With free ticket in hand (thanks very much Second Glass), several friends and I hit up Wine Riot, a nation-wide event that ran in Chicago from June 1-2. We didn’t know too much about the event, but typically, when it involves wine and is free, this wino is in!
Wine Riot was held in the stunning Great Hall of Union Terminal. Getting started was easy. We handed over/bought tickets, got our wrist bracelets, and were each handed a plastic glass for our wine. Ready to go. I wish there had been more (or any) explanation of the set up of the event, perhaps a handout given to each rioter, but we figured out quickly enough that there were four areas containing multiple wine booths – two international and two domestic. We begin in Europe, which is always a good place to start.
Wine Riot’s organization of the event was impressive. There were a lot of wine booths (250 wines according to the website), each with multiple varietals, and the lines were short. Sometimes there was no wait to taste, other times we waited a few minutes. I’m not sure if this was because the event is new in Chicago, they smartly kept the rioter numbers low, or because the cost, at $60 a person, is somewhat high, but I was happy with the result. Pours were small, but not obnoxiously so given the number of booths, and while I found that those wanting to learn about the particular wines being served had to make a point of asking about it, the staff was always friendly, responsive, and enthusiastic.
- Wine Riot Crew
Overall, I love the concept of Wine Riot, which is “to create a fun, non-intimidating place where people can learn about wine.” The event was definitely fun – I had a great time, and those around me seemed to be enjoying themselves as well. And I totally agree that wine drinking should not be pretentious. To me, drinking wine is an ideal way to bring people together, not apart. However, without sounding like a dud, I would love to see Wine Riot add more to the educational aspect of the event. Going booth-to-booth and trying different brands of wines makes me more knowledgeable about the brands, but in some ways this seemed like the lowest common denominator of wine education. And, while I later learned from the Wine Riot website that we were supposed to ask the Wine Riot crew for help and/or download their free app in order to remember the wines, this was not obvious to me at the event.
What if Wine Riot arranged 15-minute talks given by local wine experts and sommeliers? What if it set up booths dedicated to explaining the differences in wine regions, the nuances between the wines, or how to best taste? The event is very “pretty” and social media savvy, which I like, but rather than a photo booth and fake tattoos, I’d love to see more options for in-depth learnin’ about wine. And, while I realize the event aims to make wine accessible, it would be nice if it also catered to those wine drinkers with a bit more experience under their belt. Doing these things would make the $60 ticket seem more worthwhile – otherwise I’m simply asking myself whether I drank $60 worth of wine – and would really make Wine Riot stand out. That said, Wine Riot is off to a great start, and I hope they make it back to Chicago next year so I can go again!
Filed under: Chicago Events