Wine Tasting Etiquette: The Dos and Don’ts

04 Apr, 2022

Here are the dos and don'ts of wine tasting.

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Whether you are a wine newbie or an experienced taster, wine tasting events are a fun way to learn about what you like and don’t like. It’s the perfect opportunity to try new wines without having to invest in a bottle if you don’t like it. To help you out at your next event, we’ve compiled a list of our top dos and don’ts, so no matter how experienced you are, you’ll feel at home trying great wines. There are different types of wine tasting events, from more informal walk-around tastings, where different wines are set around the room on tables for you to go and try, to more structured wine tastings, sat down at a table with a guide. Whichever it is, here are the dos and don’ts of wine tasting…

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An introduction to wine tasting etiquette. The DOs

DO have a plan

If you’re at a walk around tasting, the whole experience can end up being totally overwhelming, even for professionals. Our advice is to give yourself a theme to start with and play spot the differerence with wines from that theme. For example, you could start with white wines from a certain region made with a certain grape variety. Taste 5 or so and note the differences between them.

DO take notes

How you make notes at a tasting event is completely up to you, but you should try to do it. After tasting several glasses, your memory can get a little hazy. Use your own language so it makes sense to you and give it a score out of 10 based on how much you personally like it. Remmeber, wine has its own language; it takes a while to become fluent. Eventually, your ‘cat pee in a good way’ will become ‘elderflower’. Always bring a pen and paper in case there isn’t one provided and you want one.

DO try something new

Don’t just stick to what you know. Chances are you will be tasting a wide variety of wines, both familiar and unfamiliar. If it’s a walk-around tasting with wines from different regions, check out your favourite grape but from a different country. Leave your misconceptions at the door and try a wine you think you’ll hate. Worst case scenario, you end up spitting, but, you never know, you could discover your new favourite wine!

DO ask questions

If you’re not sure about a wine or want to know the background, don’t be afraid to ask the host or the person pouring. A good wine tasting host will be approachable and informative and giving a wine some context can help you to appreciate it more. The host is there to help you and guide you through your tasting. It’s their job to know everything about the wines they’re serving, so make the most of their presence. There are no stupid questions. Just because a lot of us have been drinking wine for years, it doesn’t mean we suddenly know everything about it!

DO cleanse your palate

If there is water on offer, take a sip between tastings and use it to swill your glass. Usually you’ll be offered crackers or other nibbles during your tasting. Don’t go too crazy, it’s not a substitute for lunch. It’s there to help you cleanse your palate and get you ready for your next wine.

Do spit

Wine tastings are dangerous places for the uninitiated! Of course you can swallow if you want to, but do this towards to end or you’ll end up horribly drunk and not remembering anything. You’ll learn a lot more and your head will thank you in the morning. It’s very hard to keep tabs on how much you’ve consumed at these events, especailly the walkaround ones.

The DON’Ts

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DON’T be afraid to give your opinion

There is no right or wrong answer in wine tasting; it’s totally subjective. Share your thoughts and opinions with other guests. If your host asks you what wine you like, tell them. That way they can help match your taste with the similar wines.

DON’T knock it back

There’s more to wine tasting that drinking. Remember these 4 easy steps:
1) Look – check out the colour and clarity. Be more specific than red and white – what kind of red is it? Maroon, purple, ruby, or even brown? Is it watery or dark, cloudy or clear?
2) Swirl – When you swirl, the more droplets of wine that cling to the inside of the glass indicate a higher alcohol content. Take this opportunity to have a quick sniff of your wine to form a first impression.
3) Smell – now bring the glass up to your nose for a second impression and take in the aroma. Is it dark balck fruit? Crunchy red fruit?  Ask yourself what it isn;t. That will help too.
4) Sip and Savour – finally it’s time to taste. Sip, don’t gulp, and let it roll around your mouth. A lot of wine tasting is in the texture, which you will miss if you swallow it too quickly. Breathe out and see how long the flavour lasts. If it disappears, it has a short finish. if it lingers, it has a long finish. A long finish is generally a sign of quality.

DON’T wear perfume or aftershave

Nothing say amateur like turning up at a wine tasting with very strong perfume. It actually affects those around you a lot more as you will have got used to your own aroma but it makes it very hard for people near you to taste. Avoid at all costs, but bring some in your bag for afterwards if you feel naked without it!

DON’T hold the bowl

Always hold your glass by the stem, not the bowl. Not only will you get grubby fingerprints on the glass, but you’ll also affect the temperature of the wine which will impinge on your tasting ability. It’s also another sure fire way to annoy those wine snobs

DON’T go on an empty stomach

It’s always advisable to have something to eat before a wine tasting, even if you aren’t swallowing. All those small sips can quickly add up and you can end up consuming more than you think.

DON’T wear a white shirt

Believe us, it’s not worth it.

So there you have it – a few tips to take with you. You’re now ready to go out and face the world of wine tasting! Why not do it on one of our wine tasting tours around the world? Provence? Bordeaux? South Africa? Or some less-known destinations? The choice is yours. 


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