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LA Wine Fest 2012

November 17th, 2013

By: Maren Swanson



If you didn’t go to school to be a sommelier or you are about to attend one of your first wine tasting events, then the idea of spitting (literally) or spouting wine terms can be very intimidating. I know, because I’ve been there and it can be a slow learning curve. A lot the pretentions at these types of tastings depend on the geography and audience, but either way, the more you practice the better you’ll become at speaking the wino lingo. Here are 10 tips we think that will help you survive a wine tasting.

1. Be confident.

Maybe this is your first wine event, or perhaps your tenth. The good news is, each time you go a tasting, your confidence will improve and you will have one thing in common with everyone in that room: you love wine. Embrace it. Whenever you feel uncomfortable about what to say or do, simply take a sip and express what you like about it.

2. Observe.


Watch and listen. You’ll be surprised at how much you will pick up while observing the pros in action. Some will swirl, some will smell and some will spit. This brings up the question: to spit or to swallow? The choice is yours. But with all of those silk blouses and white shirts around, make sure that if you spit, have a good aim - the last thing you want is to be picking up someone’s dry cleaning bill.

3. Make friends.

Keeping to yourself can seem like the safe option, but if you are at a tasting by yourself, I guarantee that striking up a conversation with other attendees will help make your experience more enjoyable. On multiple times, it turned I was talking to the owner of the winery and I had no idea until they had offered me a tour or a private tasting opportunity. I’ve also scored some sweet discounts and samples just by chatting up other guests.


4. Do your research.

Doing research may sound as boring as homework, but it can actually be quite fun and it’s definitely better to be over prepared than under prepared. Wine for Dummies is a great starter book and an easy read and movies like Sideways and Bottleshock are a great reason to pop a bottle, get in the wine spirit and learn some terroir trivia. The game Wine Smarts is a fun way to prepare too. When I head to destination wine regions, I always try to ask friends for their recommendations and navigate some pre-planned sipping spots.

5. Ask questions.


By asking questions, you are learning. I get it, you don’t want to ask a stupid question, but that is silly. Your wine pourer is eager to express his or her enthusiasm about their product, so give them a chance. If you are a big foodie, then ask what dishes pair well with that particular wine. Find out about the history of the wine. Who created it? Are the grapes estate grown? How did they come up with the label design? So even if you know very little about wine, you are hearing their story, which is sometimes what I believe to be the most interesting part about what I’m drinking.

6. Be creative.

Once you’ve observed mostly everybody doing the SAME thing at your tastings and you start to feel comfortable about fitting in, then it’s time to have some fun. This is my favorite part. I was once trying some Syrah at Bridlewood’s Winery and a few other guests and I were discussing our opinions of the wine. Most of the same descriptions were called out: full-bodied, jammy, spicy, etc. Suddenly I blurted out, “It tastes like a leather saddle is unfolding on my tongue.” The reaction was superb. I merely expressed my experience of the wine and everyone loved it. After that, we all loosened up a little bit and became more creative with our palate perspectives.

7. Eat, drink water and be merry.


Drinking wine all day or for hours at a time can be managed if you are smart about it. Always have a nutritional meal before you imbibe and it’s also a great idea to bring along some snacks. Most events or wineries provide crackers or even passed hors d’oeuvres, so remember to take breaks and get something to eat. Oh, and drink lots of water! Following these tips will not only make your experience a lot more enjoyable, but I will also help prevent the “crash” at the end of you drinking day.

8. Take notes and photos.

Before Smart phones, you would usually notice notebooks and pens at tasting. Taking notes, whether you’re using modern technology or actually writing stuff down is a great way to remember which wines you enjoyed (or didn’t) and what you specifically liked about them. Take pictures so you can brag to your friends on social media and keep some fantastic memories at the same time.

9. Don’t finish every pour.

My boyfriend learned this part the hard way. He was quite new going into his first tasting and he felt obligated to finish every sample. Let’s just say, the results weren’t pleasant. Look, I've heard “it’s a crime to waste wine,” but when you are at an event with over 100 wines being poured, then it’s very likely that you won’t leave standing up if you overindulge.

10. Enjoy yourself and have fun.


You are there to have fun and learn, so don’t take it all so seriously. Relax and realize that the best party of this activity is getting to know the wine and the people around you. Don’t over think the process, and if you follow the advice we’ve given you above, then chances are you will already be fitting in just fine. Salud!





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