Share this article
Whether a beginner or veteran, wine tastings and winery touring can seem daunting. With a seemingly unlimited number of tastings and wineries to choose from, and the amazing variety of wines available to taste; This list will guide you to approach wine tasting like a pro.
Wine Tasting Experiences: The Basics
1. Make a Reservation
The process starts by calling your preferred winery, find out the days they are open to the public and make a reservation. If you are visiting the winery with friends, ask what group bookings entail as many wineries offer group discounts. By calling in advance, you get to know the type of wine tasting the winery offers. Is it formal or informal? In a formal tasting, you sit at a table and the host talks you through wine in a specific order. An informal tasting involves walking around tasting wine set around a room or cellar. Preparing ahead of time will always improve wine tasting experiences.
2. Set Money Aside
While you will have to pay for wine tastings at most wineries (although some are free), set some extra aside to fully enjoy the experience. Most wineries offer the experience to buy bottles of wine which you have tasted or pay for club membership. Some wineries waiver the wine tasting fee if you purchase wine or join the wine club. Be sure to ask your host if they offer any incentives.
Buying wine from a winery offers you an opportunity to by special vintages. You may buy a unique vintage that is no longer available for sale in stores. As a wine club member, you get discounts, and the winery can ship special wines to you upon request.
3. Dress Appropriately
Tasting vary by experience, from tours through cellars and vineyards prior to the actual tastings; what you wear is important. Steer clear of white colored clothing because of the danger of spilling wines. Avoid wearing strong fragrances which may overwhelm the wine’s subtle aromas. Make sure you find out exactly what the tasting will entail and dress accordingly whether that means formal or informal clothing. From comfortable shoes for the fields, to dress shoes for a formal tasting, prior knowledge will ensure the most comfortable for yourself.
4. Eat a Proper Meal
Make sure you know whether the winery is serving food (as they often do) with the tasting. If not, eat at least 1-2 hours before your wine tasting. Food slows down alcohol absorption which reduces the risk of getting drunk during the tasting. Avoid spicy, bitter and acidic foods. They could affect your palate and interfere with the flavors of the wine. Do not use mouthwash as it kills bacteria in your mouth which affects your wine tasting.
Start by sampling the lightest wines and make your way to the darker ones. This ensures you do not overwhelm your palate with the richness of darker wines.
5. Hire a Designated Driver
During the wine tasting, you are likely to swallow more than you spit. It is essential you hire a designated driver to ensure your safety and that of other road users. Drunk driving is illegal and dangerous. You do not want to end a perfect day with a DUI ticket, a night in jail or worse. Hiring a designated driver is crucial to ensuring safe wine tasting experiences.
6. Learn the Basics of Wine Tasting
Although many wineries will guide you through the basics, learn them ahead of time to improve your experience. Start by sampling the lightest wines and make your way to the darker ones. This ensures you do not overwhelm your palate with the richness of darker wines.. Always hold your wine glass at the stem. Lift your glass to look at the clarity and color of the wine. Reds are usually maroons, garnets, purples, brownish and ruby shades. Whites have hues of yellow, straw tones, shades of amber and pale greens.
While placing your glass on a flat surface, swirl it clockwise to aerate the wine. Lift the glass to your nose, inhale deeply and smell to identify the aromas of the wine, it can be fruity and spicy, hints of oak or 1000 more subtleties, time will improve your wine palate. Finally, sip the wine and do a discreet swish to cover your whole palate. Swallow or spit and repeat the sip and swish, then describe the wine’s flavor and texture.
7. Ask Questions and Take Notes
Your host has all of the information on their wines. If you need additional information on a particular wine or its background, ask. If you want to clarify an opinion, do not be afraid to ask your host. This will broaden your wine knowledge.
Don’t shy away from taking notes. Ensure you take away as much as possible from your experience. Write notes on appearance, smell, taste and overall conclusion as you taste the wine. This way, you will have all the information after the tasting experience, and know what you enjoy when you drink wines for future experiences such as tastings or buying vintages.
8. Try New Wine
Do not limit yourself to wine you have tried before. Try wine that is unfamiliar to you or from a new region. You could even try your favorite type of wine from a different region. This allows you to identify the various characteristics of wine and broaden your base knowledge. For ideas of wines to try, vary from your norm!
9. Clean your Palate
To ensure you get the most of your tasting, clean your palate. Do this by sipping water and eating cheese and crackers between your tasting.
10. You can Spit or Swallow
It is acceptable to spit wine during wine tasting. You can spit to avoid ingesting large amounts of alcohol over a short period of time, leaving you sharp to enjoy the tasting. However, spit discreetly into the bucket provided. Swallowing is acceptable, just pace your drinking and don’t get drunk.
Wine tasting, like most social activities is all about proper planning and learning the basics. Leave your preconceived ideas at home and embrace the wine tasting experiences, all they have to offer. You will absorb an amazing amount of information and improve every wine drinking experience you have afterwards. Whether knowing what bottle to order at a restaurant, or for a beautiful dinner at home; tastings offer education into the nuances of wine. Knowledge is power!