There is always a first time for everything and if you are a newbie to wine tasting there is no reason to fret. As your wine tour hosts we are happy to point you in the right direction. We will help you discover the joys of wine touring and set the stage to a wonderful Napa experience. Consider this your pre-trip cheat sheet, but rest assured we are ready to do wine coaching on the spot and we will make certain you have a fantastic experience.
Wine Tasting Etiquette
Dress for the occasion
Seek out a look that is casually chic and fun, pick neutral colors and consider layering, as afternoons may be slightly chilly. Since you will be evaluating the clarity and tone of your wine against a contrasting surface most likely a white tablecloth or a light-saturated room you want to avoid reflecting colors that may impact your assessment of the glass. Avoid whites as much as possible as they act as stain magnets
Comfortable but elegant shoes are a must. You may find yourself walking uphill, in the vineyards or entering full functioning cellars with steps and slippery floors.
Avoid strong fragrances; the tasting experience is multi-sensory and particularly olfactory.
Conduct yourself with grace and decorum avoiding crass or loud conversations. This will enhance the elegance of your experience and the experience of fellow visitors, Specially at the 4th stop. If you want to know more about our customized Napa wine tour itineraries give us a ring!
Tasting and winery tours fees are standard for most wineries albeit courtesy tastings or special events. Should the Wine Educator waive some of the fees consider tipping generously.
Some wineries will waive your tasting fees if you purchases wine or become wine club member. Take advantage of their unique offerings and excellent pricing structure and save money on tasting fees.
Ask for limited production or reserve tastings. While pricier, it affords you the opportunity to sample wines that might otherwise be outside your budget.
If you plan on purchasing wine make sure you join the wine clubs for each of the wineries you visit. Additionally if you are purchasing on the spot you will have the opportunity to make your selection from limited production collections. As far as shipping we, or the winery can help you coordinate the most affordable and expedient way to get your wine home
Master the Basics (once you are at the winery)
Acknowledge the pour with eye contact and a smile, be ready to engage in conversation and ask questions.
Follow a light to dark rule. By having the lightest wines first you will ensure your palate is not overwhelmed by richness of darker wines and you be better able to appreciate the subtle notes of aroma and flavor offered by the lighter wines
Hold the glass by the stem. Greasy fingerprints hinder your ability to evaluate the clarity & color of the wine
Swirl clockwise while keeping your glass on a flat surface. Don’t go too fast or too slow. Swirling aerates the wine and allows for the full bouquet to emanate from the glass. Inhale deeply and try to identify aromas of the wine; fruity characteristics are from the grape varietal and oaky, spiced and smoky aromas are given to the wine from the barrel where it has being aged. Our olfactory system responds best when we focus by closing our eyes. When it comes to smelling wine go ahead and stick your nose in the glass and enjoy the inhale for eight to ten seconds.
Lift your glass against a light color contrast and evaluate the color and clarity on reds, you are looking for maroons, purples, garnets, ruby shades and brownish tones. On whites you will look for hues of yellow, straw tones, shadings of pale green and shades of amber. Sediment is permitted and even encouraged on some reds, for example unfiltered varieties. As for whites clarity matters, the whites should glisten when exposed to light. Evaluate your wine for opacity. Is it clear, watery, dark or translucent? Does it have cork pieces or floaters?
If tasting a red you will note that older wines are a little bit darker/brownish on the edge and younger wines are more vibrant in color.
Take a sip and swish in your mouth making sure you cover all of your palate. Mimic a discreet mouthwash swish. This will allow you to fully experience the flavors of the wine in all areas of the mouth. The experience of tasting wine is divided in three phases, attack, evolution & finish. For the sake of brevity I will share this process on a later publication. For now let us focus on just enjoying the juice of the grape! Swallow and repeat. It is only after your second sip that you should verbalize your observations regarding the flavor & texture of the wine.
Generally speaking wine tastings are poured in one-ounce servings, because you will visit multiple wineries it is important that you practice pacing. When available take advantage of the spittoon this will allow you to remain alert and focus on capturing the sensorial experiences offered by all the wineries you will visit.
Drink plenty of water. We have complimentary bottles of both sparkling and flat in our vehicles. If you have a particular preference let us know before your arrival.
We hope this article increases your comfort level and equips you to have a fun time enjoying the best that Napa has to offer. Our wine tours are customized to your preferences and we will be there to provide you guidance as needed.
Until next time,