Spit Without Fear

Illustration by Bonnie Dain

First-time visitors often find tasting rooms scary. Here's a quick guide to wine-tasting etiquette.

  • Make a Reservation Some wineries require advance bookings for groups of eight or more--they may even set you up in a separate area to keep the bar clear for other customers.
  • Know the Routine Tasting rituals aren't silly rules to make you look like a snob: They serve a practical purpose for appreciating wine. Once you've got a glass in front of you, start by looking at the wine's clarity (it shouldn't be at all murky) and color. White wine generally gets darker with age, while red wines grow paler. Next, stick your nose into the glass and inhale deeply. Try to pick out the aromas: Citrus? Chocolate? Leather? Next, swirl the wine around in the glass a few times and smell it again. Exposure to the air changes the bouquet. Then take a sip, rolling the wine over your tongue for a few seconds before you swallow.
  • Control Your Intake A tasting room is one of the few places women can get away with spitting in public. If you plan on a full day of tasting, you should be spitting from time to time: While wineries encourage you to relax and have a good time, getting sloshed is a no-no.
  • Let the Pourers Set the Pace Listen first to what they have to say: You don't want to knock back your glass before they've even finished describing the wine you're tasting. And never tell them how much to put in your glass.
  • Don't Be a Pain Banging down your glass or waving it to get the pourer's attention won't win you any friends. Once you've finished your tasting, don't hover around the bar and block others from coming up.
  • Show Your Appreciation Unlike at a restaurant or bar, there's no hard policy for tipping in a tasting room. Gratuities are by no means expected at wineries, and you won't look like a cheapskate if you don't do it. If you're with a party that's spent a lot of time at the table or have had an outstanding experience with the pourer, $5 to $10 is a nice gesture.
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