The art of a wine tasting may seem intimidating to those of you who haven’t been before. It may seem like a pastime reserved for wine connoisseurs and experts only. But it’s not, and it’s a lot of fun no matter how much you know about wine! To help you make the most of your experience and not look like a newbie, I’ve put together some wine tasting etiquette tips for you. I’ve been to many vineyards and done many winery tours and wine tastings, plus I’ve taken a terroir class and have read up on wine quite a bit. Still not an expert, but you can see that just takes a lot of time and dedication! Wine is delicious and fun and the more you know about it, the more you’ll enjoy it. So let’s get start with some wine tasting etiquette!
Wine Tasting Etiquette
Whether you’re going just one vineyard or to a region with many vineyards, come up with a gameplan. Decide how long you’ll go and how many you’d like to visit. And make sure you have appropriate transportation plans, so that no one ever has to drive after drinking. This should be obvious, but I just want to make sure.
Bring a tasting notebook
This can literally be any notebook that you have lying around that you can use for your wine-tasting notes (or a specialized one, like this). Even though all vineyards will offer you a tasting card, it’s good to have one consistent notebook that you use for all your tastings. That way, you can see how your tastes develop over months and years of trying different wines! You can also write a quick note whenever you try a new wine at home or at a restaurant, it all helps!
The whole point of a wine tasting is to experience the wine with all of your senses, and allow yourself to fully appreciate all of the nuances that the wine has to offer. You only get a small sip of each varietal, so take time to appreciate all of it!
5 S’s of Tasting
Okay here’s the actual process of how to properly taste wine: See, Swirl, Smell, Sip, Swallow.
See – Look at the wine and appreciate the color, richness, and tones of the wine itself.
Swirl – Swirl the wine around in the glass so it aerates a bit more and so you can see the legs of the wine fall down the sides of the glass. The slower they fall, the higher the viscosity, and the higher the alcohol content.
Smell – Take a sniff of the wine’s aromas coming out of the glass and notice the different notes of the aroma. Smell is a huge component of taste, so taking the time to notice what you smell in the wine, whether it’s fruity or smoky or earthy or whatever, helps inform your tasting.
Sip – But don’t swallow just yet! Swirl the wine around your tongue and see how your taste buds pick up the different aspects of the wine’s taste. How does it taste when it first hits your tongue versus when it gets to the back of your tongue. You can aerate it a bit more by sucking air through the wine with your front teeth, to see how the taste evolves as it continues to aerate.
Swallow – Lastly, swallow the wine and notice whether the taste sticks on your tongue or dissipates. Notice whether your tongue feels moist or dry after you’ve swallowed the wine. If you’re the designated driver, spit the wine out instead of swallowing and still take note of how your tongue feels afterwards.
The spit bucket
If you choose not to swallow your wine, it’s totally normal and acceptable to spit it out into the bucket. You can do this for some, all, or none of your wines. It’s just there to be an option for you.
Don’t rinse your glass
Your wine glass will be used for all the wines during the tasting, and you don’t need to rinse it between wines. The tasting leader will move you from lighter wines to darker wines, so the color will not be impacted by the residue. And believe it or not, rinsing your glass with water actually affects the next wine more than if you had just left it with that tiny bit of residue from the previous wine. But do drink water on the side to stay hydrated!
Don’t be afraid to ask
The tasting leader will walk you through the tasting, telling you about each wine you taste and what notes the wine master has identified in each. But if you’re confused by any of the terminology or concepts or you just have random questions while you’re there, don’t be afraid to ask! No matter how many tastings you go to, there will always be more to learn. And the tasting leaders are there to help. You shouldn’t ever walk away from a wine tasting confused!
I hope these tips of wine tasting etiquette help you to go into your next tasting with confidence! It’s fun to go wine tasting and vineyard touring, so you can learn more about wine and your preferences. I’ve gone wine tasting in New York, Rhode Island, California, and Chile, and I hope to go many more places! Have you been wine tasting before? Where did you go?
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