Photo by James Coletta
A DJ spins in the corner as neon lights reflect off hundreds of different wines. Young people dressed to the nines mingle in locations like the “Bubbly Bar” (which showcases 6 sparkling wines), a photo booth holding up signs like “I Spit” and “I Swallow,” and booths separated by regions pouring everything from Vinho Verde to shiraz; Sancerre to Carménère. If there’s one thing immediately apparent — this isn’t your average wine event.
The brainchild of Tyler Balliet, founder and president of Second Glass, Wine Riot’s mission is to make wine tasting as unpretentious and unintimidating as possible.
“I started Wine Riot because I was frustrated that there wasn’t a fun way to learn about wine,” Balliet says. “The books, the classes, and even other wine events were so academic and time-consuming. What about the people who just wanted a little bit of wine info? How do they learn?”
Unsurprisingly this relaxed attitude about a drink often associated with snobbery has been widely embraced by a younger demographic than one would normally see at a wine event. Now the event that started in the basement of a wine shop overtakes swank venues in cities like Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles and Washington, DC.
While the red wine-stained teeth may hint that this is nothing more than a mere booze-fest, wine knowledge does floweth here. Every hour there are “Crash Courses” – 20-minute informative sit-downs with producers who talk about everything from Old World vs. New World wines, to South American wines and the way the terroir affects the grapes. While the crowd may become more boisterous as the night progresses, the dialogue remains on-point and all about the wine.
Popular with wineries that know that 21 to 35 year olds are the fastest growing consumers of wine, most of the tastings are of affordable, everyday drinking wines with labels that captivate the eye.
“The wine industry still operates in an older style,” Balliet says, “but we’re the generation that is going to push them forward, regardless of whether the industry comes along for the ride.”
Part of the push? The heavy implementation of social media and the utilization of apps. With the free Wine Riot app, guests can keep track of all the wines they tasted and mark the ones they especially loved — which makes buying a case of something that much easier … even if the night itself becomes a little hazy.
Don’t miss these upcoming Wine Riots:
When: Friday, Oct. 25| 7-11 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 26 | 1-5 p.m. and 7-11 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 9 | 1-5 p.m. and 7-11 p.m.
For tickets and information go to: www.secondglass.com/wineriot
– By Ashley Hardaway