Public wine tastings offer the opportunity to explore a variety of wines in a short period of time. If one is alert and takes some notice of what he or she is tasting, it’s easy to make new discoveries and smarter choices the next time one shops.
There are some basic guidelines to follow when one is attending a public wine event, to ensure your enjoyment and to respect your guests and the winemakers who are serving you.
I’ll discuss two types of events – the guided tasting at a wine store or winery guest room, and the larger walk-around tastings, sometimes featuring over one hundred samples.
It’s a smart idea to have a small meal before attending any wine event (unless you know that lunch or dinner will be served). Remember to wear dark clothing (to lessen the damage if you spill something!) and avoid wearing any perfume or cologne (so you are to focus more clearly on the wines’ aromas).
The Guided Tasting
A guided tasting will often feature a theme of similar wines. Typically a sommelier or perhaps the winemaker him- or herself will host the tasting, and discuss the highlights of each wine. Try to check your coat and anything you are carrying before entering the tasting room, because often the table is quite cramped, especially with all the glasses on the table!
Remember to taste each wine in the order the host suggests. Don’t jump ahead and don’t assume you can “catch up” if you arrive late. Feel free to ask questions about the wines, but look for cues about whether to ask after each wine is served or if it is preferred to wait until the end of the event. Taking notes is definitely recommended.
The Walk-Around Tasting
The larger events present an almost “Lollapalooza” sized collection of wines to explore. Don’t even think about consuming all of them! You’ll want to keep one hand firmly on your glass (remember to hold from the stem!) and one hand free to write notes or gather brochures about the wines you’re trying.
It’s important to do a little strategizing before visiting the first table. First look at the event program if there is one. Are there wines featured you recognize or have always wanted to taste? You may want to visit those tables first, before your favorite selections run out.
It’s important to keep hydrated; I suggest one drinking one bottle of water for each hour you are tasting. And don’t be afraid to use the spit bucket, especially if you do not care for the wine. It will allow you to try more wines than your body would allow you if you were to swallow everything. The bucket is also there for you to discard any wine that you are through tasting or do not care for.
Respect your fellow tasters, particularly if it’s a crowded event. Learn the art of receiving your wine sample, and gracefully exiting the line. Don’t linger at a particular table if there are tasters waiting behind you. Of course, if you’re alone at a table with the pourer, feel free to ask questions about what you are tasting. You may be chatting with the winemaker him or herself!
Final Thoughts on Tasting Wine at Events
When all the wines begin to taste the same, that’s when you should find your way to a bus, or taxi, or designated driver. You are full for the evening!
I hope you have discovered some new favorites; remember to mark a star or upward arrow next to those wines in your program. Happy tasting and I hope to see you at a future event!
If you have any questions about wine tasting etiquette you can ask them in the comments section below. I am happy to help you out.
PS: Remember to send a thank you note to your host and share how much you enjoyed the wine tasting event.