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How to navigate a wine festival

How to navigate a wine festival

If you haven’t been to a wine festival, it’s quite hard to understand the value of them or how to navigate your way around the room. In this blog I would like to share with you some tips and tricks 


1. You don’t need any knowledge about wine to attend a wine festival. But having an understanding of what type of wines you like will help you discover more wines of a similar style.

2. These events are fantastic to do on your own

3. If you invite friends, have a meeting point for the end of the day as you may decide you have different taste or speeds of tasting

3. You need to make sure you eat well before attending and have a plan to eat afterward.

4. Buy your own spittoon, such as a flower vase if you know that you become tipsy after a few glasses. Yes I may look silly to you, but it’s less silly than not being able to stand up! or worse, using the communal spittoons and spraying on someone’s white trousers!

Okay so bring your own spittoon may not be a tip you use, hopefully some of the other info below will help you enjoy your next festival more!

How to navigate a wine festival

At the event

1. The tasting book – Plan your day

Each festival will have between 200-600 wines to try. At reception there is a book with all the wines listed per table. Depending on the festival the may be organised by region or style. At the festivals that Tastour promotes, such as Decanter or Wines of Chile, there is usually a host that will guide you around the tasting based on a theme.

Many people like to plan their day by marking which tables they would like to visit, other people prefer to wonder around the room and choose by looking at the labels. Either way, please do not feel that you need to write poetic notes in your book. A star or circle if you really like a wine is more than enough to jog your memory should you want to google it to find out where you can buy it.

One of my top tips is to make a note in your book as to what number table has sparkling wines (as that’s where most people choose to start) and the table numbers of the sweet wines (as that’s where most people finish)

Think about what your goals are. Would you like to try something new? Or perhaps understand how a grape you already know you love taste different depending on the region? or maybe you have no educational goal and you just want to try your favourites.

Maybe you see this as an opportunity to try wines you could never afford. Some of the wines retail at over £200 and you could easily try 10 wines that cost over £50 without even trying.  Most tasting booklets do not list the price of the wine. This is to deter people from only choosing the expensive wines, but you can often tell this by looking at the vintage or perhaps you may recognise some of the producers.

How to navigate a wine festival

2. Glassware

Outside of each tasting room is a glass station. Most tastings will have a rule that you are not allowed to walk between rooms with your glass. There is usually a staff member to remind you. You are welcomed to change your glass as many times as you like during the festival. I recommend changing your glass if you try a red wine or sweet wine, then would like to try a white or dry wine. There is also water on each of the tasting tables for you to rinse your glass.

How to navigate a wine festival

3. Bottomless wine for 3-6 hours

Yes, Bottomless Wine is probably the best way to describe a wine festival, although I’m sure the producers would like to feel that their is more artistic appreciation for whats on offer.

Each table will be hosted by the producer, wine maker, importer or the marketing agent. Some table host will pour very generous samples. I tend to ask for smaller samples as I prefer to try more wines. Never be embarrassed to pour out any wine that you do not want to drink. Or to share that you didn’t like that style. It may that your table host can recommend something you like even more.

Most table host have excellent wine knowledge and will speak good English and welcome any questions you may have. Don’t be afraid to ask, which grape is this? Do you age it in wood? What is the altitude? How much does it retail for? Do you sell this wine in the UK?

The tables may be busy, so don’t be afraid to push yourself into any open gaps at the front of the table, politely of course! You can ask the table host to recommend a wine in the style you like, ask him to only pour you wines over a certain age, or just try the whites. They may have a recommended order that your try the wines, but please don’t feel obliged to try the whole table. What wines you try is completely up to you!

If you can, try to It is best to try wines in the following order: Sparkling, White – Dry, White, Semi – Dry, Red, Sweet – White, Sweet – Red (and within each category, from light body to full body)

How to navigate a wine festival

4. Pace yourself and socialise. One of the best parts of a wine festival is that everyone there shares a common interest. If you ask anyone which wine they enjoyed the most you will be able to start a conversation with them. This not only makes it more fun, but it also helps slow down your alcohol consumption. Remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day and if you feel heavily intoxicated, it’s okay not to stay to the finish.

 How to navigate a wine festival

5. The value

For me, the main value is the opportunity to try so many different wine styles under one roof. I love being able to compare different grapes and trying ones that I have never heard of. But that is super wine geeky! To put a monetary value on the tasting, if I was paying using a top up card for each sample poured from a restaurants enomatic wine dispenser, I estimate that I would spend between £300-500.


How to navigate a wine festival

So how do you sign up/book your next wine festival?

Tastourians who do not pay a membership fee are usually offered a discount code. Our paid members are eligible to apply for free tickets to wine festivals.

If you upgrade your membership for only £70 per year and enjoy up to 10 socialTASTING’s, and tickets to various tastings hosted by our partners such as Decanter for free. We also organise private dinner parties, discounted Michelin Starred dining, BYOB restaurants, theatre, secret super clubs and many more exclusive events, just for our Bon Vivant Members. For more information & and upgrade your membership visit:

We have two fabulous wine festivals coming up, Wines of Chile on 25th September and Decanter’s flagship event on 4th November. You don’t need to be a paid member to attend and we would love for you to join us. If you did want to join as a member and would like a free ticket, please join through the link above and email me on to be added to the list.

What our members say:

“A terrifc way to try wines you haven’t heard of of were too afraid to buy.  As the day progresses everyone gets (or seems) so much more friendly (especially those without a spitoon!): I am yet to leave a wine festival without new friends I have seen again – some inside the bottle and some out.  Top tip: don’t book an evening activity afterwards.” – Gary, a Bon Vivant member

The Decanter Fine Wine Encounter
Sunday 3 November 2019 – save 25%
11am – 5pm, Grand Tasting Tickets only £60 (instead of £80) use code TASTOUR at checkout 

(please note the Flagship event is typically the first weekend of November – please mark your calendar for the next one. Our code will be valid for the Sunday only)

London’s Best Valued Lunch Experiences

Looking for top notch service and high quality food without booking through a ‘deal’ site?

The restaurants listed below have been recommended by Alex Wijeratna, Fordor’s leading restaurant critic exclusively for Tastour.
Londons Best Valued Lunch Experiences

Here’s a list of the best lunch deals in London right now:


Londons Best Valued Lunch Experiences

Sartoria – £25-£30, 2/3 courses

Italian, glam but relaxed place on Savile Row run by celeb chef Francesco Mazzei


Londons Best Valued Lunch Experiences

Le Gavroche, £56, 3 courses with half bottle of wine

Classic French haute cuisine, Mayfair, old school plush basement time warp


Londons Best Valued Lunch Experiences#

Koffmann’s, £26, 3 courses

Knightsbridge, classic regional French cuisine by legend chef Pierre Koffmann, due to close in December


Londons Best Valued Lunch Experiences

Bar Boulud – £18-21, 2/3 courses

Modern US/French, great value and wide ranging gourmet French/US brasserie joint in the Mandarin Oriental


Londons Best Valued Lunch Experiences

45 Jermyn St, £25.50-£29, 3 course

pre & post theatre menus, off Piccadilly, high class brasserie


Londons Best Valued Lunch Experiences

Spring – £27.50-£31.50, 2/3 courses

in grand setting in Somerset House, Modern British/Italian, highly seasonal

Londons Best Valued Lunch Experiences

Bernardi’s – £18-£22, 2/3 courses

Marble Arch, Italian, fashionable and unfussy food


Londons Best Valued Lunch Experiences

Corrigan’s Mayfair – £25-£29, 2/3 courses

Mayfair, top end game and seafood salon


Londons Best Valued Lunch Experiences

Gymkhana – £25-£30, 2/3 courses

Mayfair, award-winning atmospheric and posh new wave Indian


Londons Best Valued Lunch Experiences

The Ivy – £23.50-£27.50, 2/3 courses

Covent Garden, charming old school celeb haunt

Londons Best Valued Lunch Experiences

Newman Arms – £19, 3 courses

Fitzrovia, amazing value, modern British food in tiny 1st floor dining in a Georgian pub


Londons Best Valued Lunch Experiences

Hereford Road, £13.50-£15.50, 2/3 courses

Queensway, modern British, best value set lunch in town

Wine Notes and Facts for Decanter Pessac-Léognan Tasting, London

Hello Tastourians,

Wine Fairs are difficult to gather the group around, so I thought I’d share my notes with you. Yes, I am a wine geek, and whenever I go to an event such as this I always research and create a ‘presentation’.  But more importantly, whenever I host an event, it’s all about giving you the best experience.

Pessac-Léognan (PL)

It’s pronounced pay-sac-lay-oh-nyahn… and I challenge you all to say that 3 times fast at the end of the Decanter tasting tomorrow night.

PL is an appellation in the sub region of Graves. It is not actually in Bordeaux, it’s located 25 miles outside the city centre of Bordeaux. But the wines are so far superior than any other in the appellation that an exception has been made. For example, Château Haut-Brion, is the only First Growth property outside the Médoc. This regions ego is rightfully-so bloated, it actually fought and won its independence from the Graves region 1987… that’s boring and legal, and I know why you’re really reading… you want to know the best tables to go to at the tasting.

What is everyone raving about? What makes this wine taste so different than the rest? When you think of Graves, think Gravel. Hey, maybe that’s where it got its name? In fact it is. See not everything I say is a bunt hit to the pitcher. PL wines are extra – earthy and some say the most soil-driven of all the wines in Bordeaux. But that’s not all. This region has the hottest micro-climate of Bordeaux, meaning that the wines will be richer and fuller in body; much more like those of its southern neighbours and new world brothers.

You may get the following: Roasted Meat, Tobacco, Leather, Iron, Spice

Here’s a Tastour Tip: Pessac and Léognan are two different villages 6 miles (10Km) apart, with Léognan being the most southern region . So, if you’re looking to strike up a conversation with that gorgeous blonde, that one will surly win him or her over.

Here’s another interesting fact: During the English Reign of France, they exported barrels of wine from Graves to England. Making Grave the first French wines exported. This is slightly ironic, as the main export today is timber. Unlike many of the other regions in Bordeaux this area is densely populated with forest.

Drum roll, please… I have one more. I have heard that Haut Brion is credited for being the first Bordeaux wine to receive a professional review on April 10th 1663. What do you think Samuel Pepys would say about Robert Parker? hummm.

So what about the whites? Whites are rare in Bordeaux. However, you’re in luck. The most prestigious whites in Bordeaux come from this region, in fact 20% of the wines from PL are white). When you see one, take note of its age. I’m often telling you to drink Sauvignon Blancs young. This is not the case for wines from Graves. They often age up to a decade. I sure hope Decanter has lined up a few for us to try! These will not be the fresh fruit driven Sauvignon Blancs you are used to. They will be made fat and round, by obsessive lees-feeding and oak soaking greedy grapes. For me, a little bit of greed is a good thing, and I hope you don’t mind if I exhibit the same as I love this style of white. Uncommonly for Old World wines, producers of this region treat their whites like an aspiring actress. They’ve has slight cosmetic surgery… like a bit of Botox and a citrus peel. A little goes a long way, and under the knife of a good surgeon can perform miracles. In case you’re wondering, the grapes they use are Sauvignon Blanc (minimum 25%, Sémillon and small amounts of Muscadelle. You might be able to smell orange blossom and passion fruits (if you’re not too busy chatting away)

Okay, so you’ve read this far, and your reward is the answer to the million dollar question…
Kelly, There are 16 Grand Cru Classés, which ones are going to be at the Decanter Fine Wine Tasting?

It would be mind blowing if all 16 were there – for £25. However, there is a fantastic selection and all 23 producers offer fantastic wines.

I’ll give you a little tip – if it says Cru Classé de Graves (then go there first, as they will be out of wine by 7pm) On this list, the best are: Oliver, Couhins Lurton, Domaine de Chevalier, Carbonnieux, Malartic-Lagraviere

When they run out, the Tastour Tip, is to go to these underdogs: Larrivet Haut-Brion, de Fieuzal, La Louvière, de Rochemorin

What are the best vintages? Well with a the exception of Haut-Brion, and Mission Haut-Brion, the region wasn’t on the wine investment map. Things really changed from 2005, so if you are looking for some bargain investments, start with this vintage.
I’d love to hear what the producers are saying so do ask, and post it in the comments.

Looking forward to seeing you all there! Hope these notes help.


Clean and fresh... you can drink it by the pint. Photo by Citronodlingen / Lemongarden

What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

Olive Oil: Now With Bonus Virgins!

While “extra virgin” is subject to all kinds of interpretation, the process it describes is not. Many mainstream olive oil manufacturers seem to believe that they can interpret the guidelines for what virgin olive oil really is. In fact, there are legitimate standards for what constitutes this.

What is Extra virgin olive oil? It is oil that came from olives that were pressed and packaged. Yes, it really is that simple. The alternative method to pressing involves the use of heat or chemicals to extract the oil. These methods usually result in a less satisfactory oil, which given it’s thick consistancy, unless you have the palate of card board box, it isn’t usually good for much more than use as cooking oil.

Unfortunately, the quick solution to low sales of a substandard product is to market that product as being much better than it really is. Thus, poor-quality olive oil is often branded as “extra virgin” olive oil. This process can be likened to an evil witch caking on the makeup to hide her visually offensive face, whilst trotting around telling any and all who will listen that she “really is beautiful”.  When it comes to food and drink packaging, it’s what on the inside that counts. Don’t be fooled by the makeup… and learn to read the labels.

What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil?

Like wine, the good stuff varies with the terroir of the region and variety used. Some flavours you may recognise are: sundried tomato, grass, artichoke and pepper. Photo by Citronodlingen / Lemongarden

So, how does one find the real extra virgin olive oil? Look for the words “cold pressed”, “PDO”, or “PGI” on the label. In a perfect world, these would indicate that the oil is of a higher quality. However, there aren’t enforced restrictions on the label wording of the packaging. So, ultimately, the truth lies in the taste!


Do you have a favourite Olive Oil product that you’ve enjoyed?  Or a memory you’d like to share? We love to hear from you in the comment section below.

Share the experience:

If you’d like to enjoy a tasting experience with one of our professional and experienced presenters, why not join us at our next event?

Ask us how we could customize an event that suits your exclusive tastes and needs.

Thirsty to read more?

History of the Olive 101
Those Oily Olives

Prosecco – the bare facts

  • A high-quality Italian wine
  • Generally dry and mainly either fully sparkling (spumante) or lightly sparkling (frizzante, gentile)
  • Generally lower in alcohol than most wines: about 11 to 12 percent by volume
  • Unlike Champagne, it’s appreciated for its fresh, light, simple taste and complex aromas
  • Flavour is intensely aromatic and crisp, with hints of yellow apple, pear, white peach and apricot
  • Great as a mix for cocktails
  • The main ingredient in the Bellini cocktail and Spritz cocktail, commonly in a Mimosa, and the Italian cocktail, Sgroppino
  • A less expensive, quality substitute for Champagne
  • Mass world-wide increase in popularity since the late 90’s
  • In Italy, Prosecco is enjoyed as a wine for every occasion. Outside Italy, it is most often drunk as an aperitif, much like Champagne.
  • Produced from the Glera grapes in theProsecco – the bare factsregions in Italy, and traditionally in the hills north of Treviso
  • Is now produced in other countries, such as Brazil, Romania, Argentina and Australia
  • To guard against cheap imitations, an association of traditional Prosecco growers instituted a protected designation of origin status for Northern Italian Prosecco under European law
  • Tastes different to Champagne due to the fact that secondary fermentation takes place in tanks (spumante varient), as opposed to in the bottle
  • Approx. 150 million bottles are produced annually
  • Production amounts to hundreds of millions of Euros annually
  • According to the EU Sweetness of wine Regulations, Proseccos are labeled “Brut” (most dry), “Extra Dry” (medium dry) or “Dry” (most sweet).
  • Unlike Champagne, it grows stale in the bottle over time
  • Should be drunk as young as possible, generally within 3 years of vintage
  • Top-quality Prosecco can be aged for up to seven years

Read more about Prosecco:

Heavy on flavour, light on the pocket book