Wine Tasting Etiquette 101

By Eileen MacTigue

So you’re studying abroad in Italy? Excellent choice. What two things come to mind immediately? Wine. Pizza. If you are an American study abroad student, you should not stumble upon pizza-tasting issues. Wine tastings on the other hand can be slightly intimidating. Here are a few tips for the vino first timers:

1. Swirl away all day and watch the “legs” or “tears” stream down the sides of the glass. This looks professional, elegant, and many people believe legs are indicative of quality, sweetness or viscosity in wine. This is not true! Legs are just an indication of how much alcohol content is in the wine. Drink up!


2. When visiting a winery, the wines have typically been stored at the precise temperature for ideal tastings. Hold glasses by the stem rather than the bowl; holding them by the bowl coats glasses in greasy fingerprints and will change the temperature of the wine believe it or not.


3. Though you may not be exactly sure what you are smelling, inhale the aroma of the wine before taking a sip. Your senses compliment one another for a reason. You may unconsciously enjoy the smell, and therefore appreciate the wine before even tasting it. Once you do test it out, swirl the wine around in your mouth. There are many different flavor sensations in our mouth, you want the wine to experience all of them.


4. Taste white and lighter wines before heavier wines, such as deep reds.  Save the sweetest wines for last. This way, the boldest and sweetest wines don’t overwhelm the more subtle ones you sip first.


5. Do you spit or swallow? If you’ve ever been asked this, the person [boy] asking, must be a true wine connoisseur! This is up to you. Many sommeliers have concluded that after swallowing tasting after tasting, their judgement was slightly distorted when ranking the ending wines. However, if you don’t consider yourself a professional – swallow up! I personally never pass up good wine.


6. Remember to ask questions! There are way more people out there clueless to wines than there are stewards. Tasting room staff are trained to inform you about the wines they are sharing with you.


7. Try to remember not to go on an empty stomach. My favorite wineries or tastings are the ones that pair cheeses, meats, & breads with the wine. Unfortunately, not all do. Though you are sipping small portions at a time, I promise they will add up! You get so much more out of a wine tasting when feeling energetic and up for anything. The moment you feel your stomach churn due to the voice of hunger, your judgement will be impaired and you will not be able to enjoy the tasting to your fullest.


8. Be polite! As in any setting, manners are necessary. At a tasting though, your conduct is appreciated. If you don’t like a wine, no big deal, it is still alcohol in the end…that’s all we twenty-year olds care about. Don’t make a fuss or face, maybe this is the one time you do spit!


At the end of the tasting, buy a bottle and run to the market to get a block of cheese and baguette and remember life is pretty damn good. Enjoy the vino!

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