Five Pro Tips for Going on a Wine Tasting Tour
A young woman smells her white wine before tasting it

The first time you go wine tasting, you won't be very good at it. Yes, there's skill involved. As a wine tasting pro, I'm sharing some of my best tips so you can aspire to be as good at it as I am. Someday.

Don't wear fragrance. Strong perfumes, colognes, and even lingering smoke can ruin wine tasting. Your sense of smell is a huge part of your sense of taste. Try holding your nose and tasting your favorite Cabernet Franc, and you'll discover that all nuances are gone. Plus, even before you taste, you should be taking in the aromas of the wine. Sometimes, the "nose" of the wine is sensational, and smelling it in your glass offers the same kind of pleasure as inhaling the fragrance of a bouquet of flowers. Remember, if the answer to "What is that smell?" is you, then you're screwing up the tasting for other people, too.

Eat beforehand, and hydrate constantly. Sampling 20 or 30 wines on an empty stomach will intoxicate you to the point where you're no longer able to really taste the wines, and where you're just plain sloppy. And alcohol tends to dehydrate, which accelerates intoxication and enhances hangovers. So, eat a big breakfast with plenty of protein, begin quaffing water before you get to the first winery, and then continue hydrating throughout the day.

Be open to new experiences. The hosts at Grapeline often compare a day of wine tasting to a liquid treasure hunt. Every winery has its own approach to the craft, and every wine has its own terroir, specific varietal or blend, and vintage. Get off the trodden path. If you love butter bomb Chardonnays, and there's one on the tasting menu, then sure, try it out. But that Anglianico Rose, that you've never encountered before - give it a shot as well, even if you're not a fan of roses. New discoveries are part of the package. And even finding a particular wine that you don't like is a good thing... better to find out from a single pour that a dry Gewurztraminer is not your cup of vino, than to find out from an expensive bottle later on.

Dress for success. Wine tasting used to be a posh event, attended by the upper crust. Now it's casual and fun, but not too casual. The key to dressing is understanding that you may be walking through the furrows of a vineyard in the warm sun at one moment, and then ten minutes later be sipping a chilled Pinot Gris in a refrigerated wine cellar. So wear shoes that can handle both, and bring layers that you can peel off as needed.

Get the story. If you just want to sip a nice wine and get a pleasant buzz, you can do that anywhere. Save yourself the effort and stay home. When you know the story behind the bottle, wine tasting is more interesting and memorable. Many wineries offer behind-the-scenes tours that explore the magic of wine making and describe the history of the winery. Take one, advisably at the first winery when you are still receptive to learning. Ask the wine pourer about the wines, and about the winery's story. Not only will you learn something that enhances your experience, but you'll often get preferred treatment as someone who cares. The wine server doesn't decide to pull out his special selections from behind the curtain for the customers whose entire interaction is "pour me the next one."

Every day in wine country is a good day. Follow these tips, and your day among the vineyards will be even better.


~ Kay Syrah

Wine Country Guru Gal

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