This weekend, Half Past Wine-O-Clock braved the sub-zero streets of Boston on a day-long adventure to the 25th annual Wine Expo. It was our first time attending, and we have plenty of advice to anyone thinking of going, or hoping to get the most out of their visit!
First and Foremost…Know how to Taste!
You don’t have to be a wine tasting expert by a long shot. Most of what you’ll do is swish, sniff, taste, and say the same bland phrases: “mm…wow…that’s nice…very interesting….” These phrases – genuine or not – will satisfy the wine salesperson.
But enough about how your tasting should satisfy someone else – don’t forget that you want to get the best flavors out of this tasting, too! To do this, you have to have a basic idea of how to navigate a tasting, so both you and your palate will last more than a few tables!
Check out our articles on what order to drink wines in so their flavors come across best, and the lesser-known essentials of attending a wine tasting, such as what shoes to wear.
After all, we don’t want all the wines tasting the same, or for you to tire before you discover the best wines the Expo has to offer!
The Price is Right! ….. or is it?
The Boston Wine Expo is far from a budget friendly affair. Tickets go on sale online around November and continue all the way until expo day in February. However, waiting to buy your tickets will cost you – as it does with most conventions. The early bird general tickets started at $89 dollars for just Saturday admission. The expo lasts all weekend so 2-day passes are even more. They also sell V.I.P tickets, anniversary tickets, and admission to any seminars or guest speakers are sold separately. Special tickets can get up to over $200 with the individual seminars ranging from $35 to $125 each. Plan accordingly! Our team did not buy into any of the seminars but they had incredibly experienced wine makers who were speaking this year so if you are willing to go the extra mile we suggest checking out the list of guests.
What to Expect when Expo-ing:
Trade Tickets vs General Admission
The Half Past team was lucky enough to enter the Expo with trade tickets, which allowed us in around three hours earlier than the general public. Things beforehand were a lot quieter, and for one reason: networking.
The beginning part of the Expo is all about chatting, networking, and discovering new people as well as new wines. It’s a time to learn about the region, winery and vineyard narratives, and the wine makers – as well as to share about your own interests and mission, to see if things line up.
After the trade hours, the general public joins the party. It can get a lot more hectic after this, but there is still plenty of wine (and food!) to be tried and tasted. During general admission, there’s a lot less talking and a lot more drinking, so if you’re coming with your heart set on the wine rather than the wine makers, this is your time to shine!
However, we’d still recommend coming as early as admission allows (around 1pm) in order to ensure you spend less time in line and more time with wine!
Go with a Goal
You have to know what you want out of the Wine Expo before you go because believe us, everyone there has a plan! Whether that plan is to learn about new wines, buy a few cases of new wines, or just drink, a plan is necessary!
The majority of wines present at the Expo are looking for a distributor in Massachusetts. This means many of the wines you are going to try are not currently available in your state. So if you’re going in the hopes of finding wines you can bring to your next party or serve with dinner, you’re going to want to aim for tables that advertise that they can be found locally or who don’t mention their dreams of finding a Massachusetts distributor. Avoid tables advertising small out-of-state wineries or wines from countries like Israel whose wines aren’t commonly found in grocery stories or the local packie.
Get those Cards!
Okay, so you’re not a wine distributor in the greater Boston area. But you still like wine and you’re here, so why not collect some cards? Whether you’d like to actually network, or just liked the wine, snag a card to keep up-to-date on the great vines you tried! This is a great way to keep track of the wines you enjoyed, remember which ones to find on social media, and keep track of what is sold in Mass or when it will be coming!
The expo will have wines you have never seen before made from grapes you can’t pronounce – let alone knew existed– so come with a open mind and palate. Trying these new wines will help you find a new favorite and help strengthen your palate. For example, the Half-Past team got to taste meads from Slovakia, wonderful white wines from the Ribolla Gialla (Rebula) grape grown in Slovenia, learn about the wine making regions in the Israeli dessert, and got to take part in a fun photo shoot to help advertise for Troublemaker wine. #kissatroublemaker
Watch out for wild salesmen
There will be plenty of booths and tables even lounges that have absolutely nothing to do with wine. If you can tell from the floor map pic above- the expo will try to sell you cars, jams, artisan cheeses, chocolates, local restaurant passes, even food truck locations, but the worst of all are the hotel/vacation salespeople. It may look fun spinning their ‘Price is Right’ like wheels in order to land on a free dream vacation but they will keep you there for at least 15 to 30 minutes in order to get you sign up for a vacation club or membership. Salespeople will come right out to you on the floor and try to persuade you back to their tables so do your best to stop them in your tracks. We got stuck talking to some vacation salesmen for a least 10 minutes before he realized we did not qualify for his vacation membership.
Drinking for Drinking’s Sake
If you’re hoping to try wines for the sake of just spending a day drinking wine…arrive after 2pm, ready to push and shove your way to the front of a crowd of eager winos. The late afternoon/early evening time frame is when the real drinking begins. The lines get significantly longer, and the wine makers’ talks get significantly shorter. There’s a lot more pouring and gulping than earlier in the day, where conversation and wine history prevailed. By the late afternoon, the men and women manning wine stations will stop guiding you through their flights of wine, and rather ask you “what you want” so you can cut right to the chase – because there’s a lot of people with empty glasses waiting behind you!
The Half-Past Team wishes all you wineos the best of luck when navigating your wine conventions and we hope you share your experiences with us!