Golden Rules For Wine Tasting

By Chris King
Posted on Jul 01, 2019 @ 02:22 PM in Santa Barbara Estate Wine Tours

It’s finally here, your first wine tour! You’ve eaten a big breakfast, are well caffeinated and hydrated, dressed in layers, and have on sensible shoes! You’ve done everything in your power to ensure that 6:30 p.m. Buchon dinner reservation doesn’t go to waste.

Now comes the best part, enjoying the wine! Here at Next Adventure, we pride ourselves on being respectful hosts, sometimes we find ourselves with less than perfect guests, we’ve got the 4-1-1 on wine tasting etiquette, and are here to make sure that your tasting experience is fun for you, and a great experience for your tasting hosts as well!

While minding your manners may come naturally to some, it may be daunting to others who may not have been wine tasting before. It’s still a great idea to keep apprised of what is considered rude, distasteful (no pun intended) and downright illegal, of course!

Try not to show off: Even in you’re a Master Sommelier, it’s always a good idea to keep your vast knowledge of wine to yourself when it comes to the everyday wine tour. While your tasting host is likely very invested in learning as much about his/ her winery as possible, it’s important to keep in mind that it may not be their obsession. Many tasting hosts are local residents who enjoy working in the wine industry, and the many lifestyle benefits of working in a low-stress environment. While they may not have the knowledge or tools that you have, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask questions! Your tasting host is here to teach you about their wine and should be able to answer most questions about the wine making process and the winery itself; it doesn’t mean they are all going to be aficionados.

Pour it out: Five wines, times about an ounce and a half—yep that’s a glass to a glass and a half of wine at each winery. It adds up! You should never hesitate to dump a wine that maybe isn’t for you. Not a Chardonnay fan? Take a sip anyhow! After all, Chardonnay might be your favorite varietal, you just may not have found the perfect one yet. While we do recommend at least trying every wine that’s offered, that doesn’t mean you have to finish the entire pour. Spitting is socially acceptable and your tasting host knows that wine is subjective. No dump bucket in sight? Grab a water cup to dump in, or ask your host!

Don’t wear cologne or perfume: Just don’t do it. So much of wine tasting is about scent and even if your favorite fragrance doesn’t offend you, it could completely ruin the experience for your neighbors and fellow tasters! In addition to not wearing scents, we strongly recommend not smoking before, or during your tour either. While some wineries do offer smoking areas, we strongly recommend abstaining until after the tour is complete to ensure your palate is in top shape!

Revisit one wine if appropriate: Revisit is not an excuse to get free wine. It’s intended to let you really get a feel for a specific wine that you might be interested in purchasing. As an industry insider, I am reminded of a recent experience where a driver was overheard telling his group to “be sure to ask to revisit” in order to get the most out of their experience. There is nothing more frustrating for a tasting host that an inebriated customer. Even if you mind your p’s and q’s while intoxicated, it’s still considered in ‘pour’ taste to ask for more than what is included in the tasting.

Buy, don’t squabble: Buying wine is the main purpose behind a wine tour. It is the foundation on what being able to taste was built on. While buying isn’t a must, it is definitely encouraged and appreciated. While it isn’t necessary to buy at each winery, you should try to go home with at least a few bottles at the end of the day. That said, there is no room for discussion when it comes to wine prices. Bottle cost and discounts should be disclosed via your tasting notes/ sheets and are absolutely non-negotiable. If you want to get the most bang for your buck, many wineries offer discounts if you join their wine club. The best way to enjoy your favorite wines is to join the club! Most local wineries have wine clubs that range from 8 - 12 bottles per year. If you can’t finish 8 - 12 bottles in a year, we’ll be more than glad to help you; when we’re not driving of course!

Don’t ask for wines that aren’t on the flight: Do ask your tasting host if they have anything else open that you might enjoy—sometimes wineries open special bottles for club members, big buyers, etc… if they happen to have a reserve wine open, it doesn’t hurt to ask to try a little. Do be sure not to press the issue though. If a tasting host says no, understand that they too have a boss and don’t enjoy saying no as much as you don’t like hearing it.

Should you tip? That all depends: While some wineries may ask if you’d like to leave a tip after purchasing with your credit card; some might have a jar on the counter that you’re welcome to add to. Our rules for tipping include ensuring that the person who hosted delivered a solid experience. After all, tipping should always be a reward for exceptional service. Same goes for wineries, if someone knocks your socks off, let them know. There is no discount for great service, and tasting attendants and tour hosts always appreciate a reward for a job well done!

Never pour your own wine: There is no quicker way to abruptly end a wine tour than to get caught grabbing the bottle to help yourself. Not only is this illegal, but it’s also the ultimate rude behavior. Even if the tasting host isn’t looking, there is never an excuse to help yourself to wine.

Enjoy yourself: Don’t get too inebriated: Wine tours are all about the experience, if at any point during the tour you feel yourself having TOO much fun, there is nothing wrong with abstaining from the rest of the flight. You may be having a great time but nobody wants to be hungover while on vacation!

While there are plenty more rules for wine tasting, this should start you down a great path for your first tasting experience. If you need more advice on how to act like a lady, or gentleman while tasting, be sure to ask what is acceptable. Your winery representatives will thank you!