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As a novice wine enthusiast, have you ever pondered, “What is a wine tasting?” It sounds fairly obvious, but when you check your recently purchased All About Wine book or take the shortcut of a quick online search, it gets a little more complicated.
There is a jargon that goes along with wine tasting protocol – and that would probably include not saying “jargon.” Oh well… We are not always politically correct and sometimes less than grammatically correct, so consider yourself warned.
Back to “what is wine tasting?” Obviously, it involves tasting wine, but there are many variations that can be included in that terminology. It can mean anything from a classic event requiring the most traditional of etiquette to the contrast of an unplanned casual visit to a rural winery. The term also encompasses gatherings from a weekend long event featuring multiple vintners in an atmosphere like a country fair to a casual group of friends on your patio.
What to Expect During a Wine Tasting
The host or Pourer will typically present each wine with a short description of the wine’s characteristics. Proper tasting etiquette would say, “don’t drink it all.” I have to say, unless you can’t tolerate the taste, you’re going to drink it all.
A tasting will normally be a “short pour.” A typical tasting pour is 2-3 ounces compared to a regular serving when you order a glass of wine. In other words, you are not likely to get tipsy even after several of these pours.
Wine tasting events have become very popular over the years so you will find tasting events scattered all over this beautiful country in a wide variety of styles. Some may be discovered in a spontaneous stop at a rustic vineyard while others could be a wine cellar discovery.
Wineries are where you most often find shopping opportunities – and that would extend beyond the wine. Don’t feel compelled to buy wine because you have enjoyed a few sips. That is what they count on, but if you aren’t captivated by one of the wines you just sampled, don’t feel pressured.
Wine Tasting Etiquette
The list here could be extensive, so we’ll hit the high points.
- Somehow at the top of the list is always “ask for a spit cup.” That is controversial, so a whole section below is dedicated to it and our view of spit cups.
- It’s a good idea to only seek out the kind of wine you know you enjoy unless you’ve determined it is time to expand your taste bud horizons. Fortunately, most wineries offer a range of varietals, so you are likely to discover several of the tastings to be favorable.
- If you aren’t at home, on a cruise or B&B, you should have a hired or designated driver. Some small groups even make it a special occasion with a rented limo for celebrations.
- Ask questions. Although the pourer begins with a description of the grapes, the harvesting process, the age of the wine being poured, the total experience is more enjoyable when you engage. In addition, it may prompt discussion with others near you. You already know you have something in common – you all enjoy wine!
- This is an opportunity to bring your other senses into the tasting. The wine has a visual, an aroma and a flavor or taste. With more practice, you will become more aware of the differentiation between varieties.
To Sip or Spit
The polite term may be expectorating, but we’re not among the elite so let’s call it what it is. There seems to be a debate whether to sip or spit the wine tasting sample. Really, who wants to spit in public? Certainly not me! However, everyone to their own taste, so to speak.
The tradition of experienced wine tasters is that spitting out the wine is essential. And that is especially true for tastings that include more than five or more pours. The process is:
- The wine is poured
- You swirl your glass to see if it has “legs” (more on that another time)
- You take a sniff for the “nose” of the wine
- Then a sip and swish
- Ending with a spit
Additionally, there is a decanter for you to pour the rest of the wine in your glass to be ready for the next taste. Here is my final argument on this mini-topic: if you are concerned about over-consuming and can’t tolerate the thought of spitting in public, make it a tiny sip in the first place. Just enough to actually taste the wine and enjoy it. Afterall, that is the whole purpose of wine tasting. Then Swallow it. And don’t have spittle be an issue.
Ultimately, when the question of “what is wine tasting” comes up, you could describe the experience in several ways. It is:
- … enjoyable
- … a learning experience
- … entertaining
- … tasty!
Our first experience to a wine tasting was a semi-formal atmosphere. We didn’t have a preconceived notion of what to expect, which is probably good. It turned out to be pleasant and memorable, in spite of feeling like we were out of our element. We personally prefer a more casual tasting environment with camaraderie and casual conversation.
A wine tasting event at home with friends is the most enjoyable of all. The relaxed atmosphere encourages laughter and conversation and certainly can include serious discussions about the qualities of the wines being poured. We encourage you to explore wine tasting in a variety of locations. If you don’t have locations nearby, enjoy them in your home. It really only requires two people, some good wines, a few appetizers and a willingness to explore and learn more about wines!
In a lifetime of experiences, there isn’t anything much better or more enjoyable!
We don’t have spittoons or spit cups, but we have answers if you have questions on this article!