Know Before You Go: The Basics of a Wine Tasting Room
Whether you are new to wine or an experienced wine enthusiast, going into a wine tasting can be daunting if you are not prepared. Don’t fret, here are some tips we all have to know before stepping into a wine tasting room.
First and foremost, wine tasting is not the same as wine drinking. So please, don’t drink that glass of wine all in one go.
What is wine tasting?
Wine tastings are events specially designed to give the opportunity to wine enthusiasts and lovers to sample a range of wines. It is a process in which you can analyze each wine using your 4 senses: sight, smell, taste, and touch. There are also times when you can do a blind wine tasting.
Tastings are frequently used by wineries and wine bars to introduce locally produced wines or fermented drinks. Wine tastings are a great way for you to try wines produced by that particular winery. Every winery has its own concoctions. Their wines may look the same as the others but when you try them out, you can smell and taste the difference.
Wine tasting is a good way to sample various wines to discover what type of wine you enjoy best.
Wine tasting tips:
It is always exciting to try new things, including attending wine tasting events. To help you in your next or very first wine tasting event, here are 8 tips and tricks:
Dress for comfort
Always dress comfortably but take into consideration the dress code for the event, if there are any.
I highly suggest wearing dark colors to hide wine spills and don’t wear any clothes with dangling sleeves. For women, I suggest wearing a comfortable dark-colored sleeveless dress with flats or low heels.
If your hair is long, tie it back. And if you are going to bring a notebook, phone, or a tasting book, consider putting them in a purse with straps so you can strap them on your shoulders. Your hands should be free to carry one glass in one hand and the other to shake hands or take notes.
Plan before you go
In most wine tasting, there will be a wide variety of wines to try. It is not sensible to try them all in just a few hours.
Plan before you go to the event. List down all the wine producers or wines and make a sensible game plan where you can still walk straight and go home.
What I usually do is start from the light to heavier wines. I go for sparkling and rosé wines first while I browse through the selection of available wines. Then, try whites, from fresher ones to richer white wines, and reds.
This plan is good if you don’t have that many varieties to try but if there are a LOT, it is best to go for another one. You can try the biggest names first before it gets too crowded. Or if you already have a list of must-visit wine producers, you can go there first because they will be crowded during the summer season.
I highly recommend trying some wines you are not familiar with since this event is prepared to help you broaden your wine horizon.
An additional tip, eat something before going to a wine tasting event. You will easily get tipsy or drunk if you go with an empty stomach.
Talk to the wine producers. Politely ask the winemakers and winery owners if you have any questions regarding their wine, how they are made, the region the grapes are coming from, and what made the taste so different from the other wines.
I can assure you; they will appreciate your enthusiasm and be happy to answer questions. This is also great for you, winemakers, and winery owners to form connections.
Practice proper technique
There are a lot of ways to “properly” taste wine. I am not a wine sommelier, but this is how I taste mine:
- Look at the wine. Hold your glass on its stem and not the bowl. I always look at the wine first — its color, opacity, and viscosity. As a wine ages in its bottle, the more the color intensifies. If you see any sediments or cloudy colors, it means there are some fermentation problems. This is not a good sign, so better skip the wine if you notice these signs.
- Swirl and smell. Give your glass a swirl, hover over the top of your glass and gently smell then pull away. Don’t bury your nose inside your wine glass. Identifying the fragrances will be hard, especially at first.
- Have a taste. Finally, give your wine a taste. Take a sip and try sucking it as if you are using a straw. It adds air to your wine, making it easier for you to taste each component and flavor of your wine. Your tongue can also identify the texture of your wine.
- Do you like how your wine smells and tastes? This is where you will decide if you spit or swallow your wine. (You can also practice spitting your wine in a bucket).
- Then repeat the process.
This is what I do when I go wine tasting. It took me a while and a lot of practice to be comfortable doing it in front of people I do not know.
My advice is to practice at home. Try doing it with different wines so you can be familiar with the difference in aroma, taste, and texture. Practice swirling your wine glass at home, it will be easier and will look natural when you are in a wine tasting event.
Use your nose
It is NOT advised to wear any perfume or cologne and DON’T smoke before going to your wine tasting event. Make sure not to go to your event smelling like anything, basically.
This is not only for you to be able to smell the wine properly but also for those around you. It is essential you smell your wine but if you are wearing a pungent perfume or cologne, you won’t be able to smell it properly.
The people around you may be sensitive to perfume or cologne because it will hinder them from smelling and enjoying their wine.
Don’t be shy, swirl and smell, also called “nosing.” Swirling your wine allows the aromatics to come out. After swirling, smell the wine and inhale deeply to assess the wine’s aromas. Remember, your wine contains alcohol and might sting your nostrils.
Put your nose completely into your wine glass and slowly inhale. Try and identify the aromas in your wine.
Cleanse and repeat
In between wine tastings, it is important to cleanse your palate. You can reset your palate by eating a few bites of neutral-tasting foods like bread or crackers and drinking plain water.
Why would you even drink water if you have a lot of wine to try? Well, cleansing your palate is necessary to help you taste the wine properly by removing all the lingering compounds on your palate.
Getting a few bites of neutral-tasting food will also fill your stomach helping you taste the wine better. Drinking water and eating a few bites of food can help you not get tipsy as quickly.
Don’t be afraid to spit
This is the most commonly asked question; can I spit the wine or just swallow?
Yes, you can spit it out and if you don’t like the wine, you can pour the glass onto the spit buckets. This might be uncomfortable at first, but everyone does it, including experienced wine enthusiasts. This is very acceptable, so there is no need to be shy about it.
If you don’t like to look and feel uncomfortable doing it, you can practice at home. Get close to your spit bucket, don’t do it too slow or too hard to avoid backsplash and wine getting into your clothes.
I highly suggest waiting if there are a lot of people around the spit bucket.
Enjoy the experience
The most important and last tip I can give you is to enjoy your time at the wine tasting.
There might be a lot of things you need to remember and it can be very nerve-racking, especially if you are new to wine, but don’t forget to enjoy it. Smile, talk a little, build connections, and drink a little bit more.
Enjoy and you may even find a new bottle to add to your wine collection.
Author: Violet Lavoie