Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way for new wine enthusiasts to somehow absorb all the knowledge you need to hold your own at a wine tasting? Even — or maybe especially –if you don’t know what questions to ask? Oh, wait… there is! Because you’ve got us and our handy list of top tips to keep you from looking like a total novice at your first wine tasting.
1. DON’T be the drunkest person in the room
Although that might sound like the most obvious tip ever, it’s kind of an important one. So, remember that while it’s definitely okay to enjoy yourself, you should be conscious of how much you’re consuming and how it will affect you. If you know you’re a lightweight (and it’s okay, many of us are!) just make sure to spit more frequently than you swallow, or only start consuming towards the end, especially if you’re tasting a wide selection.
2. DON’T try to use lingo you don’t know
But with that said, don’t be afraid to voice your opinion either! Wine terminology can often sound like a separate language and in a way, it kind of is. So, if you don’t know all the right things to say, don’t feel pressured to pretend that you do. Instead, be open and ask questions. If you like a certain wine or want to know more about it, just speak up! Whether you’re on a wine tasting tour as part of a vacation package or checking out a classy new wine bar in town, your host should be knowledgeable and approachable enough to engage with you and provide new information. Taking this as an opportunity to learn will not only make the event more fun, it’ll help you avoid making stuff up. Little known fact, the experts in the room can tell!
3. DO be open to new experiences
Chances are, you already have an idea of which wines you do and do not like, but don’t let those preconceived preferences hold you back! Try a little bit of everything, even a wine you think you’ll probably hate. And maybe you really will hate it, but maybe you’ll wind up discovering your new favorite wine!
4. DO come prepared
Wine tastings can be overwhelming, so whether this is your first or your five thousandth experience, make a game plan ahead of time to help maximize your experience. Consider trying another country’s take on your favorite grape or developing a “theme” to explore throughout the evening, like wines from regions on your travel bucket list.
5. DON’T wear perfume
Sniffing the bouquet is a huge part of wine tasting, so heavy perfume or cologne will be distracting to yourself and other guests. Although you might have gone nose-blind to your own scent, the same isn’t true for others, and 80% of our taste is actually owing to our sense of smell. Your choice of perfume could put a serious damper on the evening for guests who are especially concerned with the smell of wine. So, just for tonight, maybe forego the cologne and watch the difference it makes in your tasting experience!
6. DO take notes
Remembering everything can be hard, especially if you’re sampling a large selection with a lot of variety, so bring along a pen and paper to help keep track of what you liked. (Because we all know you won’t be able to resist buying some wine at the end of the evening!). Making notes of what you learn throughout the evening can be a great way to develop both your sense of self and your understanding of wine. So, jot down your thoughts as you go and hang onto them for later. Personally, I love looking back at my old wine tasting notes and seeing how much I’ve learned and evolved through the years!
7. DO be polite
You are not going to like every wine you taste but chances are someone at the wine tasting will love the wine you hate. This will be particularly true if you’re tasting at the winery or with someone selling the wine. If you find yourself in this situation, the key is deflection. If someone asks you what you think of the wine, state that you would rather hear them talk about the wine and hear their insights. What makes the wine special or inviting to them? If pressed, don’t say anything negative but search for something positive to say (even if it’s the label design!) and then talk about the wine in the tasting line up that you DID like!
8. DO have a designated driver
This goes without saying, but we’re going to say it anyway! It’s easy to lose track of time with wine tasting and that includes the time you should take to stay hydrated and eat to help absorb and diffuse the alcohol. If you are planning to get in a vehicle after a day or evening of wine tasting, make sure to have a designated driver (or car service) handy.
9. DO buy wine
Some wineries waive the tasting fee if you purchase a bottle of wine. Same goes for other structured wine tasting events. If you like it, buy it! This will definitely put a smile on your host’s face and you will be assured to be invited back again.
Although wine tastings can be overwhelming as a beginner, it’s best to remember that the experience won’t be as daunting as you think if you keep a few simple tips in mind and give yourself some best practices to follow. Just stick to these top tips and you’ll be a pro in no time! Happy hunting!
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