Wine 101: 10 Tips for Attending a Wine Tasting

1. Dress for the event
Well, we all already know that you should dress according to the venue. However, there is more to that Dress in dark colors (the better to hide spills), avoid dangling sleeves (so you don’t cause spills). Low heels or flats are more suitable for ladies for comfort. If you have long hair, tie it back so you can spit easily (see tip 5) or keep a hand free to hold it back. And if you’re going to carry anything (tasting book, notebook, smartphone or tablet), bring a purse or have deep pockets to stash it. Carrying a wineglass around means you’ll only have one hand free for holding a plate of food, shaking hands with winemakers and taking notes.

2. Don’t wear perfume
Smell is a huge part of tasting. It’s impossible to appreciate all the aromas of a delicate Riesling or a layered Cabernet when the air is filled with perfume, cologne or smoke. So be mindful not to introduce any unwanted aromatics to the tasting area. You don’t want to miss out on the nuances of the very wines you’re trying to enjoy.

3. Come up with a plan for tasting
At most tastings, there will be more wines than you can sensibly try in just a few hours. We recommend you to get a list of the producers or wines ahead of time, come prepared with a game plan. That way, your palate doesn’t get worn out.

A basic plan starts from light wines to heavier ones: Start with sparkling wines, then fresh whites and move on to richer whites and tannic reds. But you can get a lot more focused: A survey of the wines of Italy? A comparative tasting of only one variety such as Pinot Noir from different appellations? All up to you.

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If you want to try the biggest names, such as the Bordeaux first-growths, head there first before the crowds form; then skip the busiest tables and fit in new discoveries.

After you get your sip of Château Haut-Brion, look at the wineries pouring on each side of that booth—if you’ve never tried one of them, try it.

 

4. Eat something
If you don’t intend to get drunk quickly and miss out the rest of the wines, eat beforehand! Also, you should bear in mind to hydrate in between.

5. Remember to spit (at least most of the time)
Yes, you’ll be tasting good wines, and yes, no one likes to “waste” wine, but those tasting-size pours really add up—and add up quickly at that. To get the full experience of the event, you’ll want to pace yourself by spitting wine as you go. That’s why there are buckets on every table. Unglamorous maybe, but take heart—all the pros do it. The winery staff are used to it. And if you don’t want to finish a wine, pour out any leftover from your glass into one of the spit buckets as well.

You may also wonder whether you should rinse your glass between pours: Not necessary, unless you’re switching between red and white or sweet and dry, or had a flawed wine. And if you’re going to rinse, it is suggested that is to use a splash of wine instead of water.

6. Take notes
You may swear you’ll remember the name of that fantastic red from Italy, but even if you’re spitting consistently, a couple dozen wines and a day later, you’ll be struggling to recall whether you preferred the Chianti Classico or the Brunello at the booth next to it. If you’re using the tasting as a scouting trip for bottles you want to buy, remember to bring something to write with so you can take notes, or use your camera phone to document the wines you liked.

7. Think ahead about the red-wine teeth dilemma
There is a side effect of the wine-tasting – your teeth will get stained. Brushing your teeth right after wine tasting can strip your teeth of protective enamel. The better solution is to remember to drink water and maybe bring some chewing gum for when you’re done.

8. Talk to the winemakers
Wine can be more fun and memorable when you know the story behind the bottle. At the Wine Experience, the winemakers and winery owners come to pour at the event. So take the time to talk to them. If you have any questions about styles, grapes, vintages or regions, they are a great resource. If you’re polite and enthusiastic, they’ll want to answer your questions and make a connection—that’s why they’re there.

9. But don’t hog the booth
Take your glass and move away to give others a chance and to avoid being jostled, or step to one side to continue your conversation with the winemaker while allowing them to pour for others.

10. Have fun
Some people get very serious when they’re tasting wines, but remember it’s OK to smile and have a good time too. You’re tasting wine, not attending a tax seminar, and you will not be quizzed at the exit doors.