Comportment at a Wine Tasting: A Totally Biased Guide

I’ve poured a lot of wine for people, both professionally and in all manner of personal pursuits. At DCanter, we offer tastings on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and if I’m not there, I’m probably out tasting somewhere else. Either way, there’s a good chance I’m spending a decent chunk of my weekend in a tasting room.

There are certain things I’ve noticed about general comportment at a wine tasting. As someone who enjoys a good wine tasting and likes to make them enjoyable for others, allow me to share my completely biased, uncensored and totally subjective viewpoints.

Snark and opinions. I have both in abundance.

Don’t chew gum. People, please. Don’t come in to taste wine with gum in your mouth. Or mints. Or...whatever. You’re tasting wine. Emphasis on the “taste” part. You cannot taste or assess a wine with gum, mints, chocolate, or whatever else you might be chomping on that’s impacting your taste buds. It’s my opinion that I’m wasting the wine on you, since you can’t taste it, so a little part of my soul dies when I pour the wine for you anyway.

Wine tasting is not happy hour. I get it. Wine is fun. Wine should be fun. Wine is inherently a social experience. Tasting wine in a tasting room or at a winery, though, should actually be a little bit about the wine. It gets annoying for everyone - the people pouring wine, the other people trying to ask questions - when you come in with your three friends and nurse that 2-sip pour I’ve given you while you discuss the latest episode of Game of Thrones or how that new girl in IT is soooo hawwwt. Plus, you’re gabbing over my decently-researched (and thoroughly entertaining!) schpiel on how this wine ended up in your glass. And you’re hogging the tasting table, which is annoying me, the tasters next to you, and those waiting behind you to taste. The time for dishing out the latest goss over some good wine is at the end of the tasting - when you buy a bottle to sit and sip at the winery, or to take home and pour for your friends.

Ask questions. Go out on a limb and learn a little something. Mention the flavors you’re tasting in the wine, ask how long it was aged, what food pairing would work best, etc. There are no dumb questions, and trust me, the people pouring the wine will love you for being interested. (It also might get you some extra pours, or a taste of something special! Genuine and polite curiosity goes a long way.)

Don’t chug. It’s not a shot of tequila, weirdos. Take a sip and actually taste the wine. Slow down a little and pay attention to your senses. That’s the point of wine - to be savored!

It’s ok to pour out wine you don’t like. The point of tasting is to help you define what you like in a wine. You won’t like every wine that’s poured for you, and that’s totally okay! Every tasting will have a “spit bucket” or a “dump bucket” or a place to pour out the wine you don’t like. If you encounter a wine that doesn’t mesh with your taste buds, pour it out. Don’t feel bad about it. There’s nothing I hate more than watching someone force down a wine they don’t enjoy.

Don’t be a creep. This should obviously go without saying. But for anyone who has ever worked in a field that involves engaging the public with frequency, you know exactly what I mean by this. I’m giving you that sympathetic, knowing look right now (and air high-fiving you in solidarity). The general rule of thumb here, people, is to avoid being That Guy (or girl).

I realize this post is laden with quite a bit of snark. (Sorry...not sorry?) At the end of the day, we all know wine tastings should be fun. Wine should never be a stressful experience. (Except when you’re assessing 3 wines blind in an exam setting or being quizzed on wine structure by a Master Sommelier in front of 150 other people who are all looking on and being Very Judgy. Then I find wine can induce high levels of anxiety and sheer blind panic because IT ALL STARTS TO SMELL THE SAME GAHHH). But in your haste to relax, try not to make it too stressful for others. Just, you know….keep it chill. And maybe appreciate the wine a little bit.