[Editor's Note, 2/1/16: Even as the Expo has evolved over the years, our tips for a successful experience remain virtually un-editted. We merely felt it was time to cut to the chase. We hope these tips for navigating the Boston Wine Expo are a terrific starting point as you ultimately choose your own adventure and explore the wines on offer. - Rebecca A. R. Schimmoeller ]
The first year I attended the Expo I was an unassuming, enthusiastic, still-amateur wine consumer. I was there as many are: to taste a range of wines from around the world. While I certainly saw (and tasted) numerous wines from around the world, I was largely unprepared for the chaos, debauchery and crowds.
In the years since, I've worked out a strategy not only to survive the madness but also to taste the wines I'm really there to taste, and meet the winemakers I'm really there to meet. That's exactly the point, after all.
Here's what I suggest:
1) Prepare. Do a quick Google search to find the list of Exhibitors attending the event. Identify the wineries you want to "visit".
2) Maximize your time. Take a look at the booth number of those exhibitors you've identified and note which are in close proximity to each other. This way you're not running around the large convention center floor like a chicken with your head cut off. If a particular table is at capacity when you get there, move on. #pathofleastresistance
3) Maximize your palate. Visit the booths on your Hit List first. This way your palate is still fresh (and your patience with the crowds in tact).
4) Eat a large breakfast before you even head over to the Convention Center. You should definitely be spitting/dumping whenever possible to maintain your stamina, but ultimately the crowds will make this challenging. And I've found the snack stations are harder to come by. Best not to take your chances.
5) Bring and drink water. Hydration is the key to any event where a lot of people abound. It gets hot in there! And you'll feel it. Water also keeps your palate fresh, so your impressions of the wine are more accurate.
6) Don't treat the event as a Booze Fest. It's important to remember the exhibitors have traveled far and wide to show you their wares. Respect them, their offerings (even if they aren't your personal preference) and those around you. There's nothing worse than a loud, debaucherous, disrespectful crowd. It can't hurt to set a different tone - and encourage them to come back next year!
Bottom Line. The BWE is an opportunity to taste really special, or simply unique wines you may not normally have the chance to explore. It is also an opportunity to answer some of your own curiosity. Perhaps you've not really tried any of those Portuguese varietals people are buzzing about. Will they really satisfy your palate at just $8 a bottle? Well, the BWE gives you a chance to find out!