Wine tasting is the ultimate Wine Adventure, whether your objective is to sample wines from previously-unknown producers, explore the unique characteristics of a newly-released vintage, or buy bottles to fill your fridge or cellar. Time spent tasting always seems too short, so it helps to plan carefully and sip wisely. In a previous article (Tips For Enjoying A Day In California Wine Country) I provided basic advice for planning a day in wine country. The additional wine tasting tips that follow relate specifically to tasting and could save you time and money.
Wine Tasting Tips For Before Embarking On Your Adventure
- Research tasting venues to determine if wines offered meet your style preferences (red, white, sparkling, sweet, dry, etc.).
- It’s fun to taste great wines that retail at $100 or more per bottle, but if the purpose of your tasting adventure is find wines to buy, check to see that the prices of at least some of the wines you will be tasting fall within your budget.
- Set a budget for wine purchases.
- When possible, make tasting reservations and allow time between tastings for travel and meals or snacks.
Wine Tasting Tips For During Your Adventure
- Many tasting venues offer a choice of premium or standard tasting flights. Don’t assume that the more expensive flight includes wines you will like. Read the product descriptions to determine if the majority of wines in a flight meet your tasting preferences.
- Skip wines you don’t usually prefer. I routinely ask tasting room hosts to skip pouring Viognier and most dessert wines because they doesn’t fit my drinking preferences. Skipping a wine or two in a flight saves time and allows us to focus our palate on making good decisions regarding wines we might buy.
- Don’t be shy about asking for a substitute if you prefer not to taste a wine on the tasting list. Many hosts are happy to pour an alternate wine IF they have a bottle of the requested wine open. If you share your wine preferences with the host, they will often pour a splash of wines not on the tasting list for you to try.
- Ask questions and take tasting notes, even if all you do is take cell phone photos of bottle labels (see more on this below). Even if you don’t know a lot about wine making, most tasting room hosts are great at translating technical jargon into easy to understand explanations of why a wine tastes as it does. We can use that information in the ongoing development of our tasting preferences.
- When tasting with a group, combine your purchases to take advantage of case discounts.
Wine Tasting Tips For After Your Adventure
- If you like to take notes, use a tool that works best for you, whether it’s a note pad or your smart phone. My personal preference is the online CellarTracker system and iPhone app, which supports tasting notes and adding wines to my cellar as I make a purchase. CellarTracker offers only basic support for notes (check boxes for whether or not you liked the wine, a number rating and a text box to enter tasting notes in your own words). If you prefer taking notes with specific details (sweetness, acidity, tannins, aroma, etc.), then Wine Notes is a good smart phone app that provides prompts for characterizing those details. My notes describe the wines I taste, but they also answer a couple other important questions: Which wines would I buy or avoid? Would I visit that tasting room again?
- Consider sharing your notes. CellarTracker is both a wine inventory system and a community where users share their notes. You can also share your experiences here on Wine Adventure Journal (click here to read how).
I hope you found these tips helpful and will share your own in the comments section below.