Wine Tasting Etiquette

How to get the most out of your Wine Tasting experience

Welcome to the world of wine enjoyment! You are about to learn a few basic skills in wine tasting. There are certain fundamental rules of wine tasting etiquette, whether you're at a party or travelling around wine country. Wine tasting can be a fun and interesting experience! Taking cellar tours and wine tastings, learning about the terroir and experiencing the beauty of the vineyards and the grapevines brings a new appreciation for the hard work that goes into making each wonderful bottle of wine.

Wine Tasting Etiquette 101

Wine tasting for beginners starts here! Familiarize yourself with these wine tasting etiquette tips to help you to become more comfortable as you advance from a novice wine taster to a wine connoisseur.

When you enter a wine tasting room you will be greeted by a wine pourer or perhaps even by the winemaker or owner. They are there to talk about the winery, the grapes that are grown, types of wine they make and which wines are available to taste. It is improper wine tasting etiquette to ignore these details as they are part of the overall wine tasting experience.

Here you will learn how many wines are offered for tasting and what the price is to taste the wines. Wine tasting prices vary from tasting room to tasting room. Some offer several tastes and some offer just a few. Some but not all tasting rooms include a souvenir glass as part of the tasting. Peruse the wine tasting menu before you head to the tasting counter to get an idea about the wines you're interested in tasting. If you need an explanation about the types of wines offered, don't hesitate to ask the greeter or staff member as you should expect them to be knowledgeable about their wines. Concentrate on tasting wines that you are interested in learning about. It is okay to skip any of the wines offered on the wine tasting menu. And, if you taste a wine that you do not care for, it is perfectly acceptable wine tasting etiquette not to finish that particular tasting of wine. After each wine tasting, you'll have enough time to purchase the items you like.

As you will experience, wine making is hard work and a rather complex and lengthy process so it would be helpful to compliment the wine makers by purchasing their wines. The better the experience you have at any winery the more you should reward them. Some wineries have a wine club you may want to join. Enjoy.

Did you know?

It is not proper to ask for bottles to be opened that are not part of the tasting menu. Sometimes you may be invited to taste the special reserve wines or to taste barrel wines that are available to purchase as wine futures. These instances are exceptions and not the rule and were initiated by the staff member or winery owner. If you are fortunate enough to be offered these types of wine tastings, be sure to thank them for their courtesy. One of the basics of wine tasting is to understand that the wine poured is a tasting pour. So, don't expect to receive a full glass of wine and do not ask for more than a tasting pour as it is not proper wine tasting etiquette to do so.

Wine Tasting Conditions

You will have a better understanding of the taste of the wine if there are few distractions as possible. Noises, cooking smells, perfumes, if you had any foods and still have the residual tastes of the food and if you have consumed other alcohol or had other drinks can affect the impression you will have during the wine tasting. The correct size of glass and the right temperature of the wine will also contribute in understanding the wine.

Wine Tasting 101

Once you have corrected the surroundings and neutralized the distractions, now you are ready to evaluate the different wines being offered. The pourer will pour no more then one third of the glass. Typically, 1 oz. pours are offered.

Sight -

First look at the wine straight down - A deeply-saturated, purple-black color might well be syrah or zinfandel, while a lighter, pale brick shade would suggest pinot noir or sangiovese.

Second look at the wine from the side of the glass against the light - A murky wine might be a wine with chemical or fermentation problems. On the other hand, it might just be a wine that was unfiltered or has some sediment due to be shaken up before being poured. A wine that looks clear and brilliant and shows some sparkle, is always a good sign.

Finally tilt the glass so you can see the wine's color range. - Tilting the glass so the wine thins out toward the rim will provide clues to the wine's age and weight. If the color looks quite pale and watery near its edge, it suggests a rather thin, possibly insipid wine. If the color looks tawny or brown (for a white wine) or orange or rusty brick (for a red wine) it is either an older wine or a wine that has been oxidized and may be past it's prime.

Swirl the wine -

Now give the wine a good swirl. If the wine forms “legs”, drips running down the side of the glass, it indicates more alcohol content and it would mean the wine is more ripe and ready.

Sniff -

Now you are ready for sniffing the wine - Swirl the wine and sniff the wine without sticking your nose in the glass. Just sniff from the top of the glass by short sniffs and let your brain do the understanding of the wine. If you don't smell any off-aromas you are ready to look for fruit aromas. Do you detect aromas of peach, pear, strawberries, etc.? Since wine is made from a variety of grapes, they could offer a large number of possible aromas. Next, what else do you detect? Are there aromas or tastes of oak, tobacco, flinty, or earthy aromas? Once you get good at this, you can also identify where the grapes were grown and under what weather conditions.

Taste -

Tasting the Wine – Finally you are ready to take a small sip by sucking the wine from glass so the wine circulates throughout your mouth. This will add taste to the aromas you have experienced and help you determine if the wine is well balanced and complete. Where does the wine excite your taste buds? Where on your tongue does it stand out to you?

Cleansing your palate -

Wine tasting rooms usually offer water to cleanse the palate and they will rinse the wine glass between tastings, especially when switching between red and white wines. Experienced wine connoisseurs who taste several wines at one tasting will spit residual wine into spittoons between wine tastings to avoid over-indulgence and deadening the palate.

Make sure that you have had some food before going to a wine tasting. Alcohol is absorbed more slowly on a full stomach than an empty stomach.

Generally speaking, part of a wine tasting includes small snacks such as wine crackers or plain pieces of bread to cleanse the palate after tasting the wines. Do not take too many of these snacks; that would be a wine tasting etiquette "no-no". Courteous wine tasters try not to interfere with the ability to smell wines. Avoid smoking or wearing heavy perfumes or after-shave when you attend a wine tasting. Gum and breath mints alter the taste of wine during wine tastings. Avoid using them when attending a wine tasting.

Pace yourself -

Wine Tasting is a unique experience as well as fun thing to do with your friends. It is not recommended to have few alcoholic drinks before you go wine tasting and while traveling in between wineries. Since you'll be consuming a significant amount of wine along the tour, any extra wine you purchase can be stored with the Driver/Guide to keep it safely stored for after your tour. Like a bar, wineries and Tour Operators are required by law to make sure drinking doesn't become excessive. Any other party events planned should be scheduled after the wine tasting. The cumulative effect of sipping wine throughout the day, particularly in warm weather, can be offset by putting some light food in your belly before and during the tour.

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