Wine Tasting Etiquette
Be properly prepared for your day exploring the valley!
Here, we share some general guidelines, tips, and insider info on how to make the most of your Wine Country tasting experience.
Before heading out on your personalized day of wine tasting fun, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Eat a hearty breakfast. We'll have tasty snacks on board for you to enjoy throughout the day as well.
- Limit the total number of wineries you plan to visit per day. The more wine you drink, the less likely you'll be to notice the distinct differences between wines (what wine tasting is all about).
- Stay hydrated! Did you know the French recommend drinking two glasses of water for every glass of wine you consume?
- Wine tasting isn't just about your sense of taste, it's also about your sense of smell. To make sure your nose (and those of guests around you) is fully perceptive, please refrain from wearing perfume, cologne, or heavily scented body lotion.
- We suggest you dress in “Wine Country Casual” — bring a sweater or wear layered clothing that you can easily add or remove. There's a chance you will be spending time in the cellars (which are kept around a brisk 53 degrees). The Napa Valley also tends to get quite chilly in the evening, and it happens fast. Be sure to bring hats and sunscreen in case you're out in the vineyards (if you forget, we'll have some items on-board for you to use). We also suggest steering clear of heels — instead, choose a pair of comfy walking shoes. Function over fashion in Wine Country makes for happy wine tasters!
Additional Tasting Tips & Key Terms
- Developing the skill of wine tasting takes practice. Luckily, the more wines you taste, the more skilled you will become with the process!
- Have fun! Don't take it too seriously, especially if you're a beginner.
- Ask to see tasting notes at each winery.
- Remember to keep your voice down when at wineries and tasting rooms, even when you really love a wine! It's customary to use regular speaking levels while tasting.
- Tasting experiences represent the one time it's absolutely okay and necessary to SPIT in public! See #5 on the list below for more info.
- Keep in mind there's very limited cell signal when you're inside winery caves. If you're texting your chauffeur, there's a very real possibility they're not receiving your messages!
- Many wineries frown upon cellular and laptop use during visits. Keep your cell phone on vibrate or silent, and, if you must answer a call or work from your device, please step outside as not to disturb others. Immersing yourself fully in these unique experiences, free of distractions, is highly recommended :)
The 6 S's
- Swirl the glass of wine, looking at the color and viscosity. Look for the clarity of the wine and the brilliance of the color (wines will vary in their color intensity). To swirl, rotate the wrist while holding the rest of the arm still. The swirling of the glass releases the wine's aromas to the top edge of the glass.
- Sniff deeply, sticking as much of your nose into the glass as you can (silly, but true). Swirl the wine again. Take a very deep sniff, and try to identify any familiar smells. Repeat, but rest your sense of smell a few seconds before you smell again.
- Sip a small amount of the wine. Roll it over your tongue for several seconds before swallowing. Exhale through your nose as you swallow. Your taste buds and sense of smell will work together.
- Swish it around inside your mouth. On the second sip, try swishing the wine around in your mouth and then swallow and exhale through your nose.
- Spit out ALL of the remaining wine into the spit bucket provided by the winery. After taking a few sips and swallowing once or twice, most people choose to spit following the swish (#4).
- Swallow a small amount of wine. Using this tasting approach, you'll be able to taste many wines in a day without getting drunk. Good wines have a long lasting finish. Once you swallow measure how much the wine lingers in your mouth and nose.
A few key terms to be familiar with while you're tasting...
A varietal is a specific variety of wine grape. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc are the most commonly grown varietals in Napa Valley, but there are many others (hundreds!) of different varietals grown around the world. Single-varietal wines are made all (or nearly all) from the same type of grape, and typically display the name of the varietal prominently on the label. US wines that are a blend of more than one varietal commonly will list them all on the label somewhere, but European wine labels are not so consistent.
An American Viticultural Area (AVA) is a designated wine grape-growing region in the United States distinguishable by geographic features. For example, Napa Valley is the name of the AVA within Napa County.
The environmental conditions, especially soil and climate, in which grapes are grown and that give a wine its unique flavor and aroma.