Wine Tasting Etiquette For Beginners

There’s nothing worse than sticking out like a sore thumb for all the wrong reasons, regardless of where you are. Cheering for the wrong team at a sporting event, a crying child in a movie theater or disregarding all semblance of manners in a public setting–eyes are on you, usually accompanied by furrowed brows and muttering amongst the patrons.

Wine tasting carries with it a set of do’s and don’ts, rules of etiquette that might not get you kicked out, but will certainly earn the ire of your co-tasters if not properly followed. Wine tasters both experienced and novice can, and certainly should, enjoy the experience so long as they know what they’re getting into.

Yuri Vanetik’s Quick Guide to Wine Tasting:

Call Ahead

Most wineries offer tasting during regular business hours and on weekends. However most wineries are not all wineries, so if you’re planning to go tasting with a few friends, it’s best to call ahead and get a handle on the establishment’s hours and whether you need to reserve a spot.

Calling ahead is also important if you’re going with a sizeable group, or bringing children along. While the children obviously cannot participate in the tasting, some wineries offer drinks that kids can legally consume, or small activities to keep them busy.

Dress for the Occasion

You don’t have to wear a suit or a gown (in fact, if you do you might stick out), but dressing in a casual but dignified fashion is your best bet to blend in nicely. Wineries are an occasion to dress nicely while keeping the weather in mind. Ditching the jeans and t-shirt also shows respect for the winery at which you’re tasting and gives off an air of being accustomed to these types of events.

Keep Your Scent to Yourself

Going out in a social setting–particularly one as classy as a wine tasting–might seem like a great setting to try out that new perfume or cologne. Think again; overpowering scents like cologne can interfere with other tasters’ ability to appreciate the aroma of the wines, not to mention your own.

Bring Your Wallet

Like most good things in life, wine tastings are not free. There are often fees associated with trying different wines, ranging from somewhat nominal to fairly steep. Some vineyards will waive the fee if you indicate your intent to purchase a bottle, however.

Sweet Goes Last

Standard tasting order starts with white wines, then red wines, then sweeter dessert wines. Sweeter and bolder wines can overpower the tastes and subtleties of lighter wines, so saving them for last ensures a cleaner palate.

Technique is Key

This might be the one thing on this list that can make you seem more like a seasoned wine taster than any other. A few things to remember:

  • Hold the glass by the stem. Putting your hands on the bowl can affect the temperature of the wine.
  • Place it on a flat surface and swirl in a circular motion. This allows the wine to properly aerate.
  • Make sure you inhale before taking your first sip to properly appreciate the aroma of the wine.

Cleanse Between Drinks

If water or crackers are provided, utilize them to cleanse your palate between wines. This will help avoid one wine’s lingering taste from affecting the next wine you taste.

You Don’t Have to Drink It

When you’re poured a small glass of wine for tasting, there is no need to finish the entire glass. Spittoons are provided for you to pour the remainder of the glass out should you either not like it, or not have the desire to finish it. You also don’t have to spit the wine–though if you’re doing an excessive amount of tasting, know your limit and begin spitting it out after you’ve consumed a good amount.

Consider Making a Purchase

You’ve had the chance to sample numerous wines, so come time to leave, consider purchasing a bottle of your favorite to take home. Not only does this allow you to take the experience with you, it also helps to support the winery!

Enjoy Yourself (But Not Excessively)

Wine tastings are about having fun and enjoying yourself. Don’t take the experience too seriously–you’re allowed to laugh, smile, converse and have a nice time. Even if you’ve never done it before and make a few mistakes along the way, get the most out of your experience. At the same time, it’s important to remember that there are other people attending the same events, and loud conversations and general rudeness should be avoided when at all possible.

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