Wine Tasting 101

Visiting a winery tasting room may sometimes be intimidating, especially if you are not used to wine tasting and aren’t quite sure what to expect.  Following the guidelines and etiquette tips below will help enhance your experience as you travel through the wine country of California’s Central Coast. Be aware, although some wineries don’t charge for tastings, most do.  Figure an “average” tasting fee may be $10-$30. Many wineries will also waive the fee with a purchase, always ask. Ready to taste? Let’s get started!

• Don’t be self-conscious to share a tasting with your companion – it’s not looked on as being cheap, in fact, it’s smart.

• Don’t worry if you “don’t know good wine.” “Good wine” is what you like. Period.

• You don’t have to finish the glass. You are tasting, not drinking – use the dump bucket. Those little sips add up fast.

• You don’t have to like everything poured.  The reason you are tasting is to see what you do and don’t like.

• Take time to smell the roses, or wine! Swirl the wine in the bowl of the glass then take your time, put your nose into the bowl of the glass…and inhale to experience the bouquet. See what fragrances you can identify: Earthy? Lemon scented? Honeysuckle? Cherry? Tobacco? It’s okay if you don’t identify any of those things, with time and tasting you will!

• Remember the five “S’s” of wine tasting: See (the wine in the glass), Swirl, Smell, Sip and Savor. (Take a small sip. Let the liquid surround your taste buds, what flavors can you identify)?  

• Ask questions! Remember…there are no stupid questions. You are there to enjoy and learn, and your server is there to help you.

• Don’t feel self-conscious expressing your opinion, there is no right or wrong.

• Don’t feel pressured to buy a bottle or to join a wine club, (however, if the tasting is free, or if you have a private tasting with a winemaker, it is good form to purchase a bottle).

• Leave a tip if you have had a nice experience ($3-$10 generally).

• Enjoy yourself and remember, what you like today, you may not like tomorrow; your taste and palate may change, and that’s a good thing.

• Don’t wear scents into a tasting room (cologne or perfume), and try not to wear white!

• Ask your server to recommend their favorite wineries to visit.

• Seek smaller, out of the way, boutique wineries. • Hydrate – hydrate – hydrate!  Hint: Drink one glass of water for each glass of wine.

• Bring something to snack on such as crackers, breadsticks or a baguette. Take time for lunch. When picnicking at a winery, never drink wine from another winery.

• Try to plan ahead. Do some research to determine if there is a tasting fee, if appointments are necessary and the policy on dogs and children. In general, three to four wineries will fill your day.

• If possible have a designated driver. If staff feels you have had enough to drink they may refuse service, it’s for your own well-being.

• Trust your palate. Don’t worry if you don’t like what your friends or companions like. Not everyone likes the same things. This is about you – not them.

• Enjoy yourself!   


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