First, do not be intimidated!
You are tasting grape juice! (Wonderfully special grape juice that you yearn for and savor, and is absolute magic in a glass, that you want to possess and age in your cellar for that magical moment in the future… ahhh…but in the end it is still grape juice.) Enjoy your experience, learn more about wine and winemaking, find new favorites, revisit your current standards, participate in the social gathering. But, please remember that you are at a wine tasting, not a bar. Here are some of the best practices we have identified to ensure an optimal wine tasting experience. Enjoy!
Denim is the go-to choice. Closed toed shoes also. You do not have to dress in formal or nightclub attire. You can if it is a special event, but there are plenty of unpaved parking lots, vineyard tours, and tasting locations in the production or outdoor spots at the wineries.
Don’t wear fragrance or reek of cigarette or cigar smoke
Seems obvious, but strong scents can ruin the tasting experience for you and everyone within nose-shot. Tasting wine requires you to fully use your senses of smell and taste to appreciate the special bouquet and tastes that great wine offers your nose and palate.
Tasting rooms vary from the very elaborate to a simple table set up in the winemaking area. A host will greet you and get you started with wine glasses and explain what wines are available for tasting and explain the tasting fees and different choices for tasting wine.
Some tasting rooms will require that you pay a fee to taste the wine. Some wineries apply this fee to a purchase. Others might include a souvenir glass with the fee. Some tasting rooms have a two tier fee, one for the main line of wines and one for reserve wines. When a fee is charged, it is usually okay for two people to share one glass and pay only one tasting fee.
Don’t flex too much wine knowledge
Refrain from talking too technically in a tasting room because it can look like showing off. Do not act like a wine snob. Wine tastings are there to showcase the wines that the winery offers, and they welcome all levels of expertise and knowledge.
Moderate your intake
The bane of tasting rooms are drunk tasters. Spit if you’re visiting a lot of tasting rooms and/or sampling a lot of wines in the one your are in. And dump, too. It is not rude to pour out wines, even ones that you like. “Spit” and “Dump” are four letter words that should not be. You do not have to drink all the wine in your glass. Toss the unwanted wine into the dump bucket provided for this purpose. (You can ask for a separate empty glass to use as your personal dump/spit bucket. This works really well when the tasting spot is crowded to avoid having to maneuver around the other patrons to access the communal spit bucket.)
White wines are tasted first, followed by red wines, and then dessert wines. Can you be open-minded: Drop pre-conceived preferences. Maybe you’ve never tasted a rosé you’ve liked, but go ahead and try what is being offered, Taste each wine carefully and savor each sip. Don’t “chug” the wine. Most wineries will have a sheet of tasting notes. Read the tasting notes as you taste and see if you notice any of the aromas or flavors listed in the notes. Skipping any of the wines on the tasting list is okay. Some people just want to taste the reds. Some may be interested in tasting only certain varietals of wine. If the host suggests a rinse for your glass, that means the host will pour a small amount of the next wine into your glass. This is not to drink but rinse away the old wine from your glass. Swirl the wine and empty into the dump bucket.
Sometimes a neutral food will be provided, such as plain crackers. The purpose of the food is to clear the palate after tasting each particular wine. It is not a plate of food. (Make sure you have a full meal before you go wine tasting. an empty stomach will shorten your day of winery exploration.)
Don’t ask for the “good stuff.”
Definitely don’t, but it is okay to inquire whether there are any library or reserve wines open beyond the advertised flight. Just realize that special requests should increase your pressure to purchase wine.
Linger, but meaningfully
Patrons can retry wines if they are considering a purchase, so long as they aren’t getting drunk or disrupting the experience for others.
Do buy wine. When you love it! But don’t haggle
Some patrons will try and work it like it’s a car deal and forget that it’s just wine. Take advantage of quantity discounts and/or join the wine club for the best winery pricing.
Children and Pets
Avoid bringing them at all costs. We love all of ours dearly, but keep other patrons in mind.
Tipping? It depends.
“It’s a tasting room, not a bar,” but it is always appropriate to reward excellent service!
Sue & Jim Langman
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