Random thoughts on the world of wine, presented in no particular order.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Tasting room etiquette.

So, you're in wine country for a vacation.  You spot a cute looking winery, and their tasting room is open!  You walk in, and you're confronted by a bar with bottles, and a friendly looking person behind it asks you if you'd like to try their wonderful Sauvignon Blanc.  What should you do?

Chat with the host; ask about the wines.  I mean, you're in the tasting room, you're obviously interested, right?  Don't be a silent lump!  These people know more about the wine than you do -- they can often point you to the block of the vineyard where it came from, explaining why this one has a hint of mint while that one tastes of cocoa.

The order of tasting will almost always be white, rose, red, dessert.  If there's a variance, ask why, as it'll give your host a chance to talk about the wines and why this white follows those reds, or whatever the variance is.

There's often a fee.  It'll be upfront.  Sometimes you get something for the fee (a glass to keep, for example, or a the fee is applied to pay for wines you purchase at the tasting room).  Sometimes you don't.  There's no standard for that -- just accept it and move on.

If you're offered a bonus of some kind during a tasting -- be it a reserve wine, something offbeat that's not for sale yet... accept!  I once watched someone turn down a tasting of a pre-release rose of Pinot Noir that was absolutely amazing because "I only drink red and white, not pink."  Insanity!

The same goes for taking a quick tour -- you're in wine country, why on earth would you not want to see the winery?  Take some pictures -- wineries are often quite photogenic.  Ask questions -- why does the winery use new barrels for this wine, and used barrels for that one?  It'll improve your appreciation of all wines, not just the ones of the winery you're visiting.

Actively taste.  A tasting room isn't a bar.  Slamming down wine is bad form.

The spittoons are there for a reason -- again, it's not a bar, you're not there to get drunk, so spit your wines.  Especially if you're going to be driving.

The crackers are a palate cleanser, not a snack.  If you want a snack, bring your own (although, some wineries do have light snacks for sale in their tasting rooms).

If you want a second taste of a wine, that's fine, but you should buy a bottle of something at that point.  Remember that the tasting room is also a store -- the wines should be priced reasonably competitively with retail, and there's often tasting-room-only wines (eg, Sobon's Tempranillo, Heitz's Grignolino and Port).  The words "I can get this less expensively at home," should be banished from your vocabulary.  The producer's gross profit on wines sold on-site is 100%.  On wines sold at retail, it's around 30% (more or less).  You want to support a favorite producer?  Buy a bottle directly.  It'll be a souvenir you can savor at home.

Photo of the Martin Ray tasting room, from Sonoma Uncorked.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! Brings back good memories...I can't wait to get back over to the West coast to do some more tastings!