I worked in the wine industry for 4 years, and at a wine tasting room for one of those. Let me tell you, I’ve seen some shit. Everything from the crazy drunk bachelorette parties to celebrities to know-it-alls. And although people may not act like it, there is absolutely such thing as wine tasting etiquette.
Wine tasting rooms aren’t like bars, beer gardens, or restaurants. They’re a different animal. Sometimes it’s like a wall of snooty sophistication hits you when you walk into the room. It’s almost like you have to go in and pretend to know everything about wine even if all you drink is the $11 Black Box Merlot from Fred Meyer (by the way, nothing wrong with that). It can be a pinkies-up kind of world, but I’m here to help. Follow these do’s and don’ts of wine tasting and you’ll be set for success.
Be polite. Seriously, this may sound like a given, but so many people leave their manners at home when they wine taste. Please and thank you go a long way.
Try everything. Wineries will have a set list of wines as part of their tasting line up. It usually includes a mix of white and red depending on the winery. I’ve heard so many times “I don’t like red, so I’ll just taste the whites” or “I’ll skip the Chardonnay”. But why?? Just like your mother used to say, you can’t say you don’t like it until you try it. Not all wines are created equal. This could be the one Chardonnay that makes you like Chardonnays!
Make friends. More specifically, make friends with the person pouring you wine. Ask them questions about the wine, about themselves, anything! They work at a tasting room so there’s 2 things you can assume right off the bat: they like wine and they like people. Not only does it create a more fun and engaging experience, it could also lead to an extra pour or two.
Tip. If you have a really great experience, where not only the wine is amazing, but the service was, too, then tip a couple bucks. Tipping is usually not expected, and in some cases it’s not even an option on the receipt when paying, but people working at tasting rooms always appreciate it. And they’ll likely remember you the next time you visit.
Chug wine. Yes, it’s alcohol, but it’s not a Coors Light and you’re not a freshman in college anymore. Trust me, if you’re chugging wine to get drunk faster, you don’t have to do that. You’ll be sufficiently tipsy after 2 wineries and will probably need an Uber after the 3rd. Most wine deserves to be savored, so even if you don’t know how to savor wine, just drink it slowly, smile and nod as you get poured the next one.
Presume special treatment. Suuuuuure you might know the wine maker or maybe you took an entry level wine course 12 years ago. Either way, don’t assume that you’ll receive special treatment. You could be the Sommelier at El Gaucho and still shouldn’t expect to be treated differently. In general, unless you’re Justin Timberlake or my best friend in the entire world, I would not have opened any special bottles or waived your tasting fee.
Be obnoxiously drunk. Okay, okay, it happens to the best of us, but getting drunk doesn’t give you an excuse to be obnoxious. Continue to use your “inside voice”. Don’t break anything. Don’t try to lie about which wine you’re on. Sometimes drunk people are tasting room associate’s best friends because they’re usually super friendly, entertaining, and feel a little loose with their wallets. All I’m saying is just keep your drunk friend Stacey in check.
Stay late. Pleeeeease don’t stay after closing time. It’s so annoying. You’ve been drinking wine all day, and now your tasting room staff is ready to drink some themselves. So if the tasting room closes at 5:00 pm, get outta there by 5:10 pm. If you stay 30 minutes over or longer, please buy a bottle or 4.
I hope these tips help you during your next wine tasting excursion. To summarize, don’t be an asshole, have fun, and take home some great wine!
Before you leave, have you been guilty of any DON’Ts? It’s okay if you say yes. Even I’ve been guilty of some, and that’s okay. Comment below and let me know!