Updated: Mar 14
Going to a wine tasting can be an incredibly informative and fun experience! But for many, your first wine tasting can also be a bit overwhelming. Knowing the right etiquette can make the whole day more relaxed and enjoyable for both you and the winery.
While other articles will detail the wine tasting process and explain which specific steps experts recommend, here I’ll discuss just a few brief wine tasting Do's and Don’ts to follow during your next vineyard visit.
Be Kind to Your Pourer
Anyone who has worked a service job knows what a difference it makes when you have customers who treat you with respect compared to those that are a big pain in the you-know-what. Pouring wine is a job, and no one likes customers who are bad-mannered. Being way too drunk or treating your pourer like your personal servant is immature and rude.
Especially if the winery is busy, the pourer may have many things to handle besides just your wine tasting. Treat all winery staff with respect and courtesy, even if the tasting is taking longer than you expected. If you have another tasting appointment you need to get to, you can politely let your pourer know before you begin the tasting. This way, he/she can get you out the door on time without anyone feeling rushed.
Feel Free to Pour or Spit Things Out
One important wine tasting Do's and Don’ts lesson concerns spitting out your wine. You might not like everything you taste, and that’s okay. Or you might only want to have one or two sips to better keep track of what you’re drinking, especially if it’s going to be a long day.
If you’re traveling in a group, you can ask your companions if they would like your leftovers. However, another option is to spit or pour out any leftover wine in your glass. From our experience, every winery should have a spittoon, jug, or other receptacle where you can politely dispose of leftover wine.
If you choose to spit out wine after tasting it, please do so discreetly. It’s also best to refrain from making any disparaging comments about the wine. You never know if the winemaker might be close by, and no one likes to be insulted. Plus, just because you didn’t like the wine doesn’t mean other people won’t find it delicious. Everyone has different tastes and preferences. That’s why they make menus.
Keep an Open Mind
Even if you normally don’t like a certain kind of wine, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised. Because so many factors go into making wine, a specific kind of grape can have a very different taste depending on where you go. These factors include the terroir, the fermentation process, how long the wine has been aged, etc. Many winemakers also put their own take on familiar classics.
While I personally lean away from big buttery Chardonnays, I have been pleasantly surprised by some of the Chardonnays I have tasted that were not aged in oak. The taste often has a lot more minerality and unique notes. I would have missed out on trying a new wine and learning about my own interests if I refused to taste the wine based on what grape it came from.
You don’t need to be a trained sommelier to enjoy a wine tasting. No matter how much or how little you know about wine, you might have some questions that come up during the tasting.
If something is confusing to you, speak up! Vineyards generally encourage visitors to ask questions. There are no stupid questions, and most winery staff will be happy to help you however they can.
Chug the Wine
Our next wine tasting Do's and Don’ts suggestion concerns the following scenario: What should you do if everyone at your table has finished his/her tasting but you still have a few sips left in your glass?
It’s probably not a great idea to hold your group up by 30 minutes, but if you need an extra minute, that’s perfectly fine. Many wines are meant to be savored, not chugged out of the bag. Taking your time to appreciate the wine and its smell and taste is an integral part of doing a wine tasting in the first place. Don’t feel pressure to finish quickly. As we like to say, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Complain About the Size of the Pour
A wine tasting is meant to be just that, a tasting.
While some wineries are more generous in their pours than others, don’t expect to receive a full glass-worth for every wine.
If you enjoyed the wine you tasted, you can always order a glass or a bottle afterward.
Be Afraid to Revisit!
“Revisit” is a term we have learned from our visits to California wine country. If you are thinking about buying a bottle of wine after doing a tasting, it can be difficult to remember which wines you liked best.
You are allowed to ask your pourer if you can “revisit” or re-taste a wine you tried. This is not inherently rude. However, you should also keep in mind that the pourer might say no. If your pourer refuses, don’t get belligerent. Every winery has different policies that the pourer is required to follow. Some wineries, especially outside of the United States, are also not familiar with this term. While there’s nothing wrong with revisiting a wine you wanted to remember (or even just one you really enjoyed), wineries are not required to comply with this request.
Ultimately, winery etiquette doesn’t need to be complicated. While every winery and tasting room is different, many will use the same general rules and processes for a tasting. As long as you are polite, you should be in good shape.
We hope these quick wine tasting Do’s and Don’ts help you on your next visit to a vineyard. Please check out our related blog on planning a wine trip for more information about wine travel, and feel free to reach out to us with any feedback or questions.
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