Big tastings. We all go to them. Have to. But we all hate them. Not for the fact that we get to meet lots of producers and colleagues: that's what these events are good for. But because it's really hard to do wines justice when you are tasting one after another in an often crowded, noisy environment where it is very hard to concentrate, and where your palate definitely undergoes some sort of transformation in response to the physical assault of repeated challenge by acidic, alcoholic and frequently tannic liquids.
It requires experience, discipline and perseverance to get good information from big tastings. Yesterday afternoon I was at the Austrian trade tasting, which was packed full of really good - often great - wines. But it's so frustrating to know that simply through the constraints of time and the fact that I have just one mouth/nose/palate/brain I couldn't taste all the wines I really wanted to. What I did taste, I liked very much.
One slightly annoying aspect of the tasting is that some leading producers were showing their 2006 Gruner Veltliners, which are simply too young to show well at this stage. Gruner is a funny beast: it starts out all bright, rather tanky fruit, and takes a year or so to begin to express its true character. It just seems really hard to assess it when it is very young, although I guess winemakers must be able to do this to a degree.
Pictured is Christine Saahs of Nikolaihof. I learned yesterday that this estate, which makes very pure, mineralic wines, was the first biodynamic wine producer in Europe (they are certified by Demeter). They converted back in 1971, under the guidance of Christine's Aunt Uta, who was an anthroposophical doctor. One of Christine's daughters is now an anthroposophical doctor, too.