If you are new to the world of wine travel, going to your first wine tasting might be intimidating. Don’t’ worry, here are a few tips that can help give you an intro to wine tasting.
Where do I start?
If you have never been to a wine tasting then a good place to start is through an organized tour. They take care of the transportation, planning winery visits and have a lot of experience in the wine regions that they service. They are also often great for finding small wineries that may not be otherwise open to the public.
If you are a bit more adventurous or have a specific winery you want to visit it’s usually possible to simply call up a local winery and ask if they have tasting times or scheduled events.
Chardonnay? Merlot? Shiraz? Aren’t grapes just red and white?
There are over 1,300 different grape varieties used to make wine all over the world. These can be combined to form an infinite number of different wines. The point of the tasting is to introduce you to different types of wine and show the contrast between them.
At the tasting, the winemaker will select a number of wines for you to try, and then arrange them in an order that helps you best appreciate them.
I think this tastes a bit jammy, but I don’t know what that means…
When smelling and tasting, feel free to say what comes to you mind regarding flavors and smells and don’t worry about trying to apply normal “wine terms” to them. Everyone has unique sensory experiences and sometimes those can be triggered through wine tasting.
If you find that someone says that a wine smells of “stone fruits” but for you it smells like an “old garage”, that’s ok, both of you are correct. You can use whatever words help you understand what you are tasting without having to pull out a wine dictionary. Besides, when these senses bring up past memories, it can be fun to discuss and it helps make the wine more memorable for you.
What? You want me to spit this out?
Depending upon the type of tasting you are attending the etiquette will vary.
In some cases they will provide a tasting bucket for you to spit out the wine after you taste. This is useful if you are going to be tasting many wines or have to drive between wineries after the tasting. It’s perfectly acceptable to spit, but it can also be acceptable to simply drink the wine. Use your judgement and see what other people do.
I’m not really sure if I can remember all of this
Many people attending a tasting will record their tastings on a designated wine tasting sheet. These can help you remember all of the different flavors of the wine and help you compare them. If they don’t give you a wine tasting sheet, it’s a good idea to write some simple notes down so you can remember what you tasted at a later date.
The winery might provide a pre-written sheet with descriptions of each of the wines. If they do this, try tasting the wine first and writing your own notes before reading the description so you can compare afterwards.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
One reason that wineries host tastings is to help educate the public about their wine. The winemaker or staff that are holding the tasting are generally knowledgeable about wine and would be happy to help you get started. Wine isn’t about being part of an exclusive club, and asking questions can help fill in any knowledge gaps. It would be good to start by asking about the types of grapes they use, how long they age the wine or about the history of the winery.
Relax, there won’t be a test afterwards
Afterwards you will have learned a bit about the winery you visited, some new styles, and maybe made some new friends in the process. Wine tasting can be educational but you don’t have to take it too seriously right away. It can take a lifetime to learn everything about wine, so slow down and take it one tasting at a time.
Do you have any questions that you want answered before you attend your first tasting?
Do you have any advice for first time tasters?
Let us know in the comments below!