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A World of Wines To Tempt Your Palate

Annual Boston Wine Expo Caters to Your Yuppie Taste

By Sonja A. Sharpe

Staff writer

12th Annual Boston Wine Expo

World Trade Center Boston

Feb. 1 and 2

$92 for the weekend

The Boston Wine Expo is a hedonistic event like no other. It is, quite simply, the largest consumer wine event in the entire nation, consisting of a two-day extravaganza that includes not only wine tasting but also seminars, chef demonstrations, food specialties, wine accessories, and more.

The most popular event in the Wine Expo is the public Grand Tasting, which is held on both Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. At a cost of $70 for one day ($60 in advance) and $92 dollars for both days, the Grand Tasting is certainly not the cheapest route to go if your only goal is to drink yourself into a stupor, but if you have even a remote interest in wine, the entrance ticket is actually a bargain.

The Grand Tasting truly lives up to its name. More than 440 wineries from all around the world are represented here, lined up in an enormous hall filled with table after table of vintners eager to tempt you with more than 1,800 types of wine. Sample a Bordeaux from France, a Riesling from Germany, a Chardonnay from California, or even a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.

Better yet, sample wines from places that you do not normally associate with wine. One of the most surprisingly good wines featured at this year’s Grand Tasting was a white blend from Hungary (Woodcutter’s White 2001), and the best port I tasted was actually a white port from Finger Lakes in New York (Goose Watch Winery). With such a large selection, even the most discriminating oenophile is bound to find something worth their interest at the expo.

To enhance your wine tasting experience at the Grand Tasting, however, you need to come prepared. You should arrive early, at the start of the Grand Tasting, to avoid some of the crowds, and also to check your coat. The coatroom will close when it reaches capacity, and you do not want to carry your coat around with you all day.

Your afternoon will also be much more enjoyable if you bring your own bread (one or two French rolls from Au Bon Pain are super for this) and a bottle of water. This will allow you to cleanse your palate between tastings and will also help prevent you from becoming completely blitzed by the end of the afternoon. There is no need to bring a wine glass, though, as one is included in the price of the ticket. Riedel glasses are also on sale at the event, for those who simply must have a fine glass for wine tasting.

Aside from wine, the Grand Tasting also offers a large selection of specialty foods to enjoy. Cheeses are provided by The Great Cheeses of New England, and breads and various dips and spreads are provided by many other vendors. Sample hummus, honey, pasta sauces, butter, pears, and other treats from the many tables that line the perimeter of the hall. There are also cigar, glassware and wine accessory vendors, ready to provide the serious wine enthusiast with every possible wine need, from small wine racks and novelty items to full custom-designed walk-in cellars. Artisans are also on hand to showcase their work, everything from greeting cards to sculptures to custom fireplace mantels, all with a wine-related motif.

Chef demonstrations are also given throughout both afternoons, providing samples of delicious delicacies to complement the abundance of available wines. This year, Rachael Ray from the Food Network was one of the celebrity chefs, giving mouth-watering cooking demonstrations on both Saturday and Sunday. Other top chefs included those from restaurants in the Boston area, such as Sage, Les Zygomates, Truc, Icarus, and Grafton Street, just to name a few.

Since the Wine Expo boasts one of the highest concentrations of yuppies in Boston, Audi and Chris Craft were also on hand this year to showcase their new models. Audi displayed its A4 convertible and an A6, while Chris Craft showcased one of its newest speedboats. The Wine Expo also provides a cigar lounge, where recently acquired cigars from the vendors at the Grand Tasting can be enjoyed. Although located on the upper level away from the Grand Tasting hall, the cigar lounge is easy to find, as you only have to follow the cloud of smoke up the stairs and into the lounge area.

For those interested in learning more about wine, the Boston Wine Expo also offers various seminars on everything from spotting bargain bottles to tasting specific varietals or wines from specific regions. This year, wine educator and Master of Wine Mary Ewing-Mulligan, author of the popular book Wine For Dummies, held daily seminars on both the basics of white wine and the basics of reds, for those who are just beginning to appreciate wine. There are also seminars on cheeses and cigars, and how they can complement wine. Tickets for individual seminars ranged from $20 to a pocket-emptying $100 for a Dominus vertical tasting.

The Boston Wine Expo is really a fantastic event that should be fun for anyone who has even a passing interest in wine. Some words of caution about the expo are in order, however. Most importantly, you must be 21 to enter, and IDs are checked at the door. Also, Massachusetts law prohibits anyone from buying a bottle of wine at the expo or taking one outside.

Massachusetts state police are present in significant numbers at the event, so do not expect to be too successful if you plan on breaking any of these policies. That said, the Wine Expo enables you to sample so many wines that you are bound to walk away with a list of fantastic ones that you can legally purchase at any number of liquor stores in the Boston area. If nothing else, the Boston Wine Expo will provide you with a relaxing and entertaining afternoon full of fine wine and excellent fare, and will leave you with a broader appreciation for the large variety of wines produced throughout the world.