Wine Tasting Etiquette – Essential Tips

June 22, 2023

Wine Tasting Etiquette | Travel Raro

Wine tasting is a delightful and educational experience that allows you to explore various types of wines and discover new favorites. However, like any other social activity, it comes with certain rules and etiquette that you should follow. From how you dress to the way you hold your glass, swirl your wine, savor its aroma, and finally taste it – each step has its own protocols. 

But fear not! With a few tips on wine-tasting etiquette, you’ll be sipping and swirling like a pro in no time. 

What to wear to a wine tasting

When it comes to wine-tasting etiquette, the most important thing is to be respectful and dress appropriately for the occasion. A nice casual outfit is usually recommended – avoid anything too bright or distracting that could take away from your experience. The same goes for perfumes and fragrances – a light spray should be fine, but strongly scented perfumes are not recommended.

How to hold a wine glass

Properly holding a wine glass is an integral part of wine-tasting etiquette, enhancing both the tasting experience and the social aesthetics. The correct way to hold a wine glass is by the stem. There are several reasons for this:

Temperature Control: Wine is sensitive to temperature, and holding the glass by the bowl can warm the wine beyond its optimal tasting temperature. This is particularly true for white and sparkling wines, which are typically served chilled.

Avoid Smudging: Holding the glass by the bowl could smudge it, clouding its clarity. This interferes with the ability to accurately assess the wine’s color and consistency, which are essential aspects of the tasting process.

Aroma Preservation: The design of a wine glass, particularly the bowl, helps to concentrate the wine’s aroma. Holding it by the stem ensures that the bowl’s shape serves its purpose, allowing the wine’s bouquet to rise to the top of the glass.

The glass should be held towards the base of the stem between your thumb, forefinger, and middle finger. Your other fingers should rest on the stem, not grip tightly. This provides balance and control when you swirl the wine, helping to release its aroma without causing any spillage.

Know your wine vocabulary

Improving your wine vocabulary can make your experience more enjoyable and allow you to explain your observations and preferences better. To help you get started, here are a few basic terms:

Body: The weight and fullness of the wine in your mouth are referred to as its body. Light, medium, and full-bodied wines are available. Full-bodied wines typically contain more alcohol.

Tannins: Tannins are organic substances that are released from the grape skin, seeds, and stems. They are the ones in wine that make your mouth feel dry.

Acidity: Every wine has acidity, which helps to balance the bitter and sweet flavors. Wines with a high acidity will be tarter and crisper, while those with a low acidity will feel rounder and richer in the mouth.

Sweetness: While some wines may be moderately sweet, others may be quite dry (having no residual sugar).

Finish: Finish is the key to determining a wine’s quality. It’s also known as aftertaste—a measurement of the taste or flavors that remain on the tongue after a wine has been tasted. A wine’s finish can be short or long and might alter as it lingers.

Bouquet: Unlike the more straightforward “aromas” that arise from the grape itself, a wine’s bouquet refers to the complex aromas that emerge as it ages in the bottle.

The four steps of wine-tasting etiquette

Wine tasting is a multi-sensory experience that is generally carried out in four steps, each of which is intended to optimize the appreciation of the wine’s many aspects.

1. Look

Observing the wine’s appearance is the first step. Check the color and clarity of your glass by holding it up against a white wall. You can learn about the region, vintage, and grape variety from the wine’s color.

2. Swirl

By exposing the wine to oxygen while it is in the glass, you can encourage the release of its scents. Swirling is particularly crucial for wines with high tannin content because it helps to soften and open the wine. To prevent warming the wine with your hand, always hold the glass by the stem.

3. Smell

After swirling the wine, inhale deeply through your nose and try to identify between the various aromas. Is the wine fruity or floral in taste? Can you detect any herbs, spices, or other aromas? This stage has a significant impact on the wine’s flavor expectation.

4. Taste

Finally, take a small sip and let it coat your palate before swallowing. Pay attention to the wine’s taste and texture. Is it light or full-bodied? Dry or sweet? What flavors can you identify? Note the wine’s finish – the taste that lingers after swallowing. Is it pleasant, and does it last long?

By following these four steps – look, swirl, smell, and taste,  you may completely grasp the depth and character of a wine, enriching and remembering your wine-tasting experience.

How to use a spittoon

Spitting out wine during a tasting may sound strange, especially to newbies. However, it is an essential aspect of wine-tasting etiquette, particularly at events where many wines are tested, and here’s why:

Keeping Your Palate Clear: Wine has a powerful flavor that might linger in your mouth. Spitting helps keep your tongue clear so you can taste each wine accurately.

Avoiding Intoxication: Wine tasting is about tasting, not drinking. Depending on the number of wines available for tasting, swallowing every sip may result in higher alcohol consumption than desired. Spitting allows you to taste various wines without the effects of alcohol.

Now, let’s talk about the actual etiquette of spitting wine:

Use a Spittoon: Wineries usually provide a spittoon for this purpose. It is critical to spit quietly into these receptacles. They are also used to empty any remaining wine from your glass you may not want to finish.

Spit Discreetly:  Spitting should be done as softly and inconspicuously as possible not to distract or annoy people. If you’re uncomfortable with the concept of spitting, merely sample the wine and then pour out the rest into the spittoon.

Don’t Feel Obligated: If the prospect of spitting wine makes you uncomfortable, or if you’re only sampling a few wines, you don’t have to spit. Remember, the goal is to enjoy the wine thoroughly, and if swallowing permits you to do so, that’s fine.

Respect your host

Respecting your host is one of the most important aspects of wine-tasting etiquette. Remember that your host has put considerable effort into providing you with a unique and pleasurable wine-tasting experience. Show your appreciation by appearing on time and paying close attention during presentations and when wines are being introduced. 

Even if the wines are not to your taste, always show your gratitude for the tasting experience. Being a respectful visitor enhances your wine-tasting experience and builds strong relationships with hosts and fellow attendees.

In summary, mastering wine-tasting etiquette is all about being observant and respectful. Remember to dress appropriately, inspect your glass, and avoid any strong smells during your wine-tasting experience. Now that you know the basics of wine-tasting etiquette, you can sit back, sip, and enjoy your wine with a new level of class and refinement. Cheers to good manners and happy wine tasting!