Wine Tasting Tips

Fall is approaching and one of my favorite things to do is go wine tasting. Here are some great wine tasting tips for those who are new (or not) to wine tasting.

Places to Go Wine Tasting

Wine tasting isn’t just limited to winery tasting rooms. Here is a list of some other places that may offer wine tastings.

  • Winery tasting rooms
  • Wine bars
  • Upscale restaurants
  • Pop-up wine bars and tasting events
  • Liquor stores and wine shops

Things to Bring to a Tasting

Notebook and Pen

Bring a notebook or a wine tasting booklet with you. You do not need to be a sommelier or connoisseur to write wine tasting notes. If you are new, I recommend going with a wine tasting notebook. They are self-explanatory and help you log all the information you need to know about the wine.

Taking notes helps you remember the wines you liked and disliked, log prices, etc. This is great for those searching for the perfect wine to add to their wine cellar, buy wine as gifts, or search for the perfect wines for an upcoming event.

Here is more on how to write wine tasting notes.

Wine Wipes

Does anyone else get a purple tongue and lips when you go wine tasting or drink red wine? Seems like the tannins just stick to you. Wine wipes are compact, affordable, and work really well. Essentially, they are like mini adult baby wipes but for wine drinkers.

Reusable Wine Bag

If you plan on buying two or more bottles of wine, consider bringing a reusable wine bag. Wine bags are made for single bottles up to a 6-pack. Some wineries even give them to you complimentary if you purchase a 6-pack of wine. They are also great for when you shop for wine at your local wine shop.

Curiosity

If you are doing a wine tasting, ask questions and engage with the staff. Talk about the wine, ask questions about upcoming vintages, different varietals the winery specializes in, the winemaking process, etc. Nothing is duller than pouring wine to mute customers.

Takeaways

Take advantage of the wineries brochures and takeaways. Most wineries have maps of local regions, winery event lists, regional history pamphlets and more. These takeaways are full of information about the local terroir, soil, and wine. The maps are especially cool.

Tasting Room Etiquette

Attire

Many people are intimidated by wineries and wine tasting, thinking that you have to dress up in order to be welcomed into a tasting room. This is far from the truth. Casual to business attire is the norm in many places. However, avoid white for obvious reasons.

Places like Napa Valley wine country tend to have a more business ‘dress code’ while regions like Walla Walla, WA are very casual. But, keep in mind that you may be able to tour the vineyard and winery itself! So comfortable attire is a must.

Lipstick

Yes, this needs to be addressed all on its own. Please do not wear lipstick to wine tastings. There is nothing worse than scrubbing off a thick ring of red lipstick from a delicate wine glass.

Avoid perfume and strong deodorant

Strong perfumes and deodorants can interfere with the wine tasting experience of yourself and others.

Be Open-Minded

I can’t tell you how many times someone walked into a tasting room I was working at and declared that they only drink red wine, or white wine, or sweet wine, or that they hated Chardonnay. The whole point of going wine tasting is to try different wines or new vintages of the wines you already love.

Please give all the wines a chance. You may find that your taste buds enjoy Pinot Noir or Gamay and it’s only full-bodied red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon you don’t have a taste for. Or that not all white wines are sweet and fruity. You may also find that the winery has unoaked Chardonnay or Roussane that you may enjoy.

If you truly don’t enjoy the wine, just pour it in the dump bucket.

Dumping

It is standard for all tasting rooms to have a dump bucket or spittoon. It is not offensive to dump wines. You do not need to feel obligated to drink the entire pour. This is especially true if you are driving or hitting up multiple tasting rooms. It’s understandable that it can be tough to dump good wine, so feel free to ask for a smaller pour as well.

Industry

Being in the wine industry has a lot of perks. You occasionally get free wine, discounts, invitations to winemakers dinners, and free tastings at most places. The industry is small and a pretty tight-knit community.

That being said, it is unfortunate that some people pretend to be in the wine industry in order to get these perks. Please…just don’t. If you are in the industry, invite the tasting room staff to come join you for a tasting on one of the days you are working!

Special Requests

Wine is expensive and asking staff to let you try a reserve wine or get extra pours is a no-go. It is very unlikely that the tasting room staff would open up a bottle of reserve wine just to pour you one ounce.

However, these wines are often offered as a flight or glass. Just be mindful that wines that have been open longer than two or three days are dumped (or drank by happily awaiting tasting room staff).

Stay at the Bar

Typically, tasting rooms have a standing bar area to do tastings as well as tables to sit down. If you are doing a tasting, please stay at the bar. Pouring wines for multiple tastings can become difficult for the tasting room staff if they are having to run around the bar to pour your wine for you and this can take away from the other customer’s experience.

This also makes it hard to answer questions and chat about the wine, which is a huge part of doing a wine tasting. If you want to sit and chat with friends, buy a glass of wine. If the bar is full of people doing tastings, ask the staff if you are still able to do one at the table. If so, walk up to the bar when you are ready for the next wine.

Buying Wine

You are not obligated to buy wine, that is why there is a tasting fee. In fact, I encourage you to go to all of your planned tasting rooms and then come back to buy the wines that are your favorites. This way you don’t buy all the wine within the first three wineries.

Tipping

Most tasting room staff accept tips. Those that don’t typically work for commission. If you are not buying wine, it is encouraged that you add on a couple of extra dollars onto the tasting fee. If you do buy wine, $10-20 is a standard tip no matter the number of bottles.

Many tasting room associate positions are entry-level and frankly, don’t pay that well. This is often the first stepping stone for someone entering the wine industry.

The most important thing is to enjoy your time in the tasting room and enjoy the wine.

New to tasting wine?

That’s great! All levels are welcome in the tasting room. Tasting room staff (should) have the knowledge to answer your questions.

If you are unsure of how to taste wine, what you are tasting, or if you are lacking the basic knowledge of wine…ask…ask…ask! Tasting room staff are there to help guide you through the wine.

Here is a great article about wine tasting tips for first-timers.