Wine Tasting Etiquette

Wine tasting is an art, but as someone who is relatively new to the world of wine appreciation, the technique may seem a bit ambiguous. Are you wondering where to start? Then read on and have your mind wrapped around wine tasting etiquette from these concentrated tips!

Before the Trip:

Walk-in Vs. By Appointment

Be a courteous guest by checking for open tasting hours for a regular visit, reserving a tour, or making an appointment ahead of time. Wine makers are very busy people, so be sure to check ahead of time for the open days and hours if you are on a wine country tour. Some smaller and more exclusive vineyards may not have open tasting rooms, but don’t despair. Give them a call and find out if they take appointments and schedule a tour. If you are going in a big group (larger than 8), special arrangements may be needed for large vehicles such as limousines and tour buses.

The Fee

Most wine producers charge a small fee to taste through a range of wines being offered. However for those with higher fees, many producers are willing to waive tasting fees with a wine purchase so don’t forget to inquire about such incentives. Do splurge for a reserve tasting on an optional sampling of a winery’s higher-end or limited production wines when available. It’s a  worthy sneak peek to the more rare and exclusive offerings.

What to wear

It’s easy to overlook this aspect, but by wearing comfortable yet casually elegant clothing you are showing respect for the wineries as it sets a sophisticated tone. Your attire should also be weather-appropriate. Do have umbrellas and sturdy shoes in handy during rainy season, or hats and sunscreen in summer periods. This is especially vital to keep in mind if you’re planning outdoor activities like vineyard treks and picnics.

Another important tip is to not wear perfume or heavily scented cologne to tasting rooms. It tends to drown out the subtle aromas in wine, as well as interfere with your own and other’s experience.  

During the Trip:

The Technique

Now onto the fun and exciting part!

Start by holding the wine glass by the stem rather than the bowl. This prevents greasy fingerprints and disturbance to the ideal wine temperature. Tip the glass away from you and observe the color at the edge: the orange or browning suggests aging wine (there will be a post later for differentiating various types of wine).

Take a quick whiff at the wine for a first impression, then a deeper whiff to contemplate the aroma. At first it will be difficult to describe in words what the different aromas that you come across. However the more wine you try the better you are at telling the differences and similarities. Sometimes a scent will be very strong with underlying hints of other smells. The quickest way to remember an aroma is to label it, and keep a notebook of your impressions and labels. This will come in handy when coming to a decision of purchase later on!

Next, inhale deeply and take a sip. Let your taste buds respond to the initial taste and awaken your senses. Then, swirl the wine around in your mouth. Make sure it reaches all the surfaces as various parts of our mouths pick up different texture and flavor. Start asking yourself if the taste is light or rich, smooth or harsh? Make sure to taste white and lighter wines before heavier wines like bold reds so that the boldest of wines don’t overwhelm the taste of the lighter ones. For the more experienced novice, try gurgling the wine. Hold the wine in your mouth for a few seconds, cupping it with your tongue and pulling air across it. Remember to close your mouth and exhale through your nose. It is recommended that you try this at home before attempting to gurgle in public: lots of choking and coughing will take place, if while trying to pull air across the wine you accidentally pull wine into your windpipe.

Finally, swallow the wine and recount the taste that remains. Note the time it lasted in your mouth and your impression. Was it persistent and pleasant?

And then there is the spit bucket. What could its purpose be in such a classy and refined activity as wine tasting? Let us assure you that it is a completely acceptable part of proper wine etiquette. Many people spit because they are wary of being too inebriated after tasting many wines, or simply because they have to drive afterwards. Be extremely careful. Wine stains are one of the hardest to remove and extremely embarrassing if wine splashes on someone nearby. So to avoid this scenario, lower your body or hold the bucket closer to expel.

As your goal is to taste as many different wines as possible to develop your palette and expand your exposure, it is a good alternative from consuming lots of only a few types of wine or coming across less appealing ones.  Plus, did we mention how unattractive it looks to be a drunkard?

The Quantity

So the question arises… how much wine should you try each time? The standard amount is around one to two ounces (or about 30 to 50 milliliters for metric users). However, for beginners who want to taste as many wines as possible in a short session then by all means use the spit bucket. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and always have a designated driver, it is better to be safe than sorry.

After the Trip:

The Purchase

Like getting a souvenir, purchasing wines that you’ve enjoyed is a great way to remember the experience you’ve had upon returning home. If you need to ship the wine home, don’t forget to look up the individual state shipping laws or check the weight, quantity and liquid restrictions of the airline if you’re flying back.

Once again, make use of the waived (or reduced) tasting fee if available upon your purchase. Additionally, some wine clubs offer periodic shipments of wine so do take in consideration applying for membership for privilege pricing, shipping and other perks included.

So there you have it! These are just the guidelines for you to refer to, but by all means don’t let these details stop you from having fun. Just go with it and have your own unique experience.

Please Drink Responsibly & Cheers~!