Not only is wine tasting a fantastic time, but it’s also the best way to learn about wine! It wasn’t until I started regularly wine tasting that I started to tap into which varietals I enjoy most, and what I like or don’t like when it comes to wine. It was also where I came to understand the myriad of factors and processes that impact the final product, including all things viticulture (growing and harvesting wine grapes), winemaking practices, barrel aging, and more. In short, wine tasting has made up the vast majority of my not-so-formal wine education!
If you’re new to wine, or new to wine tasting, the wine tasting experience can feel a little intimidating, especially if you’re among more experienced winos. Don’t worry, I got you. Below we’ll dive into a few tips on how to make it look like you know what you’re doing at a wine tasting, even if you have absolutely no idea. Fake it ’till ya make it definitely applies here!
1. Wine Tasting Etiquette
Even in the most casual of wine tasting settings, etiquette does matter. It’s all about ensuring a wonderful experience for you, the people around you, and the staff at the winery. Here are a couple often overlooked wine tasting etiquette tips:
Hygiene & Fragrance
Wine tasting is a sensory experience where you rely on your sense of smell to evaluate the wine, which can also impact what you taste. If you’re subject to your own aroma—or somebody else’s—it can impact your experience with the wine, and usually not in a positive way. Be sure to take care of your hygiene before you go out wine tasting, and skip the cologne, perfume, or body spray. There is nothing worse than having to choke down Chanel No. 5 or BO while trying to enjoy a wine tasting!
Be mindful of what you’re wearing on your lips when you go out wine tasting. Lipstick or gloss can be quite difficult to remove from wine glasses and it’s a giant pain for those that have to clean your glass when you’re finished. Skip the sticky, sparkly lipstuff when you go wine tasting. If you do like wearing color on your lips, go for a long wear lipstick or stain that won’t easily transfer to your glass.
If you wind up wearing something sticky on your lips, drink out of the same spot of the glass every time you take a sip. This will ensure that your lipstuff is only on one spot rather than all the way around around the rim.
Keeping these simple etiquette tips in mind will make you look like an expert even if you’re far from it!
2. Take Wine Tasting Notes!
I’d highly recommend bringing a notebook and attempting to take notes when you go wine tasting. Having a notebook out while tasting is an indicator that you are actually interested in learning, and it makes you appear that you are educated about wine! Often times, this means that person hosting your tasting will spend a bit more time to explain all the things. Jotting down notes on what they say is a great way to start learning about all things wine!
A wine tasting journal, like this one from Wine Folly, can help guide you through your tasting. I find these types of journals helpful when I have more time to spend with each tasting and can put some thought into detailed notes. That being said, a blank notebook works just as well! Here are a few things you can jot down in your notes:
- The types grapes used in the wine
- Where the fruit came from and any specs about the vineyard or farming practices
- How the wine was made and aged
- Color and intensity of the wine (how it looks)
- Aromas in the wine (what it smells like)
- Flavors in the wine (what is tastes like)
- What the wine feels like in your mouth
Taking notes has enabled me to identify trends over time in terms of what I like. If there is something that really stood out to you, or something you really didn’t like, make sure to indicate that in your notes!
If taking notes feels overwhelming or you don’t feel like you can take good notes, don’t worry! Writing tasting notes is a skill and it takes practice. As you learn more about wine, as you taste more often, and as you take more notes, it will become easier. You’ll still look like a pro, even if you’re not an expert tasting notes writer.
3. How to Hold a Glass While Wine Tasting
As weird as it sounds, there is a right way and a wrong way to hold a wine glass. If you’re doing it wrong… well, that’s an indicator that you have no idea what you’re doing, and we are here to make it look like you know what you’re doing!
It’s common to see people holding a wine glass by the bowl of the glass, thanks in part to TV and movies that can’t quite get it right. It’s equally as cringe-y as seeing improper firearm grip on the silver screen. In short, holding a wine glass by the bowl or cupping the glass is a no-go! Not only does it make you look like a newbie, but the heat of your hand can impact the temperature of the wine. We don’t want that!
For a wine glass with a stem, always hold the glass by the stem or the base of the glass. This goes for any time you have the glass in your hand, whether you are taking a sip or carrying a glass around as you socialize.
For stemless glasses, avoid cupping the glass in your hand. It’s tempting to cup the glass considering there is no stem, but this isn’t the best approach. Hold a stemless glass by the sides of the glass—I try to keep my hand above the wine.
I hope you found these tips helpful! Put them into practice next time you go wine tasting and let me know how it goes. Stay tuned for Part 2, coming soon. In the meantime, you can also check out my post on the 4 Rule of Wine Tasting. Cheers!