Wine Etiquette: The Wine Tasting Process

When you visit Napa Valley, you’ll likely go on several wine tours to the local wineries. Wine tours are fun, relaxing and enjoyable, but you may be unsure of what to expect. How are you supposed to drink the wine? Is there any type of etiquette that you should follow?

Typically, you want to taste wines in the order of light white to heavy reds, leaving the sweet wines for the end. Otherwise, if you drink a dry wine after a sweet wine, it will usually taste bitter. Wine tasting is all about the experience, so make sure you use your senses when it comes to tasting each wine.

  • See: Focus on the hue, intensity and clarity of the wine. The true color is judged by tilting the glass and looking at the wine through the rim. The intensity can be gauged by looking straight down into the wine, while the clarity can be determined when the light is shining sideways through the wine.

  • Smell: Now comes the swirling, which allows you to smell the wine. Rest the base of the glass on a table, hold the stem between the thumb and forefinger and rotate the wrist gently. The wine should climb to the rim – almost. You don’t want to splash wine on yourself.

  • Taste: Take a small sip and breathe through the wine when it’s in your mouth, sort of like sucking a spaghetti noodle. This aerates the wine and involves your nasal senses, completing the whole experience.

You do not have to rinse your mouth in between tastes since water can ruin a healthy pH balance that sets the stage for your next taste. And, if you don’t like a particular wine, you don’t have to finish it. Every bar has a dump bucket for this.

If you discover that you only like whites or reds, or you know this in advance, you may request only these wines. Also, you don’t have to finish every good wine. It’s not bad etiquette to dump out some of the wine. After all, you’ll probably be heading to another winery later, so you should leave room for more tasting.

We hope this information helps you to taste wines like a pro at your next wine tour. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, refresh your palate with crackers and cheese or explore with new flavors and wine selections. This is what wine tasting is all about!

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