Attending a wine tasting tour is something that everyone should experience. It is liquid excellence by some of the most notable professionals in the world. No matter where you decide to go, tasting room etiquette is still expected behavior. Get the most out of your trip by using the ten tips below to enhance the tasting experience.

10. Do the Swirl And Sniff

It’s something you see in the movies all the time with sophisticated characters. The swirl and sniff isn’t just a random character trait for deep characters. It is the appropriate way to prepare your senses for a rich flavor. It will take practice before you’re able to identify key ingredients and fragrances, but with a little time your senses will notice minor differences. One drink may have a hint of honey while another has a splash of vanilla. These subtle differences will help when deciding which type of wine works best for your taste buds.

For years, the swirl and sniff has been used by millions of wine drinkers. It’s not going anywhere, and is a great way to get into the spirit of a wine tasting. When in doubt about wine etiquette, remember that the swirl and sniff will always be in style.

9. A Common Wine Tasting Problem

Knowing whether to swish, spit or swallow is still a hotly debated topic with wine tasting. Even if you have been to a few tastings, there will be a different preference based on the venue. The spitting technique was first used by groups that wanted to remain sober while tasting. When going through multiple different bottles, it was a necessity that also helped with the experience. Spitting is also a great way to get rid of any bias when judging new flavors.

There are no social rules against spitting, swallowing or swishing. In fact, you can get a general idea of what is preferred by looking at the serving portions. Wineries that offer tastings will likely serve small portions in ounces, so the chances of intoxication or flavor bias is low. Unless a host specifically tells you what they prefer, it is safe to spit, swish or swallow.

8. Take Down Notes

There are an incredible number of brands, types and ages when it comes to wine. Even for a seasoned taster, it can be easy to get lost in all of the choices. This becomes a big problem when you have a lot of favorites but forget the vital information. Always take notes, detailing things like your favorite brand, type, and flavor notes. Some people have a preference for nutty flavors while others will want a dry wine. After a while, your notes will be your visual representation of the types of wine you prefer the most. When you go to future tastings, your notes will then allow you to tailor the experience around your favorites. It is also a way to avoid flavors that you can’t stand and would rather not sample. Keep in mind the notes don’t have to be overly complex. They can be as short or as long as needed to describe your tasting experience.

7. Dress The Part

No one is asking you to get a tailored suit, but there are some things to remember when going for a tasting. The inevitable spill is bound to happen, especially when going with groups of people. When a wine accident happens, the clothes you wear will make a big difference. Dark clothes hide spills better, especially when red wine is the culprit. Wearing white as a main clothing color will only cause problems if the drink gets on you. When color isn’t an issue, hanging sleeves or loose clothing can be a hazard. Either one of these things can knock over a glass when reaching.

Tasters that carry a lot of technology should plan ahead for the event. Since one hand will be on a glass, carrying around your phone or other device should be a last resort. Use accessories like bags for devices to keep your other hand free.

6. Always Ask Questions

There are a lot of things that you won’t know about wine tasting, even after several trips. Experienced tasters are always learning, and part of that has to do with how curious they are about the craft. Knowing the popular wines is not enough to fully immerse yourself in the tasting. Take the time to get familiar with wine language and culture, and it will open up an entirely new world. Anytime something is mentioned that you don’t understand, ask for clarification. No one will look down on you for not understanding some of the blends, flavors or origins of a specific wine. There is a big difference between a casual wine taster and a wine connoisseur. But the one thing they have in common is a willingness to expand their wine knowledge.

5. It’s More Than Wine

If you go to a wine tasting only expecting to drink, then prepare to be surprised. A full experience includes cheese and nuts, or other edible bites. This enhances the flavor of specific wines, and allows you to understand how it all pairs together. You may end up learning more about different cheese types than wine. Even if the event doesn’t serve food or snacks, there is a chance that water will be served to cleanse your palate. This is done to preserve the authenticity of each wine flavor you try.

As a side note, small snacks can also help tasters that are affected alcohol more than others. It puts something in your stomach to counteract the woozy effects, and is done in a way that doesn’t ruin the experience.

4. What’s Your Budget?

Not all wine tastings are created the same, so be ready to shell out money for quality. Going the cheap route might give you a subpar experience. Cheap wine tastings lack all of the bells and whistles like atmosphere, variety and overall balance. You can spend an entire afternoon enjoying a good wine tasting, and not even realize how fast the time is flying.

With that said, a low-priced wine tasting doesn’t always equal a bad experience. There are complimentary and low-priced offerings that rival the high cost alternatives. You’ll have to do a little bit of legwork to find these setups, but it is more than worth the trouble. By being upfront and honest about your budget, you can find the best wine tasting venue in that range. Don’t get hung up on price, but also take care not to ignore the value of spending a little bit more.

3. Don’t Disrupt The Smell

With wine, the smell is just as important as the taste. Experienced wine tasters already know the quality of a drink before it touches their lips. The last thing you want is to have that pleasant smell overpowered by cologne, aftershave or perfume. There are even some branded deodorants with a strong smell that lingers in the air.

Other scents that can be overpowering come from cigarettes, tobacco and scented jewelry. Keep access to these items at a minimum before going to a tasting. Consider alternative fragrances that are light in smell but still fit the theme of the event.

2. Have Fun

This is a simple suggestion, but one that a lot of people seem to forget. Wine tastings aren’t a serious suit and tie event where no one makes conversation. It is a great social gathering where you get to sample some of the best wine in the world. Relax, and expand your knowledge of the various brands and flavors. There is no wrong way to attend a wine tasting, just a small set of tips for convenience. When you find yourself getting too wrapped up in rules and habits, take a deep breath and relax. No one is going to ban you from a wine tasting for being slightly different from the usual crowd.

1. What’s Your Plan?

Instead of showing up and expecting the host to guide the evening, set some personal goals for yourself. Make it a point to taste x number of red wines. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, ask for a mystery flavor. There are many ways to spice up your tastings without having to depend on the host to make the rules. Use it as a way to change the pace after attending a few tastings. The process of discovery is a great thing to go through when trying different wines. Check out surveys in your area to find the most popular wine choice. That way you will always have an incentive to try something new.

Wrap Up

This is just a small sample of the things you can do to improve a wine tasting tour. Every place will have something new to offer, so in time you will be able to make your own rules. A wine tasting is meant to be fun from beginning to end. By knowing how to work the room, you’ll never be intimidated by the choices.