Tasting wine has an etiquette all its own. Whether you’re at a winery or wine bar the rules pretty much are the same. Expect to pay for the tasting. Free wine tasting seems to be a thing of the past, but on occasion you can still find a free tasting or two. The price will be somewhere between $1-$30 per person. Sometimes you will receive a souvenir glass, other times not. Sometimes you’ll be standing at the tasting bar, other times you will be seated. Often you can share your tasting with another guest, ask your server.
I’d like to stress the word wine tasting here. Wineries and wine bars love to share samples of their wine with you. Do not expect or ask for full pours. Most provide about a one or two ounce pour. Typical tastings cover one to six varieties, depending on what is available in the facility’s inventory. Take your time. Plan on it taking about 30-60 minutes minimum to complete a 6-flight tasting. Relax and enjoy your experience. Swirl, sip and savor. Ask questions and listen to what the server tells you about the wines.
Tasting staff serves whites first; reds second, dry first to sweet last in both categories. If you taste a wine that you don’t like, spit or dump it out. Rinse your glass between pours. Spitting is acceptable behavior when tasting wines. Normally the dump bucket on the counter or at your table is to dump your wine in, not to spit in. In past times, spitting into the dump bucket was considered proper etiquette. Today that action is likely to receive horrified looks from fellow tasters and serving staff. It’s not that spitting in the dump bucket is wrong, it is that people are much more germ conscious than ever. What was once a tradition is now a taboo. Ask for a paper cup to spit into. Dump the wine from your cup into the dump bucket. Most wineries have a spitting policy posted. Look for it before you start your tasting.
If you’re visiting a wine region pace yourself for four to five wineries visits per day plus lunch. Always include a designated driver or use a limo or shuttle service. When you consider the cost of a DWI, the price of hired help is minimal.
Many of the wines you taste will not be available in your hometown wine store, or even outside the winery or wine shop. Wineries and wine shops are grateful for your wine purchases, but you need not feel pressured to buy. If you enjoyed what you tasted, buy a bottle or two. A tip is always appreciated. Wineries and wine shops realize the best advertising they can get is a satisfied customer.