Veterans of wine country typically agree that a good tasting room experience can make even mediocre wines taste better. However, run into a surly staff member pouring wines, and no matter how good the beverage may be, it probably will not appeal to you and you most likely won’t buy it there, or anywhere. This is certainly not lost on winery owners, thus most tasting room personnel are fun, congenial, and ready to help.
Just as you would expect the personnel in the tasting rooms to respect you as a potential customer, these hard-working individuals have a right to hope they will receive like consideration from those who frequent their establishments. A little research into tasting room etiquette will allow visitors to discover not so much what is expected of them, but what they can do to make both the staff and fellow tasters more comfortable. And in accomplishing this, visitors (novice and experienced alike) will be more at ease themselves.
Preparation for Tasting Begins Before You Hop in the Tesla
- You should never go tasting on an empty stomach, even if you will be primarily spitting. You will want to enjoy the taste of the wines, too, but even when you sip lightly, the alcohol levels can often add up before you know it, so you must always be prepared. Many of our tours include lunch, and if you request, our chauffeurs will gladly recommend a stop for breakfast or a snack.
- T3 will ensure that bottled water is available, so don’t forget to drink it in between winery stops—your body will be much happier if you keep hydrated with water equal to the amount of wine you sip.
- Do not wear heavy perfumes or shaving lotions. A huge part of tasting is smell—don’t let yours interfere.
- If you are a smoker you may not yet accept that the smell of smoke invades your clothes, hair, and hands, and does so for a period of time even after the flame is extinguished. The odor can be a definite turn off for staff and consumers. A little consideration here will be much appreciated (even though people will probably never know). Remember, smoking is prohibited in T3’s vehicles, and most of the wineries have non-smoking policies as well.
- Dress for the season in layers (temperature can vary drastically from foggy mornings to sunny afternoons), and take a lightweight jacket along—caves are kept at a consistent temperature of about 55 to 60 degrees and can feel chilly at any time of year.
- Wear comfortable shoes with closed toes—treks into the vineyards often mean soft dirt, dust, and gravel.
Once You Have Arrived at the Tasting Room
- Set your cell phone on vibrate, and go outside if you have to talk. Tasters will be concentrating on hearing descriptions of the wine and answers to questions.
- There are no stupid questions if you are genuine. The winery staff is well trained to interact with novice and professional alike.
- Dump buckets have an important purpose as a receptacle for unwanted wine from the glass or mouth. Do pour out the wine remaining in your glass after you have had a sufficient tasting—your pourer will not be offended and will recognize your empty glass as a signal to pour the next taste.
- Taking notes not only helps you remember what you tasted, but it is frequently a signal to the pourers that you are serious about the tasting exercise. Often this will get you a bit more personalized treatment, and sometimes a few wines to taste that are not on the schedule for the day.
A Note About Spitting- Newcomers to tasting rooms are sometimes surprised and even offended to see other tasters spitting a mouthful of wine into the dump bucket. Actually, this is a very common and necessary practice among experienced tasters. Spitting is a tasting technique to help keep palates clean, and heads clear. In crowded tasting rooms, or where buckets are too full for comfort, request a paper or plastic cup for more discreet spitting.
Remember, the staff at tasting rooms are friendly and willing to help. Don’t forget your chauffeur is a useful source of information as well!