Summer is here, and so is wine-tasting season. If you’ve never attended a wine tasting before, you might not be sure as to how it works or what the etiquette is. If you’re new to wine, some of the vocabulary used in wine tasting might be perplexing: how does one smell a range of notes in a glass of fermented grape juice?
Some of the best wine tasting destinations can be found around Southern Europe, but if you are based in Australia, you can also attend one a little closer to home: Tastes of the Hunter Wine Tours in Hunter Valley is a great place to try out boutique food and drink in a beautiful setting.
What Should I Wear?
Depending on the occasion, you can dress as formally or informally as you’d like, but there are two key rules to remember. The first is to wear something dark in case of spills, and pockets so you can keep your hands free.
The second is to avoid wearing fragrance, as this can disrupt the delicate aroma of the wine you are tasting. It can also affect the overall experience of other members of the group, so while it doesn’t hurt to dress up a little, avoid using fragranced products.
Have a Plan Ready
Starting with lighter wines and moving through to heavier ones is generally a good plan, as is trying the classics before less familiar wines. Another tip is to eat something beforehand, as an empty stomach can quickly become an upset one if you don’t “line” it.
Remember that it’s okay to spit: those sips can quickly add up, and if you’re inebriated, it can potentially take the fun out of the experience. Just do so slowly, especially if it’s a shared bucket; backsplash is a thoroughly unpleasant thought, but it does happen.
Even if you haven’t attended a wine tasting before, you might have already heard of “palate cleansers”. The idea behind these is to reset your tastebuds between each tasting so the flavors from the previous wine don’t interfere with the next.
Which you choose is a matter of preference: fruit is one option, or a slightly under-ripe segment of pineapple can both help refresh the palette. Alternatively, foods such as tortilla chips (with sparkling water) or beef contain fats and salts to help neutralize tannins. Other methods include drinks such as beer or champagne, though you should go easy on the alcohol content.
Taste Notes, Take Notes
Those pockets will come in handy for holding a notepad and paper, which you’ll need, if you want to remember which wines you tasted (it also makes for a nice memento from the day itself). It doesn’t have to be too detailed; a couple of lines will do.
As for how to describe wine, it all depends on your personal experience. Pay attention to your senses; look at the color, give it a sniff, then taste: “rolling” it so the different areas of your tongue (sour, bitter, sweet) can respond. You may be surprised at the results.