Wine Tasting Etiquette
Many people new to wine are worried about wine tasting etiquette. You don't have to be! While wine "snobs" can sure make wine tasting seem snooty and pretentious, there really isn't that much you need to know to look like you know what you are doing and to make the most of each tasting experience. First of all, if you haven't already, we suggest you get an intro to How to Taste Wine so that your basic tasting skills are up to snuff. After that, it is all down hill, and we mean that in a good way. We will give you some tips here to get you comfortable with your first wine tasting room or wine tasting party so that you can relax and enjoy yourself. Just remember, if wine tasting isn't fun, then you are doing something wrong!
General Wine Tasting Etiquette
- Don't Hog the Wine: At any wine tasting, if bottles of wine are on the table and guests can pour their own, don't be a wine hog. It may be tempting to go back for seconds or thirds or even fourths if you are tasting a really special wine, but be sure that everyone has had a taste and that everyone gets about the same amount of each wine if they want it. Nothing turns off a group of tasters like someone who doesn't share. Wine tasting should be a communal activity where everyone and their opinion is equal.
- Respect the Wine and Appreciate It, Don't Chug It: Whether tasting a $5 wine or a $5000 wine, respect each wine you taste and give it a chance. Whether in a wine tasting room, where you might insult the wine maker, or at a wine tasting party, where you might insult the person who brought the wine, don't treat any wine like swill. Additionally, chugging wine is not generally considered classy. Take your time, taste each wine slowly but enjoy yourself.
- Spit Buckets: When people are considering wine tasting etiquette, one thing that beginners often get confused about is the wine spit bucket. How can people involved in such a classy and cultured activity be so crass as to spit out wine into a bucket? Well, funny as it may seem, the spit bucket is a totally accepted part of wine tasting etiquette in wine tasting tours and wine tasting parties. In some cellars winemakers even spit right on the floor of the cellar when tasting wines from barrel! Many people spit because they are tasting many wines and don't want to get too inebriated or they have to drive. Also, getting too tipsy can impair your ability to be discriminating with wines. Some people swallow a sip or two of each wine but then dump the rest of their glass out. Whichever reason you have for spitting rather than swallowing it is perfectly acceptable wine tasting etiquette to spit in a provided spit bucket. If no bucket is visible, ask your host for one. When spitting, move close to the bucket so that you don't spray anyone else or the countertop.
- Basic Table Manners: Hopefully your parents taught you some basic table manners. All these obviously apply for wine tasting etiquette as well. Conduct yourself just like you were at a fancy dinner.
Wine Tasting Room Etiquette in Wine Country
- Walk-ins Versus By Appointment: If you are on a wine country tour, there are some producers who have an open tasting room which holds regular hours to welcome guests. Check ahead of time what their open days and hours are. Most charge a small fee to taste through a range of wines they are offering. Some smaller and more exclusive vineyards do not have open tasting rooms. However, many of these will accept guests for tastings and/or tours of the winery. Call ahead to the producers you are interested in to find out if they take appointments and schedule a specific time to come by for a tour. Do not just show up expecting to be treated like a king. While many wine makers are very gracious and eager to welcome visitors, remember that they are also very busy people and catching them in the middle of something can put them in an awkward position. Avoid all this by simply going during open tasting hours, reserving a tour or making an appointment ahead of time.
- How Many Tastes Do You Get?: Generally, in most tasting rooms there is a small fee to taste a flight of wines they are offering. This can vary tremendously depending on the winery. Some wineries make dozens of wines and their tasting room may be pouring several of them. Others only produce one wine or a few and therefore you may only get to taste one wine. This should be clear but if you have any doubt, before paying to taste, simply ask the person working in the tasting room. Generally, one pour of each wine is all you get unless you pay for another entire tasting flight. Most of the wines they offer for tasting is also available for purchase in the tasting room if you like something.
Done learning about Wine Tasting Etiquette?
Return to the Wine Tasting Tours page.