That Wine Club Tasted How Many Wines?

I saw an advertisement for Firstleaf when I was on vacation which said they tasted 10,000 wines last year.

It got me thinking of both truth in advertising (narrator: no chance they actually did this) but also how the math would work out. Say Firstleaf was tasting wine only on regular work days. This is a pretty good assumption in my experience, because large scale tastings either in offices, or as part of AVA events tend to be during the week, during normal business hours….because, this is like, someone’s job.

So, there are about 20 work days per month and 12 months in a year. Despite some of my previous writing about how insane December can be for shipping times, let’s assume that the wine taster is working those 240 days. They never miss one and they’re available, always during those hours.

Let’s also say that there are 8 hours in an average work day. Sure, let’s have our theoretical taster going right at 9am (I had meetings that started this early with winemakers, so it’s not as crazy as you think, again, this is someone’s actual job). This leaves our super taster with 1920 hours in a work year. To get to their 10,000 wines tasted, they’d have to taste a wine about five times per hour, or every 12 minutes. So I’ve done with on quite a few occasions and to be clear, sure you CAN do it. But should you? No. Why? At large events winemakers know that a few things are going to happen. About 10 wines in, especially if they’re from the same AVA, they start to run together. So bigger is better. Do you want a more acidic Pinot Noir? Not if it’s wine #15 of the day (in our theoretical setup, this is happening before lunch for super taster).

Want some proof that people don’t actually do this? One of my first meetings was with a winemaker in Napa, who has made a 100 point wine. He was setting up for a Robert Parker tasting (yes, the actual dude and not the magazine back then). There was going to be 26 wines tasted that day and Parker wasn’t tasting them at random, instead he was tasting single vineyard Napa Cabernet, from Michele Rolland the famed consulting winemaker. That’s it. He was going to be tasting and writing notes (with winemaker help!) over the course of approximately 6 hours. Unfortunately for our wine club supertaster, even Robert Parker isn’t keeping up the pace they’d need to have every single day.

So is Firstleaf, or any other wine club actually tasting 10,000 wines? No, not even close. Sure they might have somebody taste through a collection from a winery before deciding which ones to send to the actual wine decision maker, but no one person is trying wines at this scale. The math simply doesn’t work.