Wine Tasting Etiquette
Are you new to wine tasting? Not sure about proper wine etiquette? Do you need some tips on what to do and what not to do at a wine tasting? If so, you’ve come to the right place.
Wine tasting should be both a fun and educational experience. Learning about the soil and climate and the techniques used to make wine brings a new appreciation for the hard work that goes into making each wonderful bottle!
Many people are intimidated by the thought of a wine tasting and avoid these events. They’re afraid to ask questions and may feel ignorant about the types of wines to taste. These wine tasting etiquette tips will help you become more comfortable as you advance from a novice wine taster to an experienced appreciator of wine.
Tip # 1 – Don’t be intimidated.
In many instances, you’ll find most people in a tasting room don’t know a lot about wine, but they’re open to learning more and are willing to try different types of wine for the experience and enjoyment. Once you recognize this, you won’t feel so intimidated.
Tip # 2 – Be open to learning.
As you enter a wine tasting room, you should expect to be greeted by a tasting room associate or even by the winery owner. You may be asked if you’re familiar with their wines. If you’re not, be honest and say so. The associate will be happy to talk about the wines, the types of grapes used to make the wines and about the vineyard and wine making process. Don’t ignore this conversation! Be open to learning about what goes into making wine and ask questions. Most tasting room associates and owners are more than happy to talk about their business and answer questions. This is an important part of the wine tasting experience.
Tip # 3 – Review the tasting menu.
If you need an explanation about the types of wines offered, don’t hesitate to ask the associate as you should expect them to be knowledgeable about their wines. The wines available for tasting are generally separated into a white wine category and a red wine category with sweeter wines listed first and drier wines last. Concentrate on tasting wines that you are interested in learning about.
Tip # 4 – Understand tasting fees.
There is a charge to taste wines. Wine tasting prices vary from tasting room to tasting room. Some offer several tastes and some offer just a few. Tasting fees may be waived if you purchase a bottle of wine. The wine tasting fee may include a souvenir glass but not all tasting rooms make that offer. It is never proper wine tasting etiquette to ask for a tasting of wine for free or for a free souvenir glass.
Tip # 5 – Tasting pours are small pours.
Wine tasting pours are intentionally small. Small tastes of wine are less likely to affect your ability to distinguish the different types of wine you’re tasting. It is improper wine tasting etiquette to ask for full pours of wine, not to mention that you could easily become tipsy.
Tip # 6 – It's okay if you don’t like a wine you’ve tasted.
If you’ve tasted a wine and you don’t like it, no one expects you to finish it. Most wine tasting rooms have buckets for you to pour or spit out wines that you don’t like.
Tip# 7- Take notes.
Write down your experience. Most wine tasting rooms will provide a wine tasting scorecard or sheet to jot down your impression of the wines you’ve tasted. Notes also help you remember the wines you especially enjoyed.
Tip # 8 – Don't eat all the snacks.
Many wine tasting rooms will offer small snacks such as wine crackers, pretzels, or plain pieces of bread to cleanse the palate after tasting wine. These snacks are not meant to fill you up so don’t take handfuls.
Tip # 9 – Not all wine tasting rooms offer food.
Some tasting rooms have prepared foods such as charcuterie platters or cheese and cracker plates for sale. Some have boxes of crackers or chocolate for purchase. Some have cafes that offer a variety of dishes. But some tasting rooms do not have any food for sale. If you think you’ll need food, do your research before going wine tasting.
Tip # 10 – It is not okay to get tipsy. Or loud.
It is poor wine tasting etiquette to get tipsy or loud. Be sure that you have eaten something substantial before wine tasting. Alcohol absorbs more slowly on a full stomach.
If you know that you will taste several wines, appoint a designated driver to get you home safely. If you’re touring with a group, consider hiring a wine tour company or limousine service to get you safely to your destination.
Tip # 11 – Tasting rooms are not party rooms.
Many tasting rooms discourage groups that are in the party mood. It is distracting to other customers and poor wine tasting etiquette. If you want to go wine tasting with a large group or a group of party-goers, check first to see if the tasting rooms you wish to visit allow it.
Tip # 12 – Be fragrance-free.
Courteous wine tasters try not to interfere with the ability to smell wines. Avoid smoking or wearing heavy perfumes or after-shave lotions when you attend a wine tasting.
Tip # 13 – Minty fresh breath does funny things to wine.
Gum and breath mints alter the taste of wine during wine tastings. Avoid using them.
Tip # 14 – If you like the wine, buy a bottle.
If you’ve enjoyed a wine, purchase a bottle (or more) to take back home. Or, learn about the benefits of joining wine clubs. Most wine tasting rooms offer incentives to members of their wine clubs such as free tastings, discounts and members-only events.
Tip # 15 – It's okay to tip!
If you enjoyed the wine tasting experience, it is perfectly acceptable to leave a tip for the tasting room associate.
Tip # 16 – Plan ahead.
Some tasting rooms require advance wine tasting reservations. Others may be too small to accommodate a larger group. Some have limited tasting room hours and days of operation. It’s always best to plan ahead to avoid disappointment.
Tip # 17 – Limit the number of tastings.
Map out the wine tasting rooms you’d like to try before heading out. Try to limit the number of tasting rooms you try on a given day. Take the time to enjoy the wines, meet people and take in the surroundings. Less is sometimes more.