7 Tips for Your First Wine Tasting

Walk-around events and tasting rooms are wonderful places to sample dozens — or even hundreds — of wines. However, attending such a gathering can be a little intimidating for first-time tasters. What should you wear? What’s considered proper etiquette? Why, oh why is everyone spitting into buckets?

Luckily, wine tasting isn’t as complex or serious as it might seem. Use these tips to prepare for and thoroughly enjoy your first sipping soiree.

Look the Part

Wine tasting is an elegant affair, one that requires semi-formal attire. Consider the venue to determine the appropriate dress code and wear flats or heels for comfort. Most importantly, wear dark colors to hide any unfortunate spills. Tie back your hair and bring a purse to keep your hands free to take notes, shake hands and carry your glass.

Skip the Perfume

Personal fragrance is a no-no in the world of wine. Strong, lingering odors from perfume, deodorants and even hairspray can make you — and everyone around you — nose blind to the aromas in the wine. You don’t want to miss out on the nuances of the vinos you’re tasting, so skip the perfume and apply some unscented antiperspirant to keep other unwanted smells at bay.

Eat Something

Attending a wine tasting on an empty stomach is a surefire way to get drunk really fast. Then, you really won’t be able to taste anything, and you might even feel a little sick. Remember to eat beforehand or bring a few snacks along so you can fully enjoy the event and try as many wines as possible.

Hold the Stem

Most wine lovers hold their glass by the bowl to take a drink. However, holding your glass by the stem is best practice at wine tastings. Doing so will keep the bowl crystal clear so you can observe the color and body of each varietal. Holding the stem will also ensure a proper sampling temperature so each sip is as cool or warm as the makers intended it to be.

Use Your Nose

As previously mentioned, your nose plays a vital role in the five-step tasting process. Thus, you should take a moment to smell each glass before taking a sip. Doing so will help you get a better sense of a wine’s aroma so you know what to expect when you finally taste it. Plus, you’ll sound pretty smart when you can rattle off different scents that your chug-a-lug friends missed.

Sip and Spit

In any other setting, spitting might be impolite — not to mention gross. However, spitting the wine out is intrinsic to detecting every flavor and tasting note in this situation. In fact, the subtlest aromas often come after spitting, not swallowing, in a phenomenon called retro-olfaction. Using the spit bucket will also help you stay sober and keep your taste buds from going numb after a few too many sips.

Take Notes

You might tell yourself you’ll remember the name of that fantastic California pinot but, even if you’re spitting consistently, you’ll likely forget. Take notes and photos of the ones you like so you know which bottle to purchase when you get home. Include tasting notes, too, so you can order similar varietals in the future.

Enjoy a Bottle

Speaking of bottles, why not buy one while you’re out tasting? If you’re visiting a boutique winery or sampling a limited edition, chances are you won’t be able to find it online or even in the store. Get your hands on the stuff right then and there to make sure you have some to enjoy later. Bonus points if your purchase helps support small winemakers.

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