togethers forum, but are clearly identified as being not port.

Q: Given that decanting hours in advance is recommended for most VPs, how is that handled?
Decanting in advance is indeed important, and is discussed a little ahead of the event. Usual practice is to double-decant (that is, decant into a clean something, rinse original bottle thoroughly with water, rinse it once more with a small splash of the port that is then discarded, pour port back into original bottle). Usual time for decanting is the morning of the event, but as it can depend on the type and age of the port. Discussion happens as part of the planning.

Q: How can I help?
Ask! Particularly at a large structured tasting, there will usually be one to three people who are organising it. Ask one of them, and if you agree to do something, make sure that you do it and that you do it well. Ideally ask a few days in advance.

Sometimes the answer will be ‟keep out of the way”. There are several people working, more than a dozen bottles many lacking labels, and many more than a hundred glasses also unlabelled which need to be transferred, without error, to the correct places on a table. People being in the way can cause confusion. Standard excuses are heard (‟I just want to see”, ‟I just want to smell”, ‟I’ve paid too”): you will see; you will smell; if you cause glasses to be muddled everybody who has paid will be unhappy. So, if you are asked (or told firmly) to keep out of the way, do two things. First, keep out of the way. Second, keep others out of the way: ask them nicely; if that doesn’t work, instruct them firmly; and if that doesn’t work, physically prevent them from being in the way. Of course, sometimes the person being told to keep out of the way believes himself to be very important. Excellent: all more important that the self-important person should keep out of the way, to set an example to his lessers. You will see and smell: wait!

Q: What if I have to cancel?
It is important to cancel as far in advance as possible. If you are bringing a bottle, its presence was carefully figured into the lineup, and it will take everyone a few days to source the bottle elsewhere or reconfigure the lineup. If you are adopting, be aware that some bottles need to be decanted as much as a day in advance, be sure to let the person you are adopting from know so that they know not to open a bottle the adoption of which is being cancelled.

Q: Dress code?
Typically there is no dress code, unless the restaurant (or home owner) should impose one. Well, almost no dress code. Please, no perfume. Please, no aftershave. Even a small splash would be noticed by your neighbour. And if you are the neighbour of a perfume-wearing fool, grumble sufficiently loudly that the fool is shamed into not doing it again.

Q: What events have you had so far? What’s coming up?
This is the all important question when do we drink?
Tastings and get-togethers being organised;
Reviews of earlier events.

Q: I’m organising an event. What do I need to remember?
  • ○ Start a thread, setting out plans.
    ○ Reserve venue.
    ○ Glasses: n people × m wines ⇒ at least n × m recently cleaned glasses, plus spares.
    ○ Check that the draft of the placemats is correct. Later, print and bring the placemats.
    ○ Gather bottles, or ensure that people know which bottles to bring.
    ○ Bring a good corkscrew.
    ○ Bring a decanting funnel.
    ○ Bring muslin or coffee filter.
    ○ Bring sample jars.
    ○ Bring T-corks.
(This Q&A is a group effort by ThePortForum contributors.)