One of the best parts of going wine tasting is having the chance to taste a range of wines side by side. At home, and in a restaurant, we are not really going to open up a couple of bottles to compare. We’ll usually open up a bottle, drink it, then move to the next.
Attending a wine tasting event will mean you get a range of different wines in front of you to compare, contrast and share. So here are our tips for getting out wine tasting and making the most of the event.
There are wine tasting events happening all over the UK, in fact there’s probably one this week not far from you. A good place to start looking is by visiting gettasting.com/explore and searching by your location. If there’s nothing that quite matches your requirements, let us know or give Google a go.
Choosing a wine tasting event near you means you can enjoy the event with your partner, friends or find new local wine friends. Wine event hosts also often vary the types of tastings they do, so by attending one locally you can go to future tastings and taste even more wines.
When you choose an event, you should gauge whether it suits what you’re after. Although I’ve studied wine and gone into a lot of detail in a classroom environment, for me tasting events are about being relaxed and learning during the process. So, I look for a more informal venues and tastings. I still like to sit down and have someone talk me through the wines though. But that might be different for you. You might love walkaround wine tasting where you can mingle with lots of different people.
You might also want to specifically taste Red Wines from California, or Champagnes. So have a look and search for the type of wine tasting you’d like to attend.
Your host will probably have a process for the overall tasting (which wine is 1st, 2nd, 3rd…) and also possibly a process for tasting each wine (eg. pour, look, swirl, sniff…). There are different approaches to tasting wine and if you’ve not adopted your own then follow the lead of your host. Your wine host will know the wine they’re serving so are best to advise on the process to follow. This might be allowing the wine to breathe or perhaps warming it a little in your hands. These methods all help you to get the best experience of tasting wine.
Whichever process you follow remember to engage all your senses. Your sight, your touch, your smell, your taste and your heart. Engaging your heart isn’t always strictly a part of wine tasting, but sometimes you just taste a wine and fall in love with it. I remember a particular Mersault that I had in a Wine Bar in Bordeaux that I still dream about.
Wines change over time, for the better and for the worse, depending on environment. So when you’re tasting think about checking the wine as soon as it’s poured and then again after your host has chatted more about it. You might even be able to leave a little in the glass and come back to it after you’ve tasted some others.
When tasting think about:
As gross as they seem, using a spittoon or bucket is pretty common practice at wine tasting events. I know it seems wrong to spit out perfectly good wine but you’ll get most of the tasting value in the looking, sniffing and sipping part. Swallowing the wine will probably help you relax at the tasting and enjoy yourself, but too much and it might cloud your judgement. At the end of the day it’s entirely up to the kind of wine tasting event experience you want to have.
If you’re intending on spitting it’s a good idea to steer away from wearing white clothes. Even seasoned wine tasters have experienced some misdirected expelled wine.
Why? Because wine tasting is about learning. It’s about learning what you like and how you can drink more of that kind of wine. By understanding why a wine tastes a certain way you make it easier to find other wines that you’ll probably like. For example, “Why does this white wine taste a bit creamy?” if it’s a Chardonnay or Viognier it’s possibly been through malolactic fermentation. You don’t necessarily need to know the ins and outs of what malolactic fermentation is but if that’s something you like you can look for wines that have been through that process.
Wine making is as much about science as it is art and there’s usually a reason that a particular aroma, as weird as it may be, exists in the wine. So by asking questions about particular flavours or aromas will help you to understand which wines you like.
Whether or not to take notes will depend on how serious you want to take your wine tasting journey. For many people working out what we like, and what we don’t like is enough to be able to make better wine buying decisions. For others it’s about remembering certain characteristics of a wine. The choice is yours really. If you’re going to take notes though make sure you write about your wines in a way that you can compare them later.
Despite what it can sometimes seem there’s no wrong way to taste wine. There are, of course, ‘better’ ways but that will come over time. The most important part is to enjoy yourself, experience different wine and come away knowing more than what you did before you started. Even knowing what you don’t like is useful. So get out there and get tasting.
If you really enjoy the wine tasting process you might even want to take a Wine Course. Wine Courses can go into more detail about the wine making process, or different regions and you’ll learn even more about the wonderful world of wine.