Some people take wine very seriously – too seriously, in fact. Such people have a habit of ruining wine for the rest of us, unfortunately. Wine is one of life’s great pleasures, and there is nobody better than a wine snob to suck all the fun out of the wine experience. However, there are some instances when it is necessary to take wine a little bit more seriously, and number one on the list is surely at a formal wine tasting.
Wine tasting events
Tasting wine formally is part art and part science. For many, it is a skill honed over a lifetime of enjoying wine, for others it is a necessary skill for their career as a sommelier or other wine professional. Whatever the motivations, there are a lot of people out there that like to attend formal wine tasting events. These events can range from small, locally-organised affairs at a bar or wine shop to guided wine tasting sessions at individual wineries all the way up to massive, international affairs over multiple days, such as the annual Bordeaux Tasting every December in France, which has wines from Bordeaux and elsewhere besides. Some are strictly for professionals, though many are open to the public.
Assuming that you’re not a member of the wine trade or a seasoned wine tasting attendee, we’ve put together a few tips – the etiquette of how to behave at a wine tasting!
To spit or not to spit?
For professional events, spitting is virtually mandatory. Any serious wine tasting event will provide spittoons, and with good reason: Drink too much during an event and at best you will miss out on the individual nuance of individual wines and, at worst, you’ll make a fool of yourself. Those little tasting measures can add up surprisingly quickly! For wine tasting events for the general public, it’s not mandatory. Tasting room workers may not begrudge you for not spitting, and some may see it as you paying a compliment to the wine. Keep two things in mind though: First, if you’re the designated driver, don’t take the risk. Second, even if you’re not, pay attention to your limits and don’t go overboard.
This isn’t a wine bar. You’re here to taste a host of different wines, possibly from different producers. If there is a sales component and you can directly buy the wines from the producer there and then, it’s acceptable to explain that you are interested in purchasing and that you’d like a second taste. Otherwise, leave some for the rest of us. Some stalls will have many wines showing, in which case it’s OK for you to expect to try many. In the case of a stall with just one wine, particularly if it is something rare or expensive, it’s not reasonable or fair – to anybody – to demand excessive refills.
Talking to the server
Servers are people, too. Sometimes they are the winemaker, the owner or some other winery representative. In any of these cases, they will be delighted to discuss the wine, the winery and everything in between. This is great, and it’s always better to at least say hello. However, these guys are working, and they’re usually busy. If there’s a queue of others waiting to get a taste and have a word with the server, be considerate and keep your interactions brief. You can always ask for a business card or similar for later correspondence.
Bring your own…glasses?
It may sound strange, but some wine tasting attendees insist on bringing their own wine glasses. We think it’s a little rude, particularly as most events will design their own special glasses. A wine tasting event would be within its rights to stop you from bringing your own glass, but if somehow they let you, at least bring something of a high quality such as Riedel Sommeliers Bordeaux Grand Cru!