First wine tasting? 11 things to keep in mind

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The idea of ​​tasting seems quite simple. If you love wine and aren’t averse to trying a new one or two, then that’s pretty self-explanatory, right?

Well, yes and no.

Wine tasting itself is about as easy as it sounds. But still, if you’ve never been there before, it’s understandable that you have questions. You might even think it sounds intimidating: “Wine tasting? Isn’t it for people who drink wine often, or even buy wine often?

Well, here we are with good news: it’s all you want it to be. If you’re looking to explore and learn more about wine, start here. We will cover the basics. On the flip side, if you’ve got a bachelorette party that involves a wine tour, but you don’t drink it often and don’t know exactly where to hang out, start here. We’ll cover the basics!

Take a seat at the bar and let’s talk about wine.


1. You not you have to be an expert.

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You just have to know what you like.

And when it comes to your personal preferences, there are no right or wrong answers. We get it: sometimes you walk into a cellar and there are people spinning their glasses, freely discussing the tasting notes and tannins (what is a tannin, anyway? I’ll get to that later), and you might feel like you don’t belong. But hey, remember that everyone started somewhere, just like any other activity. You’ll get there too, if you want to, of course. And if not, hey, no pressure. Taste some wine and leave the experience in the past if this is a social situation you have to participate. But really: don’t feel like wine tasting is just for snobs and seasoned foodies. Anyone can taste wine. As long as you’re 21 or older, you should be golden.

2. You can drink it all or pour in a little – it’s up to you.

You will likely see containers that look like vases along the bar or counter. If you feel like pouring wine, or (politely) spitting it back, these “spittoons” are there for you. It is not rude or against etiquette to use them. You can’t expect everything to love! By the way, your pourer will likely give you wine samples of around 1 to 3 ounces, so you can take that information for what it’s worth. If you have a full stomach you are ok with that size of a glass and you enjoy your wine, drink it! Otherwise, no pressure. Throw it. Which brings us to # 3.

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3. Drink responsibly.

If you have to flip some wine to stay responsible, this is probably your best bet. If you make multiple stops on a wine tour, do yourself a favor: hydrate, eat along the way, and get a driver. In fact, it doesn’t matter if you are on a tour, getting or designating a driver, if staying below the legal limit is going to be a problem. For a whole host of reasons, you don’t want to be that drunken person in the cellar. It’s just not pretty. Stay safe, everyone!

4. Pourers / sommeliers (wine professionals) are there to help – ask!

Unless you’ve chosen a particularly crazy time of day to visit or under similar circumstances, these wine professionals are usually there to chat. They love to share their knowledge, ask you what you like, and help you find the perfect wine. Take advantage of these people. Choose their brain. Find out about the conditions under which a certain wine was grown. Or what “notes” they or they taste. (It just means the things they pick up: smoky flavors, fruit, etc.). Hang on some recommendations. Sometimes they even offer free tastings or open a bottle that is not on the menu.

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5. You can make comfortable choices or think outside the box.

Do you like dry reds? Stick to these and it’s safe to say you’ll likely be a happy camper. Or if you only drink whites, maybe try a bold burst of reds. Again, this experience is all you want to do with it. It’s like one of those do-it-yourself adventure books. But be confident. Laugh with the pourer if you don’t know how to pronounce “Gewürztraminer”. Or if wine isn’t your style after all, take a walk in the park or share the cheese board with your partner. The cellar could even offer beer or soft drinks. Ask!

6. Sometimes you will need an appointment, sometimes not.

With a lot of this advice, it will come down to the details: the estate itself, the region, the time of year, etc. But the good news is, it’s 2021, and you’d be hard pressed to find an estate or tasting room that did NOT have a website, phone number, multiple social media accounts, and Yelp reviews. Do your research. Make sure to jot down the times (some places are also seasonal), check the appointment situation and if appointments are welcome, walk around and say you want to do a tasting. It’s not always as stiff as you might imagine. Dress is generally casual and you can stay as long or as little time as you want, within reason of course.

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7. Some tastings are free, most are not.

Again, it depends on where you are. You might want to research this information ahead of time, so you don’t get caught off guard. Keep in mind that there are usually offers – for example, if you buy a bottle, your tasting fee may be waived. And hey, if you’re tasting for free and enjoying your wine, it’s common to buy a bottle, especially if the prices are reasonable. Tastings can range from $ 5 per person to around $ 50, as if you are in the Napa (California) area.

8. Taste the fame of the vineyard or the region.

If you are in Napa, you will be surrounded by cabernet sauvignon. If you’re in upstate New York, the pourers might rave about the ice wine. Try what they recommend. Taxiing in the Midwest might not be that great, but that’s to be expected.

9. Want to move to a more upscale location?

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OK, OK, we know: we said you shouldn’t care. But if you find yourself a bit out of place and want some must-have moves, we’ll introduce you to the following:

  • Imagine your wine is like a scratch and sniff sticker, except that you are not touching and touching it.

  • That said, give your wine a big swirl in the glass.

  • Lower your nose to the brim and breathe in deeply. All vortices allow oxygen to enter the wine and become more fragrant.

  • Take a strong whiff of wine before tasting it, which prepares your palate for the flavors to come.

  • To drink! Talk about what you just experienced. Remember, there are no wrong answers.

10. Don’t automatically assume that you have to tip.

This one is almost hard to write because we understand: it was great service and you want to tip. Just brace yourself, your tasting room might happily accept, or you might be turned down.

Author’s Note: I have been refused several times.

Just keep in mind that these are not restaurant waiters earning a low hourly wage because they depend on tips. Sometimes you might even chat with the winemaker himself. It’s always nice to give, especially if you’re with a large group, but you should know that it’s not as expected as the 20-25% you would leave after dinner.

11. Have fun!

It’s a cliché trick, but that’s what you’re here for, right? Have fun. Do not stress.

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By the way, tannins are textural elements that give wines a dry taste. (Remember we mentioned them earlier?) They are found in plants, seeds, bark, wood, leaves and skins of fruits, according to winefolly.com. And now you know! You can go to Google for a longer and more in-depth explanation if you wish; we just found this the nicest one.

A final note from the author: I’m not an expert either. As a person from the Midwest with no knowledge or experience in wine, I encountered many tasting situations during a four year stay in Northern California, and I felt the ‘what should I do. to do ? Nerves. I ended up really enjoying learning wine, and still consider it a hobby. I just thought I would pass on what I learned!

Any advice or expertise that we have left aside? Let us know in the comments.


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