Wine Tasting Etiquette

This is my latest column in The Laurel of Asheville, and I hope that those who read it find humor in it.  In a nutshell, if you want to avoid looking like this guy at one of the many great free wine tastings in Asheville,  just follow these few simple rules.

I’m a firm believer that one of the best ways to learn about wine is to taste it, and Asheville is rampant with free wine tastings almost every week end.  For the eight or so independently owned wine shops about town, free tastings are our way to expose wine lovers to new wines and give them a chance to “try before they buy”.  Most of the folks that come to these tastings are very friendly and courteous, but occasionally you get someone who acts like they’ve never been to a public, community event before.  If you’re not sure how to behave at a wine tastings, here are some general rules that will make you look like a true pro.

Don't be this guy at your next wine tasting!

Don’t be this guy at your next wine tasting!

1. First and foremost, please understand that it’s a wine tasting and not happy hour.  It’s fine to ask for a second taste of the wine, but after that it’s time to buck up for a bottle or a glass of that wine you love.  We’re not trying to be stingy; we just want everyone in attendance to get a chance to try the wines we’ve hand-selected.

2. The next rule involves the use of water to rinse your glass in between wines.  Don’t do it!  Some of the chemicals in water will negatively affect the aroma and flavor of the wine.  A better way is to rinse with just a dab of the next wine which gets rid of the previous wine’s residue and actually “tunes” your glass for the next wine.  Another great way to prepare for the next wine poured is to have a little bite of food to cleanse your palate, which leads into the next rule of etiquette.

3. If food is offered, please keep in mind that it is for everyone.  Grab a plate of cheese and bread and move on so that others may do the same.  Also, those giant pincher things on the plates are serving tongs, and I highly recommend that you use them so as not to contaminate the foodstuffs for others.  Use common sense good manners, much like you would at mom’s house for Sunday supper, and you’ll get along just fine.

4. Speaking of manners, there is a right way and a wrong way to say that you like or dislike a wine.  Saying that you don’t like a wine is perfectly fine and your opinion and feedback on a specific wine can help your wine monger hone in to what you do like.  However, making a blanket statement like “this wine is horrible” is a big no-no.  Keep in mind that wines come in all variety of styles and flavors, and just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean it’s not good – it just means that it’s not for you.

5. The final wine tasting rule is a simple one – once you get your taste, please step back from the tasting bar so that others may step up to get their taste.  It’s one thing if it’s a wine bar and you’ve ordered a glass of wine — it’s perfectly fine to belly up to the bar then.  However, it it’s billed as a wine tasting, please don’t hog the bar and make it difficult for others to get in on the action.

There you have it – five simple rules to keep you in the good graces of your local wine retailer.  Of course, have a good time, but don’t let your actions impede the fun of others.  Happy tasting!

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