Visiting a winery or wine shop for a tasting can be a great way to learn more about wine and have some fun. Here are 10 basic rules to follow so that you can enjoy yourself, be safe and respect staff during a wine tasting:
You can learn more about wine, but the tasting is not a full class.
Go ahead — ask questions and learn more about wine. Just remember, many times you are paying little to nothing for the experience. Don’t expect staff to give you the same level of education you would receive at Washington Wine Academy or Capital Wine School. Many of the people at these establishments will not be qualified to teach you a ton about wine. Focus your questions on the wine you are tasting, and possibly ask questions about the wineries (such as where it is located, terroir and weather in the region). Especially in a retail environment, their goal is to sell wine.
Don’t. Pour. Yourself.
You may step up to a tasting table when staff is temporarily busy or has stepped away briefly, but do not go ahead and pour yourself. If no one appears to be at the table, ask a staff person in the area about the tasting.
You are an expert among your friends.
When approaching a tasting, try to be mindful of forcing your opinions on the group. You can encourage friends to broaden their horizons or perhaps how to determine what they like and don’t like in wine, but let people enjoy their wine and make their own choices. I have seen so-called wine experts tipsily assert to me that a wine is sweet when it is dry just to show off in front of friends. This is not the right approach when at a tasting.
I don’t get my free wine served in a real glass?!
If you are enjoying a free wine tasting at a retail shop, many times it is to encourage you to buy the wine you are tasting. Some will offer real glasses, most will give you a small plastic cup. It’s a free wine tasting. Demanding glassware is in poor taste.
So you want to get drunk?
It’s a tasting meant to showcase wine. Don’t try to get drunk. If you feel you are getting drunk, drink some water and eat something. Festivals are different, but still be careful. If you appear too drunk you will be cut off even at a festival. Also, no one wants to deal with the crying friend at the port-a-potty.
Spit, swallow – it’s all good.
Some ask about spitting or swallowing and what they should do. Really it’s up to you. Spitting usually keeps a person from getting drunk. When you see professionals spit it’s usually so that they can continue to work and not get intoxicated.
There are people who attend every free or discounted wine tasting at retail shops in the DC area. Generally, these people never buy anything. I may have even seen one young woman who painted her nails during a free wine tasting in the corner. Buy something occasionally if you are going to frequent the tastings, or face scrutiny by staff.
Not your mom.
At popular wine tastings with several guests or festivals, people may crowd around tables. Simply be patient and polite. You can excuse yourself to the front. The person pouring the tasting will not necessarily force others away. Also, the person pouring the tasting is not your mom or a teacher that will lead everyone around. Let’s all be adults and take turns.
Trash goes in the trash can and not the table.
Need to throw something away? Just ask. Perhaps there is a trash can you didn’t notice, or the person can throw it away for you. Don’t leave your trash on the table.
It all tastes so good.
At some point, you most likely cannot distinguish between what you are tasting. It’s ok. It’s called palate fatigue. The wines will blend together making it hard to pick out what you like and don’t. In those instances, if you can, plan ahead to try the wines you are most interested in tasting. After that, enjoy yourself (just don’t be sloppy).
Cheers to happy tastings!
Christina is a nonprofit professional with several years experience in event management, fundraising and program management. She fell in love with beer, wine and spirits years ago, but didn’t pursue her passion until she lost her job and worked retail during her job search. Now she blogs and plans to visit Barcelona, Spain for a Cava trip with other wine bloggers in October and Tbilisi, Georgia in Spring 2014 for the International Wine and Tourism Conference. You can follow her on Twitter via @justthebottle or read her blog.