It goes without saying that wine tasting is largely about having fun. But for those looking to glean the most from the wines on pour, swirling is a great way to stoke (read: aerate) a wine’s myriad aromas. If you haven’t had much practice, place your wine glass on a flat surface and swirl gently while grasping the stem. Of course, there’s no rule saying you have to swirl at all, if that’s not your thing, but give it a try and you may just find you get a lot more out of the overall sensory experience.
When tasting, it’s best to hold wine glasses by the stem rather than the bowl; holding them by the bowl coats glasses in greasy fingerprints, but it can also disturb the temperature of the wine (ideally it’s been poured at just the right temperature).
Inhale deeply before taking a sip; wine’s aromas comprise one of its most beguiling offerings! Upon drinking, swirl the liquid around in your mouth to ensure it coats all the surfaces, since we pick up different texture and flavor sensations in different parts of our mouths. Oh, and try not to judge a varietal on the first sip. Oftentimes, your perception of the wine (and how much you enjoy it) will change upon the second or third sip.
If your wines have been poured at the same time and your wine steward isn’t around to explain, plan to taste white wines, high acid wines, and light-bodied bottlings before heavier ones, making sure to save the sweetest for last. This ensures the boldest, more tannin-driven red wines and those with high residual sugar don’t overwhelm the more delicate ones you sip first.
Pacing yourself is a critical aspect of tasting. Build moderation into your day by selecting a manageable two to four wineries to visit. Incorporating activities like tours and a big lunch breaks up the day and ensures you do more than just drink. Also keep in mind that different wines have different alcohol levels. A full-bodied red wine tends to have higher alcohol content than a white wine or a light-bodied red wine, and more alcohol will naturally make you feel buzzed faster.
Of course, inebriation should never be the goal with wine tasting. Wineries are wineries, not bars, so drink plenty of water, don’t imbibe on an empty stomach, watch how much you consume, and keep conversation to a reasonable level. Although alcohol is being served, most tasting rooms offer a relaxed and conversational environment, so save loud banter and raucous activities for later!
Even if you plan to spit on occasion, you will still be swallowing some wine, so always plan ahead and have a designated driver.