I’ll admit here I’m not an expert when it comes to wine, I enjoy it, I can pick a good bottle that’s why I’ve decided to compile this wine tasting room etiquette alongside, a friend who knows a thing or two when it comes to wine…. “Mr K”, he is someone over the years that has taught me how to pick a good wine and I’ve been lucky to sample some of the hundreds of bottles he has at home….
Here are our tips on how best to enjoy your time when wine tasting. I hope his wine tasting tips help you on some future travels to wine regions all over the world such as Barossa Valley (my favourite region at the moment), Bordeaux, Napa Valley, Veneto and Golan Heights.
A good wine tasting room experience can make the most undistinguished wine taste exceptional, at the same time a bad experience can make a stunning glass of wine taste dreadful. That’s why many wineries employ teams that know how to make your experience with them more enjoyable, just remember aside from hosting their roles also involve getting you to purchase some wine, or sign up to a wine club.
If you are going wine tasting first things first is the research, most regions have dozens of winery’s that’s why you should first discuss with the party you are travelling with what type of wines are you looking to taste, and perhaps purchase. Plan ahead by looking at the websites of the wineries and check opening times as well as whether or not you need to make an appointment (this may apply for large groups).
In Europe we are lucky as most vineyards have complimentary tastings, whereas I visited Napa Valley recently and a majority of the wineries had tasting charges, these fees however, are waived, if you buy several bottles of wine.
First things first if you aren’t going on an organised wine tour, and are planning to drive to several vineyards in a day, I’d strongly advise against this – several tastings during the course of the day can add up to you being well over the local drink drive laws. Hire a designated driver, there are many companies that provide such services. In Napa/Sonoma we hired a driver for two days who drove our hire car (insured of course), and provided us with local insight, and also came with dozens of great contacts for our trip. Having a driver takes the stress out of the day and allows you to enjoy the day.
These next few suggestions are very important in Mr K’s eyes, make sure you eat a good breakfast and pack some food or pick up food for the course of the day. Make sure you keep several bottles of water for you, keeping hydrated could lead to a much happier body and mind throughout the day and the following morning too! Avoid heavy perfumes/fragrances and most importantly smoking as the odours can affect the sense of smell, which is a vital part of wine tasting as detecting the wine is the first method of evaluating it, you are effectively preparing your brain for the wine you are about to taste.
In the wine tasting rooms don’t be afraid of asking questions, there is no such thing as a stupid question. Do use the dump buckets as they are there for the purpose of unwanted wine from the glass or mouth. The pourer will not be offended, and is likely to recognise this as a signal to prepare and pour the next wine for you. If you are likely to be uncomfortable with spitting wine into a dump bucket, request a plastic cup and spit it into here.
Don’t be afraid of taking notes, it’ll help you remember what you have tasted and in Mr K’s eyes it’s often a command for the pourer to take you a little more seriously and is likely to get you a more tailored experience. In Napa/Sonoma we used the knowledge of our driver as well as the pourer to gauge a good idea of some suggestions that we had not considered.
The tips above are aimed at enhancing your enjoyment of wine tasting, and we hope the tasting room etiquette advice does help, and remember to drink responsibly, even if you aren’t driving.
I’ll be posting about my trip into Sonoma and Napa valley in the next few weeks. I also had the opportunity to dine at the infamous 3 Michelin * French Laundry restaurant in Yountville, CA.