Expert Tips for Wine Tasting Etiquette!

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Cheers! It’s the time of year when we make plans to close out the successes of one year and plan for the adventures of the next one. Worldwide, there’s a tradition of crossing from one year to the next, celebrating what’s to come with family and friends. Any way you pour it, this celebration often includes a special beverage, punch or bubbly!

Golf, formal dinners, weddings and wine tasting all have something important in common: etiquette. Whether you’re in a large international brand winery or a small boutique tasting room, there are things to keep in mind for a successful experience for both sides of the tasting bar.

Tasting rooms are workplaces for the owners, winemakers and tasting room staff, who strive to provide guests with a quality experience in a well-designed environment. You may find table seating, tasting bars or communal tasting tables. Regardless of the layout, etiquette helps you and everyone else enjoy the experience to the fullest.

Are you Visiting a New Winery?
Most wineries and tasting rooms have an online or social media presence that reveals hours of operation and general guidelines. Some locations do not permit dogs, for example, a good thing to know before hauling little Fluffy along to watch you taste delicious wines.

What about Tasting Fees?
Tasting fees and menus are generally the first business aspect of the wine tasting experience. Tasting fees range from $5 to $25 or more, depending on the winery, and help offset the business costs of running a winery with knowledgeable staff. Many times, the fee is credited back to your purchase, so your $30 bottle of wine is reduced. The tasting menu may offer choices of “complimentary” and “reserve” selections, indicating a tasting fee for the reserve offerings only.

Stay Scent Free
Our daily rituals often include adding a spritz of cologne or perfume. Because there are so many layers of florals, fruit, woods, grass, oak and spice in each taste of wine, even deodorants and hair products can act as a barrier when combined with your favorite scent. Being mindful of this is helpful so that we don’t distract other guests accidentally. Additionally, refraining from cigar and cigarette use can allow wine sensory experiences to be pleasant for everyone.

Don’t Go Hungry
Wine tasting can be an appetite stimulant, and it’s a good idea to enjoy some nourishment along the way. A stocked shoulder tote or picnic basket is the perfect pairing. The winery may have a policy regarding eating at the tasting room bar, however. Without meaning any harm, that saucy meatball sandwich could easily slide down the bar or splash on another guest.

Accessorize Appropriately
The perfect wine-tasting attire for men and women would include comfortable shoes for gravel walkways and uneven surfaces and handbags that are small to medium in size. It’s a shame when your perfect glass of rich Zinfandel spills because another guest bumped you with her huge purse. Use the hook under the bar for personal items.

Respectful Quiet
Is that noise in your Chardonnay? There’s no need for library silence, but all the senses are used in wine tasting and noise definitely takes away from appreciating what the wine staff is sharing with you. Your questions may not be heard if the folks next to you are yelling over the music or boisterous.

Animal Control
As much as you may enjoy traveling with your canines, you’re not in control of the environment, and allergens abound. Angry dogs, fearful children, fallen food and people allergic to animal dander aren’t a good pairing with award-winning wines. It may be best to enjoy your tasting outdoors, where leashes and collection bags are appreciated.

Age Appropriate
Wine tasting rooms serve those 21 years of age or older. If you take your children, please plan something to keep them occupied. Broken cookies, crayons or Lego pieces on the floor around adults who have been tasting wine could be a dangerous combination.

Enjoy and Share!
If you have a group of six or more, call ahead or ask the staff if there’s a separate area for groups. Many small tasting rooms can best provide excellent service when they can schedule additional staffing. Having a great time? Consider adding a tip for the special accommodation your group received, or purchase a bottle for the house to share with all the other guests who enjoyed meeting your group!

New Year’s resolutions might include adventures of new wineries, creative winemakers and trying new varietals! All these aspects of wine tasting etiquette add to the goal to have fun, enjoy wine and meet new people. Happy New Year! HLM


Eight Tips for Ensuring Tasting Success
1. Eat before you go wine tasting (and after).
2. Drink water, lots of it, between every tasting.
3. Pack an empty, chilled cooler in the trunk for your purchases.
4. Take a light wrap for drafty cellars or to cover outdoor seats.
5. Bring small items such as nuts and cheese sticks.
6. Be patient. It can get busy behind the bar.
7. Ask staff where you should go next based on what you enjoyed.
8. Join their mailing list or wine club when you appreciate their hospitality and wine!