This weekend I fielded an oh-so timely and very relevant question: "if you don't taste wines for a living, how can you find new wine finds and otherwise expand your palate?" As it turns out, Labor Day is the unofficial start to the Trade's Tasting Season. What do I mean? Well, we in the trade have the opportunity to attend numerous industry-only wine tastings. These tastings are organized to 'show' fine wine vendors and restaurateurs the latest vintage releases from around the world - baring in mind that those offerings from the Southern Hemisphere operate on a Spring release schedule, so it is likely those wines have been available for several months. How does this impact you, the consumer?

Many fine wine shops use these trade shows to discover new wines to bring to you. Think of it this way: we spit, so you don't have to! And - even better - while these new wines usually end up on the shelves beginning this month, it is also very common for wine shops to offer their customers an opportunity to sample new wares at Fall Grand Tasting events. These are not only free to attend, but significant discounts are always on offer, particularly if you buy in bulk (half a case, a case, or more, of wine). Stocking up for the holidays or your general fall/winter drinking pleasure has never been such fun.

QUICK TIP: Get to the event early to be able to taste all the wines you care to!

How do you find out about these Grand Tastings? If you don't have a favorite local shop just yet, find out which Fine Wine shops are in your area and get on each of their e-mail lists to learn about tasting opportunities.  (This will also serve as an opportunity for you to find out which shop might best suit your needs.) The best shops often will have weekly tasting opportunities (of much smaller scale) that are worth your while, too.

Another recommendation for finding new wines is to subscribe to numerous wine blogs. Using an RSS reader program like Google Reader is a great way to organize your blogs, more quickly find out what's new and otherwise search for specific items - like which Syrah might be winning the Every Day Joe taste test, rather than the ones offered by Wine Spectator and the like. It's true different parts of the country - and certainly the world - have access to different wines, but finding out what strikes another wine afficionado's fancy is a great step in learning about wine and building a relationship with your local shop (which you'll have to turn to to investigate availability and pricing, particularly if your state doesn't permit interstate internet sales.)

If you're in the Boston area, which Grand Wine Tasting events do you know are upcoming for the public?