Category Archives: 101 – Wine Tasting Tips and Etiquette

Guide to Wine Tasting | Tips and Etiquette

Guide to Wine Tasting |Tips and Etiquette

Wine Tasting Tips

So you’re thinking of doing some wine tasting? You’ve done dress rehearsals at home, had the obligatory spillage on the carpet (which you promptly tended to with an effective stain removal solution – and now you’re ready to give the real thing a go. There aren’t many more enjoyable ways to discover new wines while learning about the fascinating world of wine-making. So whether it’s your first wine tasting experience, or you’re already a veritable connoisseur I hope that you find my Guide to Wine Tasting Tips and Etiquette helpful!

Before you go Guide to Wine Tasting Tips and Etiquette

  • Have a game plan. Some wineries require appointments, while others are perfectly happy with walk-in visits. It helps to have an idea of where you might want to visit and to have mapped out locations. Some wineries in Napa are nearly an hour apart, for example.
  • Avoid brushing your teeth, chewing gum or drinking coffee within a few hours of your tasting. These activities can seriously interfere with the taste of a wine.
  • Dress the part: No, I’m not talking about wearing a suit, but casual sophistication goes a long way.
  • If you just want to get drunk, shots are probably a better bet.
  • Transportation: If you’re planning to visit more than a few tasting rooms and not utilizing the dump bucket, consider a designated driver or hiring a town car/tour guide.
  • Think about lunch ahead of time. It can be really fun to find a bottle you love, purchase it at the winery and then enjoy it there with a pre-packed picnic. Some wineries offer small bites for purchase while some serve 5 course lunches with wine pairings…
  • Tasting fees range from complimentary to very expensive. I recently heard of a winery that charges $500 for its wine tasting. In my opinion a tasting serves the purpose of introducing a customer to a winery’s offerings, and thus if a purchase is made it should be waived however this is not always the case. It’s best to visit the winery’s website to see what their policy is.
    • It never hurts to search for tasting deals or coupons in advance of a winery visit. Many wineries will feature ‘2 for 1’ tasting promotions or even free tastings when you ‘check in’ at their winery on social media. But don’t let these promotions dictate your entire itinerary, or you might be missing out on some great spots like these wineries I’ve visited.
  • In my experience when a winery advertises “Complimentary Tastings” the wines either sell themselves, or they are accompanied by a hard sell.
  • Don’t show up 10 minutes before the advertised closing time and expect a great wine tasting, and that’s if they will even serve you. Most tasting room professionals are finishing up with existing customers or are trying to close down by that point. Your best bet is to allow at least 30 minutes before scheduled time.

Ramey Wine Tasting

While Tasting Guide to Wine Tasting Tips and Etiquette

  • Don’t be afraid to try strange sounding wines/wine varietals. You might be pleasantly surprised!
  • Tasting room staff can be a wealth of knowledge regarding not just the wine they are pouring, but about other wineries and restaurants in the area. If you’re polite and friendly, you might just get some great insider tips.
  • Speaking of the tasting room staff… try to avoid treating them like bartenders! This happens more often than you might think…
  • There should be a ‘Spittoon’, or dump-bucket on the tasting bar. It is perfectly acceptable to taste and then spit the wine out into the spittoon. If you don’t like the wine, don’t hesitate to pour the rest into the spittoon. The staff won’t be offended!
  • If you don’t like the wine, it’s best not to bash it, especially in front of those pouring it. It’s likely that a lot of hard work went into producing it, not to mention how many innocent grapes were sacrificed.
  • Often a winery will allow you to share a tasting. Just ask, especially if you would like to taste but are concerned about the cost of the tasting.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for another pour of a wine, especially if you’re considering making a purchase.

Jamieson Ranch Tasting Menu

As you leave – Guide to Wine Tasting Tips and Etiquette

  • If you like a wine, by all means buy it! You will likely regret it later if you don’t, especially if that wine is a winery only release or is not distributed. It doesn’t hurt to as if this is the case. Having said that – if the wine is well distributed, there is a good chance that you will be able to find it less expensively at a retailer. It might seem counter-intuitive, but wine is always more expensive right at the source!
  • You will likely be asked if you would like to join The Wine Club. The costs as well as the details of each wine club vary greatly from winery to winery. My recommendation is to read the fine print and only join a wine club if you really enjoyed the wines; don’t sign up because you felt obligated or pressured to do so. Selling wine club memberships is very important to many wineries and they often reward members with great perks such as free tastings, discounts on additional wine purchases and even great parties.
  • It never hurts to tip the tasting room employee who helped you, especially if he or she was especially informative or helpful.
  • Last but not least, don’t take the wine tasting experience too seriously! If you’re not enjoying yourself, you’re either doing something wrong or you might not like wine!

You can check out some of my favorite winery visits here!

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