Casual winos, whether of the just-getting-into it or aspiring-connoisseur varieties, can learn a lot at wine festivals. Done well, festivals offer inquisitive drinkers an unparalleled chance to sample a great variety of wine side by side under the instruction of the knowledgable staff who pour it. Sadly, after attending the Uncorked DC Wine Festival this past weekend, we have to strongly recommend that you avoid festivals sponsored by Uncorked. It was one of the worst wine experiences we've had, and an epic waste of money.
Allow me to disclaim: We don't like to "go negative" on Wine:Thirty Flight. Yes, we have some bad wine from time to time, but our approach has always been to simply not review it. We like talking about the good stuff. In fact, this is the first time we've ever felt so strongly about a wine experience as to proactively recommend against trying it yourself.
Uncorked sponsors wine festivals in cities across the United States, with past events held in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, San Diego, Kansas City, and Phoenix. Price of admission for this evening in Washington, DC was a hefty $65 if you wanted to go in during the "VIP" hour at 5pm, i.e. the chance to try wine before the crowds arrived. The setup was fairly standard, with tables arranged throughout the venue, one winery per table (about 50 in all), and the opportunity to taste a lineup at each as part of admission.
What we learned, eventually, is that the vast majority of the folks "representing" wineries and pouring the wine were volunteers who had been selected -- apparently -- with little or no regard for their actual level of wine knowledge. Most knew nothing about the wine they were pouring, and it quickly became obvious that Uncorked views these events as an opportunity for folks to get drunk and carry on... not to actually learn anything about wine. A pity. For example...
- One representative suggested that, if we like wine, we consider visiting a wine "orchard" sometime. We prefer vineyards, unless apple growing is involved.
- Another explained that her rose was from the "province of France", despite the fact that France is a country and that the wine comes from the region of "Provence"... in France.
- A third served Prosecco, a wine about which she knew only that it was (1) white, and (2) sparkling. Her powers of visual observation were vast.
- One fellow seemed promising... until we realized that his spiel about the wine was mostly a lineup of sexist, chauvinistic jokes about "keeping your woman happy".
The thunderous noise of the DJ's music pulsed through the venue. Dejected, we eventually found a few tables staffed by folks from the actual winery, diamonds in the rough you might say. They knew their stuff, and we connected over our shared disappointment with the event. We left after an hour. Sadly, our only takeaway for you is that the money at Uncorked wine festivals is not even close to worth it, that the staff know next to nothing about wine, and that even a beginning wine drinker is very unlikely to learn anything of value.