Going for wine tasting is an exciting and exquisite experience that everyone should enjoy at least once in a lifetime. Apart from the wines themselves, the experience is enjoyable because of the interactions with people, new knowledge etiquette.
However, if you’re new to attending wine tasting events, you might not know what to expect or how to act so, it could get overwhelming.
Wine tasting is considered a fancy activity, so it can be pretty nerve-racking going for your first one. We can imagine you have several questions swirling in your head regarding etiquette, composure, etc.
So, let’s dive in and talk about all you need to know about wine tasting, starting with clarifying what wine tasting is.
What is Wine Tasting?
Wine tasting is an activity that involves a sensory examination of the characteristics of wine. This activity is as old as wines themselves, with even the viticulturists doing it before releasing their wines to the public.
Modern wine tasting today has taken another turn and involves warm weather and a season where wine lovers will visit their favorite vineyards and try different wines. During these visits, they can communicate with the wine producers and buy wine directly from them.
Wine tasting is incomplete without knowledge in the form of seeing where they grow the grapes, process and ferment the wines. The visitors have interactions with winemakers and ask any questions they might have about the manufacturing process.
What Should I Do Before Wine Tasting?
Many people don’t realize this, but wine tasting isn’t an activity you rush into them. The reason it has seasons in a year is so you can prepare for it. Here are a few things you should do before attending a wine tasting:
Eat Before Attending
Even though it might seem like it, you aren’t aiming to get drunk at a wine tasting event. However, you can get drunk much faster if you’re consuming wines on an empty stomach.
Eat and hydrate well before any wine tasting event to prepare your body. On your way to a wine tasting event, you can branch at any close by restaurant and have a meal before going to the venue.
Tip: Some vineyards have restaurants or eateries where you can get food. Other vineyards serve food as part of their wine tasting experience. You should check these details before visiting a vineyard.
If you don’t have a plan and budget before going to wine tasting, you might spend more than you intend to or not have enough money to purchase all you want. Wine tasting experience should usually cost anywhere between $15 -$20 depending on the class of event you’re attending.
However, because there are so many choices available, it is very easy to overspend and go above your budget.
We would suggest you make a plan and put it down on paper, so you have a guide to help you make all your money decisions. List out all the wines you’re expecting to see at the event and arrange them by preference.
If you would like to take souvenir wine bottles home, remember to bring enough money for that too.
Select Comfortable Clothes
Wine tasting involves a lot of walking around as you’ll get to see where they grow the grapes, the process used, and a lot of sightseeing.
So, you should wear casual clothes that will make it comfortable for you to move around, except there’s a dress code for the event. An essential aspect of this is the shoes you wear, especially for ladies.
If you can avoid it, do not wear heels and opt for more comfortable footwear.
Apart from choosing comfortable clothes, the colors you pick for wine tasting also matters a lot. You should select dark colors, so it won’t leave a permanent visible stain if you spill wine.
If you have long hair, tie it back and fold up dangling sleeves so they don’t get in the way and cause mishaps. A great bag could also come in handy as you’ll be with a lot of stuff, including food, notes, glass, and other materials.
Ensure you don’t use fragrance or perfume, as the smell is an essential part of the tasting experience. If you use scents, it will be difficult to discern the smell of wines and spoil your experience.
Apart from damaging the experience for yourself, the smell will also affect other people doing the wine tasting with you.
How to Do a Wine Tasting?
There are procedures and methods to tasting the wines at events. We will discuss them under four categories: Tasting fees, Spitting, Technique, and Pacing.
Before having a taste of any wine, there is a fee you have to pay, which is the operating procedure in most wineries. In some cases, you might get refunded tastings or complimentary tastings after you purchase a bottle of wine.
Every winery has its methods about how they handle their fees and reimbursements.
If you’re in a higher-end region, chances are you’ll have to pay fees of up to $50 for a taste of their wines. If you’re sticking to a budget, do research beforehand to know how much to take to the event.
Paying high fees for a tasting doesn’t give you an open ticket to drink all you want from the bottle. If you don’t plan to purchase the wine, do not exceed two tastes of the wine.
If this is any other place, spitting is generally frowned upon and not acceptable. But at a wine tasting event, this is seen as acceptable behavior, especially if you’re visiting several wineries in one day.
One of the first things you should check for when you get to a winery is a spit bucket or any other means for disposing of the wine.
If you don’t find a spit bucket or any disposal means, you can ask them to provide one for you, or you can take a personal dump bucket along.
Wine Tasting Technique
This is where many people are most concerned when it comes to wine tasting. There are some techniques to tasting wines that show you know what you’re doing and allows you to get the flavors thoroughly.
While you’re tasting wines, it’s always preferable to hold wine glasses at the stem instead of the bowl. If you hold the bottles at the bowl, you might leave greasy fingerprints on the surface, which could also affect the wine’s temperature.
If your palm is much colder or hotter than the temperature of the wine in the glass (which is usually the ideal temperature), it can affect your entire drinking experience.
Smelling Before Tasting
Before taking a sip of the wine, take a deep breath and take in the aroma. A wine’s aroma is an essential part of the package, and you should take time to absorb it.
Swirling the cup
Swirling is an excellent way to stoke and discern a wine complex aroma. You swirl wines by placing your wine glass on a flat surface and moving (swirl) gently while holding on to the cup’s stem.
Swirling the wine
After taking a sip, swirl the liquid around in your mouth and ensure it touches all the surfaces. Swirling helps because every mouth area has endings to pick up on different flavor and texture sensations. If it is a varietal wine, try not to decide from one sip as perceptions can quickly change in the second or third sip.
If all your wines are in front of you at once and there is no wine steward to advise you to taste them, there is a recommended order to help you get the best results.
Drink the wines in this order: white wines, high acid wines, light-bodied wines before moving on to heavier wines.
Always leave the sweetest wines for the last tasting. Leaving the sweet wines ensures that the bold and tannin-driven red wines with more residual sugar do not affect your perception of the more delicate ones.
Check this video to learn how to taste wine like a pro:
It would be best if you learned to regulate yourself while wine tasting and not push your limits. You should ideally only visit two to four wineries in a day, mainly because these visits also include tours and lunch breaks that fill the day’s activities.
Different wines have varying alcohol levels, and red wines averagely have more alcohol content than whites or other light-bodied varieties. So, drinking too much wine on your outing could get you buzzed if you don’t pace yourself.
Since wineries aren’t bars, remember to drink plenty of water and pay attention to the amount of wine you consume. It is also essential to engage in conversations during the tours, so you don’t focus on just drinking wines.
Even if you plan to spit while you taste the wines, you will inevitably swallow some, and it will enter your system.
Wine Tasting Etiquette
These are some of the essential wine tasting etiquettes that we haven’t covered yet, and you should know as a beginner.
You will come across many exciting details when you go wine tasting, and even though we sometimes swear we’ll remember all the details, that isn’t usually so.
Keep a note close by so when you taste an interesting wine you want to remember for later, put it down immediately. It could get confusing towards the end of the day when you’ve tasted many more wine bottles, and it is more challenging to discern.
Don’t Hog the Booth
Chances are there’ll be a lot of guests at the wine tasting event you’ll attend, be mindful that others deserve a chance at the booth too.
Please don’t stand in the way of other guests that want access to the room, and don’t spend too long when it’s your turn. After getting your glass, endeavor to move so others can have space.
If you get into a conversation with the bartender, stay on the side so others can taste at the table. As people reach their glasses and reduce at the booth, it becomes easier to avoid occurrences where people are pushing each other.
The people attending to you at the wineries are highly knowledgeable about the wines they make and winemaking in general. If you have any lingering questions about the topic, you might not have a better chance.
Sometimes you may meet the winemaker, which will have an overflow of information. If necessary, prepare a list of questions before heading out, so you don’t forget anyone.
Take time to learn and listen about the vineyard details, and if any information interests you that you need clarity on, you can always direct it to them.
Should You Tip at a Wine Tasting?
Proper tipping etiquette is dependent on the region where the wine tasting holds.
However, it is always a good habit to tip the person pouring your wine, especially if they’ve given you details you didn’t know about before.
It is not uncommon that you’ll meet some bartenders that say they do not take tips, and so in cases like that, you know tipping is not part of their etiquette.
Vising a wine tasting event should be a less daunting task with the details we have given you above. Even though it doesn’t help in a day, continuous practice in visiting wine tasting events will help, and you’ll start seeing the results in no time.
Soon you’ll be a pro giving people these same tips we have provided you.