News flash: A younger generation has moved into and transformed the oft-priggish world of wine. Goodbye Boomers, you have been officially (and statistically) replaced on the financial radar of wine, with vibrant, adventurous and eager Millennials doing the majority of the wine buying in this country.
But not every new wine lover knows how to take that affinity next level and on the road wine tasting (with a designated driver, of course). Interested in day drinking at one of your new favorite winery tasting rooms? Here are 10 steps on how to taste wine like a pro:
1. Map Out Your Trip
Where ya going, bud? Hit up the interwebs prior to hitting those backcountry wine roads and decide on a general region you want to taste in. Most wine regions (known as American Viticulture Areas or AVAs) have maps and listings available online, use these free resources to narrow down the wineries that are the most interesting to you. You can usually find out addresses, tasting fees and other details here. Warning: Not all wine regions are the same size. You might be able to visit four wineries in four hours if you’re in an urban setting, but deep agricultural wine country could have you traveling 15 minutes between stops, so plan accordingly. If tasting with a group larger than six, call ahead of time to let them know you’re about to blow their mind with your wine presence.
2. Coordinate A Designated Driver
This sounds like a no-brainer, but it never hurts to say it again. Many major wine regions are trolled by cops and for good reason, avoid being a statistic by booking a chauffeuring tour guide, a limo driver or Lyfting to each location if they are not within walking distance.
3. Lose The Perfume And Cologne
Did you know that 90 percent of taste is smell? Don’t ruin this tasting experience for the person standing next to you by wearing that audacious bro cologne your girlfriend just got you, it will be all they can taste and they will hate you for it.
4. What Is Terroir? Why Do Oak Barrels Change Flavor? Ask Questions
Don’t pretend to know something you don’t — no one is expecting you to be an expert so feel free to probe your tasting room attendee with questions about the wine, the winery or the color of the sky when the grapes were harvested. It is literally their job to answer these questions and they truly appreciate getting to do that.
5. Remember To Pace Yourself
Sometimes tasting room countertops have a number of jug-like containers resting on them. Be sure to ID which is a water pitcher and which is a spittoon, also known as the dump bucket. If you are really digging something, don’t be ashamed to take it down the hatch. If you are pacing yourself or don’t like a wine you’re tasting, spitting it into this bucket is completely acceptable, as is dumping the rest of the glass. And don’t forget the golden rule for day drinking: guzzle down any and all water when you can.
6. Be Spatially Aware
Do not Beauregard the spittoon or hover around the counter. Get your wine, ask your questions and get out of the way so others can do the same thing. Respect the order of the room and appreciate that there might only be one person behind the counter and a dozen behind you awaiting their pour.
7. Think While You Drink
Once the wine is in your glass, what smells and tastes stand out? If you need help identifying what exactly is happening to your olfactory senses (smell, flavor, etc.), try consulting a flavor wheel. What the eff is that, you ask? A quick online search will show you a variety of flavor wheel options for wine that visualizes the different flavors and aromas found in most red and white wines, regardless of grape variety. It guides you from the outside in on what might be up in your nose right now. Check out trusted source Wine Folly’s version.
8. If You Like It, Buy It
Most tasting rooms offer a refundable tasting fee with the purchase of wine, so don’t be afraid to pull the trigger on a bottle or two, especially if it’s a winery exclusive, limited release or something you want to sip on your deathbed. On the flip, do not feel pressured to buy as you paid your dues with a tasting fee.
9. Be Open And Listen To Your Heart-Palate
Keep an open mind. Even though you are absolutely positive you do not like Chardonnay, get over yourself and realize you haven’t tried every Chardonnay ever made and your one true love could be out there waiting for you. That said, remember taste is subjective and if you liked what you liked while tasting — be proud of that! If your fave from the tasting flight was the cheapest option, own it and listen to your heart-palate.
10. Don’t Linger: This Is A Tasting Room, Not A Bar
Once you’ve finished your tasting, pay up if you haven’t already and head out. Thank the tasting room staff for their time and get on your merry way to your next location to do it all over again. Or head to the bar, where lingering and obviously intoxication is more welcome.