Big wine tasting events can have a couple of types of bad reputations. There are ones that are stuffy, pretentious, and full of sweater-around-the-shoulders snobs tooling around Napa Valley in their German convertibles. There are others where cackling middle-aged book-club members seem to arrive by the Range Rover load to get sauced in the mid-day sun. We can agree that those are all terrible.
Wine Riot by Second Glass was created to try to combat those reputations. They gather a bunch of wineries in one place, sell tickets to a younger crowd, and give away an iPhone app to keep track of the tastings. The concept is to keep everything upbeat, casual, and cost-effective. They then take this show on the road – most recently ending their 2011 tour in Washington, DC at Constitution Hall.
Booths were set up along two main corridors of the historic building, with a room in the middle for classes that happened throughout the day on a variety of wine-related topics. Upon arrival, each guest was given a Second Glass logo cup (with clever little thumb-divot, presumably designed to keep tasters from dropping the glass after a few non-spitting tastes) and that cup could be filled up with a variety of varietals from around the world.
During the Saturday afternoon session I was invited to attend, I noticed that the wing of the building hosting local (mostly Virginia) and other domestic wines seemed to stay more crowded than the other side where more European wineries were stationed. Perhaps fitting as the U.S. has recently been the most wine-drinking country in the world.
At the DC event, the wineries were not allowed to sell their wares, only offer samples and let tasters know what stores in the area carried their products. The handy Wine Riot mobile app helped tasters to mark which of budget-friendly bottles they wanted to remember to pick up on their next trip to the shops – and which they might want to skip. Second Glass’ research shows that the experiences attendees have at Wine Riot continue to directly influence their wine-buying habits for six to nine months after the event.