Wine tasting can be a little intimidating or even inebriating for inexperienced wine tasters. To help you enjoy your next tasting room visit, we asked some wine professionals to give us the inside scoop. Follow their simple advice and you are sure to have a great time!
1. Do your homework
Brandye Alexander at Seghesio Family Vineyards says it is a good idea to do a little planning to ensure your visit is a good one. “Double-check hours, tasting fees, etc. Give yourself a realistic itinerary – don’t cram too many wineries into one day.”
2. Keep your group small
Rick Saunders at Elyse Winery recommends that wine tasters avoid traveling in a group larger than four. A smaller group makes it easier for your host to give you more personalized attention.
3. Don’t wear perfume
Alexander warns wine tasters to avoid wearing perfume. “Perfume will interfere with the sensory experience of wine.” A strong perfume may also bother other wine room visitors.
4. Keep an open mind
Chris O’Connell at Cuvaison Estate Winery advises visitors to keep an open mind about what they are tasting. “If you try new wines, you might be surprised by what you actually like. If you taste a wine you don’t like, it’s okay! That’s what the dump bucket is for.”
5. Share a tasting
Monty and Sara Preiser, publishers of The Preiser Key to Napa Valley, suggest that couples split their tastings as a way to limit their intake while enjoying more varietals. “For example, you might be able to choose four wines per person from a list of ten. In these circumstances, we often prefer to each order four different wines, taste each other’s, and thus experience eight different pours.”
6. Use the dump bucket
The Preisers advocate using the tasting room’s dump bucket for pouring out unwanted wine. “Your pourer will not be offended and will recognize your empty glass as a signal to pour the next taste.”
7. Turn off your cell phone
Constantly checking your cell phone won’t endear you to the wine room staff or even other members of your own party. O’Connell reminds visitors to keep a proper perspective. “You’re in wine country. Put the phone down and look around!”
8. Ask questions
O’Connell encourages guests to ask questions. “Most wine professionals are ready and willing to answer questions about the winery, vineyards, wine making process, etc. It’s amazing what you can learn from tasting room employees.”
9. Take notes
According to the Preisers, “taking notes not only helps you remember what you tasted, but it is frequently a signal to the pourers that you are serious about the tasting experience.” Most tasting rooms will give you a copy of their tasting menu to take notes on.
10. Don’t get drunk
It is never a good idea to get drunk while wine tasting. You could ruin your experience, get a DUI, or worse. Saunders offers some simple advice to avoid overindulging. “Do not drink every drop put in your glass.”
Special bonus tip:
A great wine tasting experience often includes tasting a special wine that isn’t on the regular tasting menu. Our wine experts all agreed that the best way to get a special pour is to be nice, act interested in the wine, and ask politely. You may not be in the market for a $150 bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, but you might end up knowing what it tastes like!
Note:The advice from Monty and Sara Preiser came from their Budbreak, 2011 edition of The Preiser Key to Napa Valley. Brandye Alexander, Rick Saunders, and Chris O’Connell all shared their insights with us directly.