By the end of February, I, along with just about every other journalist, sommelier, restaurateur and recently made redundant ‘consultant’ am suffering from tasting fatigue. The vague excitement in early January at the thought of going to two or three good events a week has been replaced by a kind of weary resignation.
I’m sick to death of being cornered by people whose name I can’t remember; of trying to look interested as a winemaker is whisked out of nowhere to pour me a range of utter crap that I’m too polite to refuse; of fighting my way through crowds of pissed off strangers just to expectorate into a three foot high column of swirling spit.
With a few exceptions, most of these events are a waste of bloody time. Too frantic to be pleasurable, usually too big for you to have any chance of doing more than scratching the surface, and simply too busy.
Can anyone really assess wine accurately in the middle of a rugby scrum? If we work on the assumption that the atmosphere of a restaurant or bar is important to the overall experience, then surely the heaving mass of limbs at many of these merchants’ tastings is going to affect our ability to make a considered decision on anything. It’s like trying to practise calligraphy on a packed tube train.
I reckon that if you spend half an hour tasting and talking productively during the course of a four hour visit to one of these things, you’re doing well. Not a great hit rate, is it? At a time when we’re all busy and every business is looking hard at where it spends its money, you’d have to ask whether it’s a great use of our time or something that we just do out of habit…
Certainly, after this year, there are a couple of big merchants tastings that I’m going to give a wide berth in 2011, and talking to sommeliers I met at them I suspect I’m not the only one.