If you’re planning a trip to Napa Valley, chances are you will be visiting Napa Valley’s fine wineries. You should know the basic rules of wine-tasting etiquette beyond how to taste a wine properly.
Many people are intimidated by wine tasting and avoid tasting rooms altogether. In this article, we’ll cover what to do in the tasting room before tasting a wine and what to do when you want to taste a different wine.
How Does Wine Tasting Work?
Wine tasting involves the evaluation of the wine’s appearance, aroma, taste, and finish. It’s best to follow specific steps to enjoy the experience fully and appreciate each wine’s nuances.
1) Ensure you have a “neutral” palate before starting. This means avoiding intense foods or flavors before arriving at the winery. Brushing your teeth or rinsing your mouth with water can help to neutralize any lingering flavors. Just make sure if you brush your teeth, you do it a minimum of 1 hour before your tasting (otherwise that minty fresh taste may interfere).
2) Examining the wine’s appearance. Hold your glass against a white background and observe its color and clarity. The color can offer hints about the grape variety, aging, and region. Look for visual cues, such as clear or cloudy, opaque or translucent, to determine what you might expect to taste.
3) Evaluate the aroma of the wine. Swirl your glass gently to release aromas, then sniff several times to identify different scents such as fruit, spice, or oakiness. You can also try evaluating the aroma once your wine arrives (before the swirl) and again afterward. You might find your wine has a slightly different aroma before and after the swirl.
4) The most important aspect of a wine’s evaluation is its taste profile. Take a small sip of wine and allow it to circulate in your mouth before swallowing or spitting it out. This will allow your taste buds to experience the wine’s full flavor. Pay attention to key characteristics like sweetness, acidity, tannin, alcohol, and body to accurately evaluate a wine’s flavor.
5) Evaluate how long-lasting its finish is after you’ve swallowed it – does it linger pleasantly on your tongue? Taking notes along each step will help you remember which wines stood out for you at each vineyard visited during your trip.
Following these steps when tasting wine at a winery or event will help you fully appreciate each glass of wine and its complexities. Just be sure to take notes along each step so you can remember which wines at what vineyards stood out for you during your trip.
Leading Up to the Tasting Room
Preparing for an upcoming wine tasting can be exciting, and there are several things to consider before heading to the tasting room.
Book Your Reservation
To ensure that you secure a spot in the wine-tasting room, it is essential to book your reservation in advance. Many popular wineries’ reservations fill up quickly, so booking well in advance is best to guarantee your spot.
We recommend going to their website and calling to book your reservation, allowing you to ask questions or bring up any dietary restrictions or preferences.
Plan Your Outfit Ahead of Time
Wine tasting can be a sophisticated affair, so planning your outfit ahead of time is essential. You want to dress comfortably but also appropriately for the occasion. Here are some key factors to keep in mind when choosing your attire:
- Dress code: Check with the winery or tasting room beforehand for any dress code requirements or recommendations. Some places may have a more formal dress code, while others might be more casual.
- Comfort: Wine tastings often involve standing and walking around, so choosing comfortable shoes you can wear for an extended period is essential. Avoid wearing tight clothing that makes you uncomfortable or restricts your movements.
- Weather: The weather can significantly affect what you decide to wear. If it’s hot outside, light and breathable clothing is ideal. If it’s cold, consider wearing layers to adjust your outfit accordingly.
Remember to focus on the wine, not your attire, when you go wine tasting. Dress appropriately for the occasion but also prioritize comfort so you can fully enjoy yourself without any avoidable distractions.
Avoid Strong Perfumes or Aftershaves
To fully enjoy a wine-tasting experience, avoiding using strong perfumes or aftershaves is crucial. These overpowering scents can hinder our sense of smell and prevent us from detecting the delicate aromas in the wine we’re tasting.
It’s best to steer clear of strong scents, as they can be distracting for both you and those nearby. But Wine experts even suggest avoiding any scented products, even those with a mild fragrance.
For a better wine-tasting experience, we recommend using unscented deodorants and lotions and avoiding consuming strongly flavored foods or smoking beforehand. This way, external factors won’t compromise your palate so you can get the most out of each sip!
During The Tasting
It’s crucial to note that wineries often require a fee for wine tasting. The amount charged can differ based on the winery’s location and the type of wine tasting, but it usually ranges from $20 to $200 per person, with an average fee of $40.
Remember to check for fees when visiting wineries. Some wineries offer free tastings with a purchase or wine club membership, but others may require reservations or charge for tastings.
The tasting fees you pay go towards supporting the winery and are sometimes accompanied by small bites or snacks meant to complement your wine.
Do You Spit Out Wine at Wine Tastings?
Spitting out the wine is often considered more professional and polite than swallowing it when you plan to taste multiple wines in one sitting. This approach can help you maintain clarity of thought and avoid getting drunk too quickly. Swallowing every sip of wine may make remembering each wine’s unique characteristics and nuances difficult.
It is perfectly acceptable to swallow each sip of wine if you do not wish to spit it out. However, it is important to exercise caution and not consume too much, as this may impair your ability to evaluate the wine later.
Ultimately, deciding to spit or swallow during a wine-tasting event is a matter of personal preference. Paying attention to your body and making a decision that feels comfortable for you is important.
What Not to Say at a Wine Tasting?
Being mindful of what you say is important when attending a wine tasting. These events are meant to be elegant and focused, and inappropriate behavior or comments can disrupt the atmosphere and make others uneasy.
So, it’s best to keep a level of decorum when participating in a wine tasting by:
- Please avoid making any comments that may be perceived as rude or insulting.
- Avoid using slang or vulgar language when commenting on wines, even if you are with friends.
Be Sure to Pace Yourself
It’s important to remember that pacing yourself is crucial to ensure an enjoyable experience. Attending multiple tastings can quickly become overwhelming, so we recommend the following tips to help you pace yourself:
1. Take breaks: It’s crucial to take breaks between tastings to allow your body to process the alcohol. Some tasting rooms may provide snacks, water, or crackers to help with pacing.
2. Spit out your wine: Experienced tasters commonly spit out wine to avoid getting drunk quickly and to taste more wines without being overwhelmed by the alcohol content.
3. Sip slowly: Savor each wine fully by taking small sips and waiting a few moments before taking another sip. This allows your palate to process the flavors.
4. Know your limits: If drinking too much alcohol affects you negatively, it’s important not to push your limits during wine-tasting events.
5. Drink plenty of water: Staying hydrated by drinking water between tastings can help prevent dehydration, which often leads to headaches or feeling unwell.
By following these tips, you can easily pace yourself during wine-tasting events and enjoy each sip fully while maintaining control over your alcohol intake throughout the event.
Don’t Be Afraid of Asking Questions
Attending a wine tasting provides an excellent opportunity to discover more about the wine and the winery. Don’t worry if you don’t know everything about wine before attending; the winery staff is there to help and educate you.
It’s always better to ask questions than to assume things. Each winery has its unique way of doing things, such as pouring wine in a specific order or letting guests choose their preferences.
Therefore, feel free to ask questions and clarify anything you’re unsure about. The staff will happily assist you and even offer recommendations based on your tastes and preferences.
Asking questions can also help you gain knowledge about the intricacies of making wine and how they taste differently depending on the storage times, region produced, and other factors. So, don’t hesitate to ask.
However, some wineries may have policies against accepting tips, so checking before offering one is always a good idea. If you can’t tip, don’t worry! You can still show gratitude by leaving positive reviews and recommending the winery to others.
Conclusion: The Do’s and Don’ts of Wine Tasting
To have a great wine-tasting experience, make a reservation beforehand and avoid wearing strong perfumes or heavy makeup. Take your time during the tasting, ask questions, and learn about the wines. Avoid being rude and be respectful to the winery staff and other guests.
If you’re in the neighborhood and looking for other fun things to do, or even a chance to soar among the clouds, Napa Valley Aloft has you covered.