Tuesday, April 19, 2022

All about Wine Tasting Etiquette

Should we behave a certain way when we go to tastings? And the answer is yes, definitely!
I believe that if you plan to be taken seriously in the wine industry or anywhere else, you need to behave.  One of the first things I learned on my first tasting that was about Ribera del Duero wines, was to spit… Yes people, please use spittoons! It's the only way you can taste several wines without getting drunk and making a fool of yourself in front of your colleagues…. Of course it required some practice to aim right and not to splash wine all over the table or on people... try to stay closer to it, and also be kind to fellow tasters, and move away from the spittoons and allow others to use them. I swear this always happens to me, some people start talking with the pourer and forget their bodies are blocking the thing, just when I need to spit my wine.These days, thankfully and because of Covid 19, wine events’ organizers give each attendee a large paper cup so that we can spit there and then pour in the actual spittoon. It’s a hassle to joggle the wine glass on one hand, the paper cup on the other and your phone to take notes, but safety comes first. 

Another important thing is to drink plenty of water and to have some food in you before tasting. This is vital for me, especially if you are tasting big wines, tannic wines, high alcohol wines, maybe it’s because I’m older now but I process alcohol differently and I feel it the very next day…so dry up inside and super thirsty… To avoid this, I make sure to drink a nice bottle of water before I go, and more during the event, especially if it’s a long session. 

You may wonder how many wines one should taste in any wine session. I have one Master Sommelier that confessed to me she can do 100 bottles in one sitting, that is way too much for me!!!!, I get palate fatigue very easily, actually my maximum during the NY Wine experience was 60 wines and in two hours (I had water and food in the middle).  Plus, when I begin to feel the fatigue… I always drink something refreshing like some sparkling wine (Champagne, ideally) or Riesling… they cleanse my palate really well and maybe help me go on a bit longer.

Yet, ideally for me, the ideal number is no more than 20 wines at a time, but when you are at a tasting event, that is impossible. Mostly because there’s so much to taste and you have such little time to do so. On top of that I also take pictures of the bottles, not only to keep their info to myself but to post on social media. A note to all event organizers please check the lighting of your venues, a setup of a rain forest, may be fun for you to show, but for us who need to take pictures it is impossible to do so because it’s so damn dark. 
Something I always take with me is my crossbody little bag, this way I don’t have to hold my large purse in one hand, while trying to swirl, taste and take pictures. I prefer to read the tasting books on my phone, but when this is not available, I take them at the end, and take pictures of the wines I like through the session, which will help me to identify whatever I tasted earlier.  
Another great tip is to always wear comfortable shoes, ideally flats, and comfy clothes… meaning keep it business oriented ok?, though this has changed over the years... you don’t want to look as if you are homeless either.
Whenever possible I try to ask questions to the pourer/winery rep, but that depends on how busy they are. Sometimes, there is no time because they need to pour to so many people. I must admit that there were occasions when I poured myself (a little bit of wine, not a whole glass), this happened when the table didn’t have a pourer (because she/he went to the bathroom) or they are talking so much making a sale, that I didn’t want to interrupt them. But, hey! my time is precious too, so don’t make me wait longer than I need.

I normally do my homework before going to large tastings, this way I know what I want to taste and where to go.My students that sometimes come with me, often have trouble keeping up. Thankfully, organizers usually send the list of wineries a few days earlier, which makes everything super easy, this way, when I arrive, I know the tables I plan to stop by. Yet the truth is that there’s so much wine out there, sometimes I don’t know all the brands… in those cases, I go to appellations that I’m interested in and avoid others. You bet I found many good surprises!!! 

Now for my next life,  I wouldn’t mind having a third arm, this way it will be easier to carry all of my stuff around including brochures, maps, shelf talkers, food, etc. A note to all producers:  make your sales materials smaller and people will definitely take them.
Cheers! Silvina.
#thoughtsoflawina #WineWednesday #winetastingetiquette 
Find me next at the Guía Peñín Wine Event, happening on May 24 at City Winery. Register here, using this code:PENIN2022. This event is open exclusively to the Media and Trade.


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