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Wine tasting 101 - tips and etiquette

Wine tasting 101 – tips and etiquette

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A wine tasting is a great way to spend time with friends and family. While it is a fun and educational experience, many – especially those going for the first time – are not sure what to do when they arrive at the tasting room. The tips below will help make the experience fun and relaxed.

If you go, go prepared

Many wine rooms are happy to have guests drop in, but there are those that require a reservation. Before heading out, make sure to call ahead and find out. When the day of the wine tasting arrives, wear comfortable but nicer clothing as a nod of respect to the vineyard. Clothing should also be weather appropriate as there may be some walking to get from the car to the tasting room. Do not wear that favorite perfume or cologne as the scent can throw off the aroma and taste of the wine.

Once at the tasting room, make sure to be prepared for tasting fees. Most wineries will have them, but they may be offset by purchasing bottles of the wine you enjoyed. Most of us visiting wineries are not experts, but if someone is an expert, don't show off. Many winery staff will be entry level employees, not industry experts. It is not polite to embarrass them or show off.

While it is important to moderate how much wine is consumed, it is also OK to not spit. It is fun to consume some wine when on an outing. Having said that, don't be afraid to dump – even if it is a favorite wine. Dumping will not be considered rude by the winery staff and can help with the moderation.

What to look for when studying wine

There are a few things to visually look for in the wine. Start with clarity. Look at how clear the wine is – haziness or cloudiness can mean too much fermentation and therefore a faulty wine. Look for the color of the wine. A young red wine will be purple or ruby in color. A young white wine will have hints of green on the rim.

Another thing to look for is if there are legs or tears down the side of the glass. Legs are caused by the alcohol evaporating faster and lower surface tension on the water. Also, look to see if there is sediment. As red wines age, sediment becomes more common.

How you hold the wine glass matters

Once the tasting begins, make sure to start with the lighter wines and move towards the heavier wines. Save the sweetest for last so that it does not interfere with anything else that is tried. Swirling the glass of wine helps to aerate the aromas. The best way to do this is to sit the glass on a flat surface and swirl in a circular direction to keep everything moving the same way and avoid over-jostling the wine.

Hold the glass by the stem. This will prevent hands from raising the temperature of the wine. Different types of wine are served at different optimal temperatures. Breathe in deeply before taking a sip. The aromas of a wine are important to the experience. Take a sip and swirl the wine around, coating all surfaces inside the mouth. Our mouths pick up different taste in different parts and swirling will help pick up on those tastes. Consider how sweet the wine is. How much heat can you feel in your throat? The more heat, the higher the alcohol content. What flavors can you taste? How long does the wine linger after your swallow or spit? Count the seconds – a good wine will last about 10 seconds and even better wines can last 30 seconds or more.

These tips can help make a wine tasting trip a fun experience with family and friends. Even the most novice wine taster can feel confident they know what to do. For the more experienced sommelier, it can be a good reminder. Whatever the level of experience, ask questions about the wine that is tried and enjoy.

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