Manners Matter: Wine Tasting Etiquette 101



I subscribe to an informative daily wine newsletter called "The Daily Sip." It's usually full of little tips about what wine to buy or articles about the latest trends in the wine biz. Recently they published "Wine Etiquette 101," a guide to tasting that really hit home.

For the most part, Nashville wine and spirits enthusiasts are a respectful lot. In fact, at last month's Nashville Whiskey Festival, more than one producer commented about how respectful the tasters were and how at many events like that one, they could expect several patrons to be hauled out knee-walking drunk within the first couple of hours.

At the majority of in-store tastings and restaurant events I attend, tasters are polite and listen to whoever is doing the educating about the various varietals and wines. But there are a few events in town that you can depend on becoming a swillfest with attendees throwing elbows to get to the front of the line and chug a glass of the best hooch without learning a darned thing about the winemaker's portfolio.

So here are The Daily Sip's tips along with some of my real-world experiences:

Remember to not hog the table. Once you get a sip of wine, you should then move to the side or out of the way so that others can be poured. If you want to ask the winemaker a question, move to the side then wait for a moment when there are fewer people.

Sometimes it's hard to figure out the flow around the room at a large tasting. You shouldn't plan or try to sample every single wine out of 20 tables, so concentrate on what you like or what you haven't tried yet. If there's a printed guide, use it to plan your time wisely.

Don't carry a big purse or computer case into the tasting. Bumping other tasters with your stuff as they balance wine glasses can make the tasting less enjoyable.

Keeping at least one hand free is essential, especially if you're taking notes to remember your favorites.

When you ask for a taste, ask for the wine by name or varietal.

At some of the larger charity tasting events, the people pouring are volunteers who don't work in the industry. Help them out by asking for the wine by name if you can read it. Don't just point and say "the green bottle."

It is not necessary to rinse your glass with water between each wine (or even each table). Water has a big diluting effect on the wine to come. You only need to rinse your glass with water is if the wine you just tried was flawed. Shake the water out well (or dry the glass) before moving on.

Opinions vary on this one, but I try to rinse between whites and reds or whenever I visit a new table. If you ask, sometimes they'll pour you a skosh of their cheapest white to rinse with. That's the best method.

Spit. Don't be afraid to spit. At a tasting you are not expected to drink or like every wine poured for you.

It seems ironic that the more expensive the tasting or the wines are, the more likely that folks are to spit instead of swallow. Feel free to use your discretion, but remember that you do have to find a way home after you're done, and it's easy to underestimate exactly how much you've drunk in total when it's one sip at a time.

Don’t stand in front of the spit bucket or block other’s access to it (this should seem like basic self preservation).

Yeah ... you won't make this mistake more than once.

Be considerate of all comments while in front of the producer.

If the producer or a wine store employee is working the table, I usually ask them in what order they suggest tasting the wines. They appreciate that and are more likely to reach under the table for a hidden bottle of the good stuff if you take a sincere interest in their whole portfolio.

Know when it’s time to move to the next table.

If you are tasting everything, understand that you should wait for others to join in and try wines you have already had. The goal is for as many wine lovers and wine makers to meet each other and spend an appropriate amount of time together.

Don’t stand at the food table scarfing down all the cheese and appetizers. This is a wine tasting; not dinner.

I will admit to having a couple of those combination plate/wine glass holders, but I've never actually brought one to a tasting. They are handy at a tailgater, though.

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