Wine tastings are fun, no doubt about it. All those great wines just waiting to be tasted, they're a wine lovers playground. However, there is a little bit of etiquette which needs to be abided by...
I know, I know - it all tastes so good and it would be a waste of delicious wine to spit. But if you’re at a good tasting, there will be lots of good wines, and they have been brought by the wineries/wine companies precisely to be sampled. They will not be offended when you spit out. Better to waste than be wasted – you don’t want to be that guy.
DO Structure Your Experience
The likely format of a tasting will be tables with a portfolio of wines that will have a mix of reds, whites and perhaps sparklings and rose. In order to give your palate a fighting chance at enjoying everything properly, start with whites and sparklings and do a lap of the circuit. Then when you’re finished with them, you can start on the reds.
DO Relax, enjoy yourself, ask questions and share your thoughts
The person pouring you your wine is often somebody who has a very good knowledge of the wines – they might even be the winemakers themselves. They would love to engage with you, so do ask questions. Simply asking “can you tell me a little about these wines?” is a question they will have a well-rehearsed answer to. It’s a good starter to get the ball rolling but ask some follow ups to really engage.
DO leave polite feedback and insight
A sampling is an exchange, not a one-way transaction. They are giving you some wine in order to gain some feedback about what you think. Even the smallest bit of consumer/professional insight is often helpful.
DO Make notes, pick up name cards, and remember what you liked and act on it.
Be active. The more you put in, the more you get out. Take a pen and mark the wines you really liked and look out for them again. A lot of time and money goes into tastings so make it worth the wineries while. Wineries don’t roll around in cash piles and it’s a tough job to sell in a fragmented market. If you’ve really liked something, become a fan and seek it out again.
DON’T ask for a top up/full pour/a bit more because it’s really tasty
It’s a tasting, not a free bar. If you’ve been spitting and don’t appear drunk and have a genuine need for a dash more wine to appreciate it, this will be recognized and you’ll be happily obliged. If you’re slurring, standing with your mates and want something to swig on, don’t be surprised if you’re suddenly not the most popular guy at the show.
DON’T take photos without asking
Sadly we live in a world where its harder and harder to protect IP. A lot of wineries go to great lengths to produce amazing labels, and they might be conscious of photos being taken and circulated by passers by. To avoid upset, introduce yourself, give a card, and politely ask for a photo before snapping away.
DON’T lose your glass
You don’t need a new glass per wine, just use the water or cheaper wine at hand to give your glass a rinse. Tables can get awfully messy if you keep getting a new glass and leaving your old one around the place.
DON’T try to impress with infinite descriptions that you can muster
It’s great if you have knowledge and tasting experience, and as said above, you should share your thoughts. But do try and keep it concise. There are no medals handed out for most esoteric wine descriptor.
DON’T say you don’t like the wine.
There will be wines you don’t like. It happens. But because something isn’t of your taste, doesn’t mean it isn’t to someone else’s. Moreover, the person you’re telling will be heavily invested in that wine and it’s simply not good manners. Wine is not easy to make and it takes hard work and passion. So if it’s not your thing, simply smile, say ‘thank you’ and move on to the next.