Monday, October 29, 2007

Getting the Most from your Tasting Trip

Click to enlarge.

We’ve compiled some etiquette points to help you get the most pleasurable experience from you tasting trip. Note that none of these prohibit having fun, getting excited or falling in love. So have a good time, learn lots and go discover that one truly outstanding wine that you have dreamed about. It is out there.

Scents don’t make sense
A huge, big no-no is wearing scent to a wine tasting room. This includes perfumes, after-shave, cologne, scented body lotions, etc. Smell is such an important aspect of wine tasting, and it is courteous to not interfere with other tasters’ (and your) ability to smell the wine.

Adding tobacco notes to your notes
Don't smoke anywhere near the tasting room. Smell is important and no one wants to smell smoky wine aromas. Additionally, smoking before or during a wine tasting will affect your taste of the wines.

Altoids, "Curiously Strong"
Mints and gums before a wine tasting will alter your tasting notes.

Sometimes it hurts…
The tasting table or bar will have a “dump bucket” for unfinished wine. It is acceptable to not finish a glass of wine. (I know, sometimes it hurts. But we all understand.)

Spit like the pros spit
If you have the opportunity to spit, it’s okay. That is what the professional tasters do.

No thanks
It is perfectly okay to pass up wines in a flight if you do not want to taste the full flight.

It's the law.
Tasting rooms will not serve patrons that are obviously intoxicated.

You're not eating soup at your Aunt Martha’s house. Slurp, it's okay.
Wine tasters are making that sound to draw air into their mouth and aerate the wine to enhance the taste. Slurping is acceptable.

Don’t announce what your thoughts of the wines are before everyone has tasted the wine. Allow everyone time to taste the wine and contemplate its flavors.

Don’t ask for a second taste of a particular wine, unless you have indicated that you intend to purchase the bottle of wine.

I can’t hear myself drink
Don’t be too loud and rowdy when with a group of friends. This ruins the atmosphere of the winery/tasting room, and disrupts others’ concentration when they are processing the wine experience.

Discretion is the better part of valor
Refrain from saying any negative comments about the wine, please keep them to yourself, especially if you are tasting wine at a winery. Keep in mind that every wine has its own style. On this trip, I tasted a very expensive, very well respected wine that I actually paid a $15.00 fee to try a flight of two wines to try. I was thinking, “I wished I called for my stunt palate.” This wine was on our short-list because it got a lot of respect from some important opinion leaders. I didn’t like it. No one but Taster A will know my thoughts. Deep in my heart, I know that the wine was technically correct, well balanced, very young, and meant to be aged for a decade.

Thanks, but no thanks
Don’t feel guilty if you do not purchase a bottle of wine. Buy only the wine you like, and do not feel obligated to purchase wine just because you visited a tasting room, especially if you paid a tasting fee. If you spend a good deal of time with the staff, ask a lot of questions, have been given great service, a purchase may be indicated.

When a fee is charged, it is usually okay for two people to share one glass and pay only one tasting fee. We have even be asked if we wanted two tastings or if we were sharing by our pourer.

Goodie basket
Pack some food! There are plenty of places to picnic. Slowing down the day not only keeps your head on straight, but gives your palate a chance to chill out. You’re in wine country, enjoy yourself! Treat yourself to time outside.

Slowing down
Most tasting room do’s and don’ts warn about drinking too much wine. On my first tasting trips, I found that I would get a buzz although I only consumed two to three ounces of wine. Then it came to me, breathing in the alcohol vapors were going “straight to my head”. Slowing down the process and taking notes like we have done on this trip has really made a difference.

The Fear of Flying
Flying wine home? Check the website for the latest rules regarding alcohol. Many wineries have special gorilla proof wine boxes for check-in baggage and there are some great wine carriers available on-line and at wine accessory stores. At the time of this posting, you can carry on a corkscrew.

Can’t ship there from here
Many wineries have “clubs” and will send wines to you home. Some states will not allow shipments. Our state is one of them. Ask the associate. DO NOT try to bypass the laws of your land. You shipper will be in deep doo-doo and you may lose your wine if you try to sneak a bottle or five into a box and bring it to the post office and you get busted.

Did that a pinot blanc go blank?
Taking notes is a good thing to do! This slows down the process, gives you a chance to remember that very special Pinot Noir and why you thought it was so great. It is really validating when you compare notes and come up with the same perceptions. Then when you buy a bottle or ten and drink that wine five years from now, you can see how it has changed. (Okay, you know that I am not a buy now, enjoy much later kind of guy, but you get the idea!)

Taster A with his hands full still has time to take tasting notes.