Want to head out to wine country with your friends for an epic week of fine wines, cheeses and charcuterie? Well, if you’ve never been to a wine tasting before, there are a few things you need to know so you don’t look like a newbie in front of the more experienced drinkers.
You also don’t want to annoy the winery or the people who work there with your lack of knowledge (or palate).
Here are a couple tips on what to know before booking your trip:
1. Plan ahead
Many wineries require a tasting reservation to be made in advance, so it is always a good idea to call and ask before showing up. This is extremely important if you are traveling with a large group, and/or pulling up in a party bus or something like that.
Some wineries offer food and wine pairings, which, in my opinion, maximizes the experience. If this is the case, please let the tasting room host know in advance if you or anyone in your group has any type of food allergy. This is also an opportune time to let the host know if anyone in your group hates white wines, for example, so the tasting room can accommodate the experience accordingly.
If you plan on bringing your young children, calling ahead is also very important. A lot of wineries have insurance policies that don’t allow for young children to be present on the grounds, so planning ahead is vital in this scenario.
If the winery doesn’t have a problem with bringing kids to the tasting room, please bring books, crayons, snacks, etc. for their entertainment. This rule should also be applied to dogs. Many wineries are dog-friendly and welcome four-legged guests. But, be sure to not leave the pooper-scooper in the car.
2. Don’t forget your ID.
It really doesn’t matter whether or not you’re with your parents. The people at the winery don’t know your age without a driver’s license, and they’re not trying to get fired for serving a minor.
3. Don’t be late.
This is especially important if the winery you are visiting is by appointment only. If you’ve made a tour reservation for 3:30 pm and show up at 4 pm, you’re asking tasting room hospitality to rush through your tour (or another guest’s) due to lack of time.
4. A Note On Aromas
Wearing heavily scented perfume or smelling like cigarettes is discouraged. A huge part of tasting wine is noting aromas in each varietal. Heavy smells take away from that experience.
5. The Technique
Swirling your wine glass aerates or opens up the gorgeous aromas of wine. If you’re clumsy like me, place the glass on a flat surface and clutch the stem.
When tasting, hold glasses by the stem, not the bowl. As odd as it might seem, holding a glass by the bowl will leave greasy fingerprints, which can upset the wine temp.
Deeply inhale the wine’s aromas. Swirl the wine around in your mouth, coating all the surfaces, and note textures, tastes and flavors.
Always start with white and lighter wines before getting to heavier wines. Always save the sweetest wine for last.
6. There’s no need to hustle.
Many people will flock to wine country once a year for a big trip and try to squeeze seven or eight stops in their trip. Taking your time at each winery will amp up your experience.
Believe it or not, but tasting room representatives work in the position they do because they love their job. My favorite part of working in a tasting room is getting to know our different guests and their stories. Take your time and chat with us.
7. Utilize the dump bucket.
It’s not going to hurt my feelings if you don’t care for the wine. Dump it, and move on to the next tasting.
8. Trust your palate.
You may think the cheapest bottle on the menu tastes best. If you do, trust your palate. Do not focus on wines solely because of their price. You want to enjoy your purchase.
This article was originally published on the author’s personal blog.