Wine 101: 5 Tips for Attending a Wine Tasting

wine tastingIt’s time for a wine experience once again at the vineyards of the Yarra Valley, with the 2 night Grand Tastings, where more than 250 of the world’s finest wineries participate. It’s a great time to look at some tips about the  best way to approach any big wine-tasting occasion. Our staff share their experience.

1. Dress for the Occasion

Here are ideas from wine pros for looking sharp and remaining suitably comfortable at a wine tasting. In a nutshell, dress in dark colors ( far better to hide spills), avoid dangling sleeves and consider the location and suss out the appropriate dress code. Ladies need to consider wearing flats or low heels for comfort. If you have long hair, tie it back so you can spit quickly (see point 5) or keep a hand at the ready to hold it back. And if you’re going to carry anything (tasting book, notebook, mobile phone or tablet), bring a handbag or have deep pockets to stash them in.

2. Do Not Wear Perfumes or Colognes

Bouquet is a substantial part of wine tasting. It’s tough to take in all the scents of a delicate Riesling or a layered Cabernet when the air is heavy with fragrance, perfume or smoke. So be mindful not to bring any unnecessary aromas to the tasting area. You do not wish to miss out on the nuances of the very wines you’re attempting to take pleasure in. And you do not want to be the answer to, ” what’s that smell?”

3. Create a Plan for Tasting

At most tastings, there will be more wines than you can wisely try in just a couple of hours. If you can get your hands on a list of the producers or wines at the tasting ahead of time, it would be advisable to come prepared with your strategy. That way, your palate doesn’t get broken.

A basic plan consists of browsing for your preferences through the aisles, working from light wines to much heavier ones. Start with champagnes, then fresh whites and move on to richer whites and tannic reds. You can get a lot more focused. For example, wines from Italy or a tasting of only one variety such as Pinot Noir from numerous appellations?

At the Wine Experience, Tim Fish prefers to have two primary goals: taste the classics and explore the unknown. If you want to attempt the biggest names such as the Bordeaux first-growths, head there first before  the crowds form, then avoid the busiest tables and fit in some new discoveries.

How you determine your likes and dislikes needs exposure to different wines, notes James Laube. He doesn’t just devote an entire tasting to the kinds of wine that give him the most pleasure. He always checks out, or reviews, wines that inspire other people, even if not him. By doing this, you can get a better understanding of why you like particular wines.

A highlight would be to polish off the night with something unforgettable, such as a glass of sweet wine such as late-harvest Riesling, Sauternes or Port. However, Laube often prefers to finish with Champagne, which he calls the “ideal taste buds cleanser.”

4. Eat Something

Tasting wines (and perhaps drinking some too) on an empty stomach is a dish for getting drunk quickly and then not having the ability to enjoy the entire occasion. Bear in mind to eat ahead of time at one of the many winery restaurants in the Yarra Valley, and if there’s food used at the tasting, take a break and check that out too. Consuming water in between wines helps you to remain hydrated.

5. Keep in Mind to Spit

Yes, you’ll be tasting fantastic wines, and yes, no one likes to “lose” wine. To get the complete experience of the event, you’ll wish to pace yourself by spitting wine as you go. That’s why there are containers on every table. Unglamorous perhaps, but take heart, all the pros do it. Do not be shy, states Fish as the winery staff are used to it. And if you don’t want to finish a wine, you can pour out any remaining in your glass into the spit pails too.

For tips on the various methods to spit, have a look at this Q&A from Dr. Vinny, “How do I spit without looking like a distressed camel?” The short answer: Practice at home  first, do not do it too fast or too slow, and come up to the spit pail. If you’re spitting into a shared bucket, you would probably be best advised to spit slowly to prevent backsplash. If there’s a crowd around the spit container, you may wish to wait to take a sip of wine till you can get closer.

Dr. Vinny also weighs in on whether you have to wash your glass in between tastings: Not needed, unless you’re switching in between red and white or sweet and dry, or had a rather unpalatable wine. If you’re going to clean, Vinny states the very best approach is to use a splash of wine instead of water.

So, there you have it. A few simple tips on how the pros handle tasting all the wines they do every season.