Whether you’re a seasoned pro, or someone who is brand new to wine tasting, going along to wineries, cellar doors or tasting tables at wine merchants is rarely anything but an absolute treat for the senses. Tasting sessions are the perfect way to explore the endlessly varied world of wine - there are hundreds of thousands of bottles out there, and each one has something unique to say about the grape, the style, the region and the individual flavours and aromas within.
However, for many people, nerves and a lack of confidence kicks in whenever they’re invited to taste some wine. This isn’t particularly surprising; even today, there’s still a certain amount of snobbery surrounding the wine scene, and it can be a little intimidating for those new on the scene. If you’re planning on going along to a tasting, you’ll be pleased to see that we’ve compiled a short list of do’s and don’ts… so no matter how experienced you are, you can walk into that tasting room with confidence. Enjoy!
DO take a notepad
We’d highly recommend taking a pen and paper to your next wine tasting. Why? Because you’re going to be tasting several different bottles, and you want to be able to capture those initial reactions and feelings, as well as the range of flavours and aromas you encounter in each one. There’s no fixed way of taking notes when it comes to wine - that part is entirely up to you - but you’ll find that jotting down your ideas will help focus your mind, and will lead you explore your wine a little deeper.
DO go out of your comfort zone
So, you consider yourself a Pinot Noir lover, who occasionally forays into Cabernet Sauvignon, and the occasional glass of Riesling. Good for you… but you’re not going to learn a whole lot by sticking to what you know and like. At a tasting, make sure you’re making a bee-line for wines you’ve never tried before, and even checking out wines which you might not expect to like. The worst that can happen? Your suspicions are confirmed, and you end up using the spitoon. The best case scenario? You realise you were wrong, and may just have found a new favourite.
DO swallow (if you feel like it)
There is a stereotypical image out there of wine buffs swirling and spitting, but in reality, most people like to swallow their wines. After all, that’s the only way you’re going to end up with the full experience of drinking them. Of course, if you’re driving, it’s a good idea to make use of the spitoon… but as long as you’re pacing yourself and only drinking small quantities, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with swallowing.
DO cleanse your palate
Wines often have powerful flavours and firm tannins, meaning your tastebuds are going to be at risk of being overwhelmed pretty quickly. Between sips, and certainly between wines, making sure you take a sip of water to cleanse your palate. It’ll heighten your enjoyment of the wines, and ensure you can taste them as intended.
DO ask questions
If you’re at a professional wine tasting event, or even at a wine store’s tasting table, there’ll be someone on hand to answer your questions. To not take full advantage of this would be a missed opportunity, not to mention it’s highly likely that individual really enjoys chatting to people about the wines they are serving. Have a chat, explore their knowledge, and learn more about the region, winery, style, or grape of the wine you’re enjoying.
DON’T go on any empty stomach
A real rookie error this one, and one you’re unlikely to make more than once. Wine is alcoholic (as if you didn’t already know), and all those little sips do add up pretty quickly. Having a decent meal beforehand can save you from feel a little queasy after too much vino!
DON’T knock back your wine
You’re at a wine tasting, not at a student bar. You’re there to explore the flavours and aromas of fine wines, and in order to do that, you need to take your time, enjoy small sips, and give it the appreciation and concentration it deserves. Remember: first look at the colour, then swirl in the glass, then sniff, then sip. It’s not a race!
DON’T hold your wine glass by the bowl
Sure, it makes you look rakish and cool if you’re doing this at a bar, but at a wine tasting, this is a real no-no. Make sure you’re holding your glass by the stem at all times. Why? Because not only will it avoid you making the glass dirty with your fingertips, the warmth of your hand will affect the temperature of the wine, which will be served at optimum conditions for your enjoyment.
DON’T be afraid to give your opinion
Wine tasting is subjective to a certain degree, and your take on the wine being served will be slightly different from other people’s. Make sure you feel comfortable giving your opinion - even if that opinion differs considerably from those you’re drinking with. Wouldn’t life be boring if we all just agreed with each other?