There’s no better way to learn about wine than to drink it!
Wine tastings, whether they’re privately hosted by a group of friends, a ticketed public event, or a free Saturday afternoon tasting at your favorite wine store, are incredible ways to taste a lineup of different wines without committing to buying a whole bottle.
Tastings can focus on a specific grape, a particular region, or one producer. There are usually five to seven wines in the lineup and the educator will have arranged the bottles in a pleasant progression, usually from lightest in body to heaviest.
Check out our tips on how to get the most out of a wine tasting!
Respect the Pour
The educator will pour about 2 ounces of each wine during the tasting. We’ve described here how to taste wine – the process may look pretentious, but it’s really the best way to maximize what the wine has to offer!
In some cases, you may not enjoy the first sip of a wine. Before dumping it in the spit bucket (more on that in a moment), give it another try. Give the wine a moment to show you what it’s made of; it may surprise you! You still might not like it on the second try, and that’s fine! Move on to the next wine.
If there’s a wine that you liked, feel free to ask the educator for another sample once the tasting is over. If they have any left, they’ll happily pour for you – from their view, you’re more likely to buy a bottle if you’re giving a sample another pass!
Sometimes an educator will provide an informational sheet during the tasting so you can easily follow along. Take short notes of the wines you’re tasting and put stars or hearts next to the bottles you loved. Note what you smelled, what you tasted, what the instructor had to say about the wine – whatever you think future-you will want to know.
As you go to more tastings, you’ll start noticing patterns of the bottles with hearts next to them on your tasting sheets. It could reveal an affinity for warm-weather reds or a love of blends, which will make buying and ordering wine easier in the future.
The educator is there to help you understand what they’re pouring. As an added bonus, audience engagement is helpful in maintaining a great flow to the tasting.
Take note of the kinds of questions other people are asking as well. Those questions and their answers can be invaluable in your ongoing wine journey.
What types of questions are typical at wine tastings?
- Is this oaked or unoaked?
- If oaked: How long did it spend in oak?
- What will this pair with?
- Is this a typical representation of the area?
- How long would you decant this for? (This question is usually for red wines)
- What’s the history of the winery?
And many, many more! There are no dumb questions.
But Listen More
At almost every wine tasting, there’s going to be some person that asks a question that’s not really a question. They want to show off how much they know or brag about an Italian vineyard tour they took a few years ago. Respect the time and attention of other attendees and leave those kinds of antics to people that aren’t as cool as you.
Of course, you could have a bunch of real questions, and that’s great! Just wait until after the tasting to chat privately with the educator.
Don’t Fear the Spit Bucket!
The spit bucket is a place to pour out extra wine from your glass and, yes, to spit into. We’re not talking about a spit of disgust. This is a tool that people use to be able to taste many wines without getting drunk. Check out this useful video on how to spit wine without getting it on yourself and others.
If you’re not comfortable sharing a spit bucket with strangers, ask for your own – the educator or shop may have extras.
Thank the Educator
Many people leading wine tastings have years of education and experience behind them. They’ve dedicated their time, sometimes for free, to host tastings and share their knowledge with you. Even if there wasn’t a single wine you liked, show some appreciation to the educator for their time.
Buy Wine You Like
Don’t feel pressured to buy bottles that you don’t care for at a tasting. Tastings are sales tools for wineries and retail, yes. But for consumers? Wine tastings are learning opportunities. If you like a wine or two in the lineup, great – buy away! And if you don’t, at least you learned something new (including what kinds of wine you don’t like!).
We hope this guide has helped take some of the questions out of wine tastings! Check out local event boards, wine shops in your area, and social media to find your next wine tasting.