An introduction to wine tasting etiquette.
Whether you are a wine newbie or an experienced taster, wine tasting events are a fun way to learn about what you like and don’t like. It’s the perfect opportunity to try new wines without having to invest in a bottle if you don’t like it. To help you out at your next event, we’ve compiled a list of our top dos and don’ts, so no matter how experienced you are, you’ll feel at home trying great wines.
DO find out the format
There are different types of events; it may be a more informal walk-around tasting, where different wines are set around the room on tables for you to go and try. Others can be more structured. You might for example, be seated at a table with other tasters and the host will talk you through the wines in a specific order.
DO take notes
How you make notes at a tasting event is completely up to you, but you should try to do it. After tasting several glasses of different wines, your memory can get a little hazy. A good way to judge a wine at a tasting is to give it a score out of 10. This should be based on appearance, smell, taste and an overall conclusion. Your notes only need to make sense to you, so don’t worry if they are all over the place to start with. The more you get into the habit of doing it, the easier it will become!
DO try something new
Don’t just stick to what you know. Chances are you will be tasting a wide variety of wines, both familiar and unfamiliar. If it’s a walk-around tasting with wines from different regions, check out your favourite wine but from a different country. Leave your misconceptions at the door and try a wine you think you’ll hate. Worst case scenario, you end up spitting, but, you never know, you could discover your new favourite wine!
DO swallow (if you want to)
Spit or swallow… it’s the great wine tasting debate. You’re more than welcome to do either. Obviously if you’re the designated driver you need to spit, but you can still swirl and savour the wine. Don’t feel obliged to drink a wine if you don’t like it either - this is the only time in your life that spitting will be socially acceptable, so make use of the spittoons. There is no real technique to spitting, but we would advise being near a bucket, be confident and spit with a bit of force. Nobody wants dribble on their chin! If you love a wine, feel free to drink and enjoy it. Whatever you do, remember to pace yourself. The more you drink, the less you will be able taste and remember about the wine..
Photo: Jameson Fink
DO ask questions
If you’re not sure about a wine, or want to know the background, don’t be afraid to ask the host. A good wine tasting host will be approachable and informative and giving a wine some context can help you to appreciate it more. The host is there to help you and guide you through your tasting. It’s their job to know everything about the wines they’re serving, so make the most of their presence.
DO cleanse your palate
If there is water on offer, take a sip between tastings and use it to swill your glass. Usually you’ll be offered crackers or other nibbles during your tasting. Don’t go too crazy, it’s not a substitute for lunch. It’s there to help you cleanse your palate and get you ready for your next wine.
DON’T be afraid to give your opinion
There is no right or wrong answer in wine tasting, it’s totally subjective. Share your thoughts and opinions with other guests. If your host asks you what wine you like, tell them. That way they can help match your taste with the similar wines. If you’re not sure, feel free to say and wait for the suggestions to come pouring in.
DON'T knock it back
There’s more to wine tasting that drinking. Remember these 4 easy steps:
1) Look - check out the colour and clarity. Be more specific than red and white - what kind of red is it? Maroon, purple, ruby, or even brown? Is it watery or dark, cloudy or clear?
2) Swirl - When you swirl, the more droplets of wine that cling to the inside of the glass indicate a higher alcohol content. Take this opportunity to have a quick sniff of your wine to form a first impression.
3) Smell - now bring the glass up to your nose for a second impression and take in the aroma.
4) Sip - finally it’s time to taste. Sip, don’t gulp, and let it roll around your mouth.
DON’T hold the bowl
Always hold your glass by the stem, not the bowl. Not only will you get grubby fingerprints on the glass, but you’ll also affect the temperature of the wine which will impinge on your tasting ability.
DON’T go on an empty stomach
It’s always advisable to have something to eat before a wine tasting, even if you aren’t swallowing. All those small sips can quickly add up and you can end up consuming more than you think.
DON’T forget the kids
If you’re travelling with children, make sure that you have something to occupy them while you’re tasting. If you are tasting at a winery, some offer child-friendly facilities including a play area, or non-alcoholic tastings, but be sure to phone ahead to check if this is the case.
DON’T get carried away
It can be tempting to drink more than you normally would with all that delicious wine on offer. Obviously you are there to enjoy yourself but to get the most out of the event, take it slow. Enjoy the flavours and aromas and truly appreciate the wine you are drinking.
There you have it, you're now ready to go out and face the world of wine tasting, so there'll be...
Got any questions about wine tasting or would you like to plan your own? Contact us.