How do you make the most of your day out wine tasting? It sounds easy enough – get dressed, have a meal, get money and keys and go. But a few easy and simple tips can make the day even better.
Let’s begin with the getting dressed part. First of all, please do! No-one else in the tasting room, staff and other customers, really wants to see you naked, or even nearly naked. Skip the short shorts and the crop top, even if you have the body to pull it off. You never can tell how warm or chilly the tasting room might be, so dressing in layers is a good idea. Go ahead and wear that cute tank top, but bring a light weight top to go over it, just in case. The greater your physical comfort level, the more likely you will enjoy the wines you will be tasting. If you are tasting in a warm region, it’s okay to wear a nice pair of shorts. Ladies – leave the heels at home. You may be walking in gravelly parking lots or through vineyards, so wear comfortable shoes. It’s hard to focus on the flavor of tempranillo while trying to ignore the blister forming on your heel. Also, don’t forget to put on deodorant or anti-perspirant. No-one wants your funky body odors mingling with their wine aromas.
And while you are being advised on the guidelines for what to wear, let’s not forget a couple of what-NOT-to-wear items. Please, please, PLEASE do not wear anything heavily scented. This applies, obviously, to perfume, but also to any other scented product – hairspray, lip gloss, lotion, etc. Even your clothes can carry distracting scents from laundry dryer sheets. It’s okay to smell good, but not to the point that your scent arrives minutes before you do, or lingers long after you’ve left the room. Are you among the lipstick wearing population? Try to limit the color to something light, or consider skipping it all together while you are tasting. Many lipsticks have waxy and flavored ingredients that can alter your ideal wine tasting experience, not to mention how hard it can be to clean and sanitize the glass for the next taster if your lipstick marks are riming the glass. If you need to wear lipstick, reapply it after you’re done tasting, not as you enter the room.
Wine is alcohol, and it’s always best to eat a meal before consuming alcohol to slow down the alcohol absorption rate. Have a good hearty breakfast before you begin your day of wine tasting, and remember to snack and stay hydrated in between wine tasting room visits, too. Fresh fruit is an easily transported snack, as are crackers and nuts. Ideally, each wine tasting room you visit will offer some sort of snack or nibbles for you to enjoy while you taste, but don’t count on it. Be prepared and pack your own. Staying satiated will theoretically allow you to sample more wines and visit more wineries, as well as keeping your palate fresh. When everything starts to taste the same, your taste buds are spent. This is called palate fatigue, and your taste buds need a break.
If all goes according to plan, you will find a bottle or two of wine that must be purchased. Bring your money – cash, credit or debit card – and buy some wine! Bring a cooler or ice chest with you so you have a temperature controlled place to store the wine on your journey. Even a simple grocery store Styrofoam cooler is better than leaving it in your trunk all day. You are spending your good money on wines that you like and perhaps can only purchase at the winery – you want it to be just as enjoyable once you bet it home.
Should you tip your wine tasting staff? As with tipping anyplace else, do it if you feel they met expectations or went beyond what you anticipated to make your experience a memorable one. Unlike a restaurant or bar, most tasting rooms pay their wine servers a decent wage, and they do not factor in tips as part of their earnings, but that doesn’t mean a little extra monetary thank you isn’t appreciated. Take into account the whole experience and act as you see fit. Note, also, that many wine tasting rooms are allowed to sell by the glass as well as by the bottle, so the wine bar atmosphere can be inducible to tipping. Some wine tasting rooms do not encourage tipping at all. Sometimes it’s just best to ask if they are allowed to accept tips. In most cases, it is an appreciated gesture, but not an expected one.
Who has the keys? If you are driving the group, or just yourself, be sure to pace yourself as you progress through the day. Let whoever is pouring your wines know that you are the driver. No-one will be offended if you are pouring out more than you are sampling, and if the pourer knows you are the driver, they may just give you smaller pours. Remember to make sure you are staying hydrated and fed. You want to have the best possible experience while wine tasting, but you also want to make it home with all your new found favorite wines.
In the next article we’ll cover some basic wine tasting guidelines. Why you swirl the glass. To sniff or not to sniff. Appreciating the nuances of wine. Until then, cheers!