A Primer to Wine Tasting
From France to Italy, and Australia to the USA, wine has become an influential aspect of culture. Surprisingly, the U.S. tops the world in wine consumption, beating France by 2.42 percent and Italy by 5.13 percent. Wine consumption in the U.S. rose to 913 million gallons in 2015, averaging 2.83 gallons per person a year.
The world of wine is rich with history and subtle techniques for a more enjoyable sipping experience. A quality wine tasting takes preparation, but it’s well worth the effort. For the beginner considering a trip to a local wine tasting room or vineyard, here is your guide to wine tasting:
- Know Your Type - There are many different kinds of wine tastings, each with it’s own atmosphere and decorum. For example, a wine bar will be much more relaxed than a vineyard or a professional tasting room. Decide what experience is preferred before booking.
- Make a Reservation or Call Ahead - Although most tasting rooms are open weekdays, it is essential to call ahead. They may be booked for a wedding or private event.
- Avoid Strong Scents- Wine’s aroma is to be savored. Avoid wearing perfume, lipgloss, and heavily scented soap when tasting as it will obscure the body of the wine.
- Sip Smart - Many patrons choose to spit or pour out excess wine if visiting several wine vineyards in one day. Casual venues, where the focus is more on the fun of the experience and not the education, may advise that drinking a little is fine. Even if you do like the wine, pouring out is acceptable. What all environments have in common is a dislike for inebriated patrons. Eat before arrival and pace yourself. Hydrate, eat, and take a break during the tasting.
- Wear comfortable, yet fashionable clothes - Layering your outfit will benefit those tasting in microclimates, such as California or other venues close to the ocean and even indoor in the air conditioning. Keep your heels low or choose a pair of comfy flats if the tour includes walking. Opt to carry a crossbody bag or clutch for much-needed accessories, such as glasses/sunglasses, identification, credit card and/or cash for buying and tipping.
- Try it on for size - Tastings are all about expanding your palate, so even if you aren’t particularly into rosé or reds, keep an open mind. The tasting order is historically whites, reds, and then sweet or “sticky’s”, as each level cancels out the last in boldness. To try a wine again, use the phrase “I would like to revisit…”
- Stick to the Menu - Ordering off the tasting menu or asking to open a special bottle is inappropriate for regular tasting. If you have a specific year in mind, opt for a private tasting or buy the bottle.
- Swirl, Sniff, Sip - To optimize a wine’s taste, first swirl the wine in the glass to allow oxygen to open up the flavor. Scent accounts for around 75 percent of what we taste, so don’t be afraid to take a sniff. During tasting it is okay to drink a small sip of the wine, but be considerate and keep it in moderation
- Cleanse and Hydrate - Hydrate while drinking wine because alcohol dehydrates the body. Sip water between wines to cleanse your palate and stay hydrated.
- Ask Questions - The tasting experience is educational. The tasting room staff and hosts are trained to educate about the winery they represent, so ask about the vineyard’s history. Discover wine market availability and production techniques.
Whether you’re trying a bold Malbec or sipping a light rose՜, keep these tips in mind as you discover the fine taste of one of the world’s most historic indulgences.
Sharon Schweitzer and Caitlyn Arnold. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, and the National Business Journals. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.
Caitlyn Arnold is a Spring 2017 cross-cultural communication intern at Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. She is currently a senior at St. Edward’s University, majoring in Global Studies with concentrations in East Asia and International Security. Connect with Caitlyn on LinkedIn or follow her on Instagram.
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