There is no better way to learn about wine than to taste it. That’s why belonging to a wine club can be so educational…not to mention enjoyable.
Another way to fill your vinous knowledge bank is to attend wine tastings, which can range from informal gatherings of friends to lavish walk-around feasts that fill the ballrooms of posh hotels.
But whether the wine tasting is large or small, a certain protocol always should be followed so that you—as well as the other participants—have the best possible experience. With that in mind, here are some simple dos and don’ts…
DO swirl each sample of wine around in your mouth, and then spit it out. Most tasting events will supply “dump buckets” or spittoons for this purpose. Swirling and spitting enables you to taste the flavors of the wine without experiencing the effects of the alcohol.
DON’T wear any kind of cologne, perfume, after-shave, etc. A big part of tasting involves smelling the wine, and just like cigarette smoke (another no-no), perfume can overpower a wine’s sometimes-delicate bouquet.
DO cleanse your palate between wine samples. You don’t want the lingering spiciness of a zesty Zinfandel to mask the fruitful quality of an Australian Shiraz. A bite of bread works fine; so does a sip of water.
DON’T “plant” yourself. At wine tastings where tables are set up, each boasting numerous bottles, it’s common to see someone lingering at one end of a table, sampling each and every bottle. While there’s no “rule” against this, common courtesy would suggest trying one or two wines and then moving on so others can have a chance.
DO take notes. Especially if you’re going to be tasting a few dozen wines, you’ll need a way to later recall which ones you liked the best…and why. Some events provide tasting sheets or even booklets for this purpose.
DON’T ask for a full glass of wine. That’s why it’s called a wine “tasting.” That large pour that you’re enjoying could be depriving several other people of sampling that wine.