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Wine Tasting Faux Pas – 4 Etiquette Tips To Get The Best From Your Tasting

Wine Tasting Faux Pas – 4 Etiquette Tips To Get The Best From Your Tasting

It might be because I’m getting a bit older, or maybe a bit more refined – but I’ve started getting a taste for a good wine tour on my travels!

From South Africa to Australia – there are many destinations. across the world where you can mix adventure with a good bit of sophisticated culture!

Admittedly I have no clue what I’m talking about when it comes to wine (I’m learning…slowly!) so I thought I’d enlist the seasoned skills of Suzanne from Tastes Of The Hunter Wine Tours to help you guys make the most of your next wine tour…


Wine Tasting Faux Pas – 4 Etiquette Tips To Get The Best From Your Tasting

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Bring On The Wine!

Having attended and organised many wine tastings I’ve certainly seen some extraordinary guest approaches from those who pretend to be wine connoisseurs to those who have no idea what the spittoon is for!

If you are relatively new to wine tasting (but don’t want to miss out on all the fun!) you may not realise that some behaviours that seem completely innocent to you are actually a big no-no.

As a neutral insider to the whole process, I can certainly vouch for the fact that cellar door staff listen carefully to the group “banter” and are quite good at making judgements as to whether they should pour more generous portions or offer the group a taste of premium or aged vintages that are not normally on the tasting list.

It is certainly in your best interests to give the “right” signals to the presenter that indicate you are interested in the tasting and the wines being presented.

You don’t have to be a wine expert or a trainee James Halliday.

Let’s take a look at some things not to do when you are enjoying a group presentation at a cellar door….


Don’t wear excessive amounts of make-up or perfume

This one is as much for your own enjoyment as the pleasure of others around you. As any woman knows it is inevitable that some of your lippy will make it into your mouth as well as on your wine glass.

Other than your lip line looking unsightly on the rim of your glass, your lipstick is also interfering with your perception of the flavours of the wine.

Keep in mind also that our sense of smell plays a huge part when it comes to the enjoyment of wine.

There is little point unlocking the additional scents of the gorgeous looking portion before you by swirling vigorously if your perception of it is going to be masked by the strong perfume you are wearing.

And the person sitting next to you won’t thank you either!

As many private group wine tastings can be conducted in quite enclosed spaces such as the barrel room or an underground cellar it is particularly important to consider the enjoyment of others and refrain from strong perfumes.


Don’t leave the tasting half way through in order to smoke

You would think “surely no-one would do this?” however the number of times I have seen up to a third of the table get up and leave to stand a few metres away and puff on a cigarette, still astounds me!

You may be at your wit’s end waiting for an opportunity to smoke but if you do this it sends a clear message to the cellar door staff that you are not interested in finding a quality wine to purchase and for many boutique cellar doors who “live and die” by their sales, you are sounding the death of your own tasting experience. And place yourself in the shoes of the presenter… how would you feel?

Don’t forget that when you return to the table you will smell quite strongly of cigarettes, which again affects the olfactory senses of everyone around you.

Not to mention smoking is like letting off a nuclear bomb inside your mouth as far as allowing your palate to pick up on all the subtle flavours that a boutique wine has to offer.


Don’t forget to use a system to keep track of the wines you liked

For the purposes of easy cleaning, many cellar doors will place laminated tasting lists infront of their guests which can quickly be wiped with a damp cloth if they should fall victim to any wine related “accidents”.

However they are no good for keeping track of which wines you liked the best during the tasting.

Almost all cellar doors will be able to supply you with a pen/pencil and a paper tasting list if you request one and if you use it actively during your tasting you will not only remember which drops impressed you the most in 45 minutes time once the presentation is done, you send the message to the cellar door staff that you are serious about considering their wines.

Pro tip: Use a system involving points out of 20 or a rating out of 5 stars (the most amusing one I’ve seen was how many smiley faces to award a wine!) rather than simply ticking the ones you liked.

It isn’t going to be much help to look at your list of 8 ticks at the conclusion of the tasting if you have a limited budget (or limited luggage space) that doesn’t allow you to purchase the entire tasting list!


Don’t consume every tasting portion you are offered

I can hear you saying right now… you’re kidding right?!

But if you do the maths an average private group tasting involves around 8 tasting portions (often a few more if premium wines are brought out as “special” items for the group to try) multiplied by 3-4 cellar doors… you can end up with 32 or more wine samplings to find room for.

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Remember…this is a tasting not a drinking session!

And we’re not smashing boxes of goon here!

Considering a tasting portion can be as generous as a third of a glass of wine it will definitely start to add up for you as the day goes on.

It can be quite difficult to estimate how much you have had to drink on a wine tasting trip so joining an organised tour is a must so you don’t have to worry about the driving! You can also leverage the knowledge of a guide who is passionate about local wines and drinks them regularly who can advise you what you may or may not like.

I love to talk to the guests who join us on wine tours of the hunter valley and by being familiar with the wines being tasted at each venue and getting a “feel” for which wines guests enjoyed at the venues early in the tour, I enjoy the challenge of advising guests later in the day.

I can personally vouch for the fact that the exact same wine can taste quite different when you are intoxicated compared to when you are sober. When intoxicated it is harder to taste the fruit flavours against the acidity and as the day goes on you can only taste the sweetness and nothing else!

So while you want to have some fun, it may be an idea to only consume the wines you enjoy the best. Or if that seems far too criminal you can always consume the first 3 sips (you don’t actually taste a wine properly on the first sip) and discard the rest.

Or I’m sure a helpful friend at your table might be willing to take the excess in your glass off your hands!

It wouldn’t be the first time I have come home with several bottles that I have purchased on a tour  which I have tried later only to wonder “what was I thinking when I purchased this?”.

So to avoid disappointment it would be a good idea to pace yourself throughout the day. Otherwise you will have paid upwards of $25 a bottle for a wine to mix with your spag bol sauce!


Maybe Invest In a Good Glass

And don’t forget that the glassware being used is influencing your perception of the vino being served. Cellar doors tend to use very large glasses that encourage swirling and by the nature of their shape (pear shaped) amplify the aromas.

If you thought a particular wine was “good” but maybe not at the level of “great”, you might want to stick to your “great” and “absolutely awesome” list when it comes time to pull out your wallet. Especially if you normally drink wine at home from a beaker!


If you’ve made the time in your busy holiday schedule to include some wine tasting you want to get the most out of it that you can.There are so many fabulous wine regions around the world to tempt you that produce styles that are very different to what you are able to access at home so you would be mad not to make room in your bags for some choice bottles of local produce.

By following these tips you will have a tasting experience that you will remember and get the right bottle of joy to enjoy later as well.

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