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Wine Etiquette: 10 Steps to a Successful Winery Tour

It's a Tasting Room, Not a Bar
Photo from Patty Held's Winery Consultant Blog

Wine tours are happening all around the world in a vast amount of wine regions, but being aware of your wine etiquette can make or break your experience. Beginner and expert wine tasters will find these steps extremely crucial when they turn to their right and see a friend passed out on a picnic bench at the second winery visit. We all know how hard it is to keep it classy during a long day of wine tasting, but to make your winery tour more enjoyable for both you and the winery employees, there are a few steps you should follow. 

1. Find A Designated Driver!

This will forever be the number one rule for wine tasting in my books. The average amount of wineries people hit in one day is around three to four. It may not sound like a lot, but you will taste more wine than you expect! Therefore, a designated driver on your winery tour is an absolute MUST. Even if you are not driving, the most crucial part of your tasting is to hydrate, especially in the summer time when the heat will catch up to you in a blink of an eye. Whether it is a family member, limo, party bus, tour guide, or even an Uber driver, the safe route is always the best route. 

2. If You Take Your Kids, Make Sure They Have Something To Do

If you are to leave your kids at home with a babysitter, today would be the day to do so. If that is not an option for you, ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS make sure your children are entertained before you start sipping wine in a tasting room. Ask the tasting room employees if there are any toys, crackers to snack on, or anything outside that they can play with. To be even more prepared, bring toys for them in the car so you know that they will not be pulling at your leg while you are attempting to enjoy your wine tasting experience. Some tasting rooms can be a little cozy, so for your sake and everyone else's, the less people the merrier. 

3. Go Early To Beat The Crowds

If you want to feel important as customers, and if you do not like big crowds, it is more than necessary to start your day off early. Weekends, especially, in the wine country can get pretty hectic and the crowds can be overwhelming. Many tasting rooms are small and only allow a certain amount of people in your group, so be sure to call ahead! This is why Yelp was invented. Not only will the tasting room employees respect you more for calling beforehand, but your tasting experience will be that much better and you might even be rewarded for your awesome wine etiquette!

4. Be Polite!

From my own experience working in the hospitality side of a tasting room, I cannot reiterate this step enough. If you do not like a certain wine you are tasting, do not make a face of disgust as your dumping your wine out. Simply, and quietly, dump out the wine and wait for the next wine on the tasting flight; trust me, the tasting room employee will catch your drift. Most people think it is obvious to "be polite", but the amount of rude customers I have encountered in a tasting room blows my mind. That being said, pretend you are at your in-laws' house for the first time and you are trying to make a great first impression. 

5. Try New Wines!

Even if you think you only like certain varietals, it does not hurt to try out some wines you haven't tried before. Your palette is constantly developing and changing as you taste wine, so if you have only tried one Syrah, try a different one! Not all of the same varietal have the same exact tastes or aromas, so be daring (if that's what you want to call it) and just TRY all the wines they have to offer on the flight! The dump buckets are there for a reason! Drinking and trying new wines is not all that bad. 

6. Ask Questions

Do not be afraid to ask the tasting room employee questions; they are there to answer any and all of them. There is no such thing as stupid questions while tasting wine; the only wrong question is the one that you do not ask. Yes, you always want to have a fun time wine tasting, and you will, but gaining the knowledge of wine will allow you to respect drinking it even more. Here are some questions you can ask: "Does it look like it will be a good growing year?", "How many acres do you have on this property, and where are your other vineyards located?", "What's your annual production?" etc. Your wine etiquette will boost AT LEAST 10 points just by asking simple questions.

7. Be Cautious Of How Much You Are Drinking

While you think only five or six one-ounce-pours are not a lot, you usually end up trying more wine than expected. Hydration is the key to making it through the whole day without making a fool of yourself. Lastly, for all you beer-loving men who are getting dragged along on this wine tour, do not bring any other alcohol into the tasting room; it is not a bar. Don't be the one who ruins it for everyone, and pace yourself!

8. Keep Wine Out Of Hot Car

The sun will cook your wine in no time. Be sure to keep your wine in the upright position as well; the cork will pop out and your wine will spill everywhere if it is laying down in your hot car. Trust me, I have been the victim of my Cabernet bottle spilling all over the back seat of my car, and it is not a fun mess to clean up. It will ruin your day to say the least, or whoever is so kind to help you scrub the red wine out of your cloth seats. 

9. Ask Wineries How to Ship Your Wine Back

If you have traveled out of state to go wine tasting, make sure that the wineries can ship wine to your state. There are many state shipping laws and a handful of states do not allow direct shipments of wine from wineries. It makes sense to ask the winery ahead of time so you don't get stuck with wine that you're unable to bring home with you. 

10. Have Fun While Keeping These Essential Steps In Mind

We all want to have a great wine tasting experience, but to make your wine tour pleasurable for both you and the winery employees, it is extremely important to follow these steps to perfect wine etiquette. Not only will your friends be pleased with you, but you will also gain a great amount of respect from the tasting room staff. Stay classy my fellow wine-o's. 

By Sharon Haag

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