Wine Tasting Etiquette Tips: 15 Essential Do’s & Don’ts
So you’re off to your first wine tasting event and it’s a world that is completely new to you?
We have all been there at some point.
The world of wine can feel quite intimidating when you’re just getting started.
There are just so many things to learn and there is just so much information to take in.
Well… fret not my friends.
It’s completely fine to be new to something.
The point is that everyone has to start somewhere, and we all starting off knowing absolutely nothing about wine.
I have been there, and so has everyone else that is now an expert in wine.
So to help you get a head start, I want to spend today talking about wine tasting etiquette to help you on your way.
Etiquette goes much further than just going over how you should behave, but it also helps you get the most out of your experience so that you can take maximum enjoyment out of.
Wine tasting events are really a pleasure when done right.
Without wine tasting etiquette, things can sometimes get out of control!
This was the case in February, 2013 when the Bel Vino Winery in Temecula Wine Country got an unannounced visit from the local sheriff after a brawl broke out involving approximately 100 people.
Five people ended up being arrested and a deputy was injured in the incident.
It took numerous deputies and even a police helicopter to bring the situation back under control!
The “Dos” of Wine Tasting
Make the most of your wine tasting with these tips for getting the maximum enjoyment out of the experience.
Make Sure You Eat a Hearty Breakfast Beforehand
I don’t expect you to spit out every sip of wine that you have. Why would you? Half the fun in wine tasting is actually getting to drink the wine in the first place.
However, making sure you have a hearty breakfast beforehand will make sure that you won’t fall over after having had just a couple of sips of wine.
It will allow you to enjoy the day for longer, and will keep you coherent enough to make sure that you’re actually able to pick up differences in the wines.
Just remember not to eat anything too soon before the tasting as any strong flavors might affect the taste of the wine. Ideally, leave an hour between eating and tasting.
Ask For a Spittoon or Spit Cup
Admittedly, this is the tip that I struggle most with, but I always regret it later on.
There’s nothing wrong with using a spit cup. I know it takes discipline, but it’s worth it at the end of the day.
Drinking too much wine will make it difficult to taste the differences after a while, which is the whole point of wine tasting.
Hold the Glass Properly
Don't obscure your view of the wine by covering the glass in smudges or warm the wine with your hands. Learn about some basic wine holding etiquette.
Plan the Order of Wines
In order to protect and preserve your palate for longer you should taste wines in a specific order.
A basic rule is to start with the whites which are more delicate and end with the reds, with the boldest and most tannic wines at the end. This helps keep your palate from becoming overwhelmed.
Use Palate Cleansers
Another great tip for keeping your palate fresh for longer is to use palate cleansers between wines. A palate cleanser helps reset and refresh your taste buds which means you can taste the wines more accurately.
Plain bread and crackers are great palate cleansers but there are lots of other great ideas too. We list our favorites in our guide to palate cleansers for wine tastings.
To get the most out of your experience, you’ll want to go as early as possible.
This will mean that you will be one of the first ones there. The last you want is flocks of people roaming around when you’re trying to pick up differences in wines.
Coming early will likely also give you some face time with the owners of the winery, which in my opinion is the most interesting part.
You’ll get to hear the stories behind the wine and winery directly from the owners.
Hire a Car or Have a Designated Driver
Going back to my earlier point, you’d more than likely end up swallowing a fair amount of wine during your wine tasting tour.
Why not hire a car or assign a designated driver so that you don’t have to worry about who will drive? The last thing you want is to get DUI.
Have an Idea of the Type of Wine You Like
Knowing the wines you like beforehand will make it easier for the personnel to serve you a wine you would enjoy.
At the same time, it allows you to get out of your comfort zones and enjoy wines that you haven’t previously tried or enjoyed, and who knows, you may find one that you really like.
Use Your Other Senses as Much as Your Taste Buds
Contrary to the name, “wine tasting” actually involves much more than just tasting the wine.
You should use all your senses, especially your sense of smell to pick up the aromas of the wine as you breathe in.
This will give you a sensation that you wouldn’t get when just tasting the wine. Also make sure you thoroughly examine the wine from a visual standpoint.
Focus on the Smaller and Boutique Wine makers
If you want to feel the passion of wine and winemaking, it’s important to go to the smaller places where you can spend some quality time with the people that run it.
I find that many of the larger places are too commercialized and you no longer get that feeling.
One way to make sure you get the most out of your wine tasting is to make sure you ask tons of questions.
Don’t be shy about it. There’s no such thing as a stupid question and it's not often your face to face with the experts (who actually just love talking about wine).
Everyone is there to taste and learn about new wines at the end of the day.
Do Bring an Empty Box for Wine
As you visit multiple wineries, and will taste dozens of wines, you’re more than likely going to run into some varieties that you enjoy.
Trust me. Most likely, you’ll want to at least buy a couple of bottles as well and the last thing you want is for these to start rattling in your trunk when you put them in your car. The last resort would be boxed wine I guess.
The “Don’ts” of Wine Tasting
There are also a few things you should avoid. Some should really go without saying but you'd be surprized what you see at wine tastings sometimes!
Don’t Store Your Wine in a Hot Car
The last thing you want after you’ve bought yourself a number of nice bottles of wine after the wine tasting is for them to spoil once you store them in a hot car.
Make sure you keep them somewhere cool. In the worst case scenario, you can ask the winery to send them to you after.
Don’t Use Gum and Breath Mints
Gum and breath mints can alter the taste of wine during wine tasting. You should avoid them if you can to ensure that you get the most flavor out of the wines that you taste.
Don’t Make Sound Effects
Yes, drawing air in your mouth will enhance the flavor of the wine and your ability to taste it, but with a little practice you should be able to do this without getting loud attention-getting noises.
Don’t Be “That Smell”
I know this one sounds funny, but it’s not necessarily what you think it is. Basically you want to avoid putting on perfume or cologne that is overwhelming.
This will not only prohibit you from tasting the wines to their fullest, but it will also detract from your neighbors being able to enjoy the wine tasting.
And yes… It goes without saying that you should also take a shower before going to a wine tasting event!
Don’t Get Drunk
Don’t get too drunk at a wine tasting event. It’s fine to get a little tipsy and have a good time, but you don’t want to get unruly and ruin the experience for others.
Moreover, you’ll miss out on the experience of being able to objectively taste all those great wines.
That’s a Wrap…
I hope you enjoyed those tips on wine tasting etiquette.
If you have any more tips that we’ve left out, or if you have any funny stories to tell us about your experiences while wine tasting, be sure to leave a comment below!