It seems odd to talk about “how to” taste at a wine tasting. Don’t we just pull up, get our glass and drink away? Well you can, but I can tell you from the “live and learn” method it’s not always the best way to taste wine.
Why wine taste?
We go wine tasting to enjoy great wine, find new wines we love and relax. Right? We need to be able to listen, learn, taste and understand what we are drinking during a tasting. Because we are tasting an alcoholic beverage, a tasting can easily be lost after a few tastes. Once alcohol reaches our brains we start to lose some of our effort and focus.
How to Taste Wine Better at a Tasting
Prep for the Tasting
I don’t mean brain prep, I mean body prep. We need to prepare our bodies for a wine event. This means hydration for the 24 hours before the event. You should be drinking water like you will be drinking wine. Be sure you are on a constant water fill up.
Drinking water helps cleanse your body, as well as nourish cells for the upcoming event. It prepares your body for the dehydration that is about to occur from the alcohol content of the beverage.
Not only should you be drinking a ton of water, you should plan your meal before the tasting. If you have plans to have a full dinner with your tasting, then this becomes a moot point. However, if food is not part of your event you need food before going. An example of this would be a weekly tasting event at a local liquor/wine store. You should plan your dinner before the event. If you are planning dinner for after, you should have a salad or significant snack within one hour of the event beginning.
Why do we need to prep our bodies this way?
Alcohol will quickly move from the stomach to the bloodstream. If there is no food in the stomach it goes immediately through. If there is food, the alcohol is more slowly processed. Alcohol to the brain is slowed. The water will help you keep from a later headache, or other dehydration problem as well.
One thing is for certain at any tasting the worst thing you can do is to drink quickly. It doesn’t matter what you had to eat, or how much water you drank, drinking quickly in large amounts will only keep you from learning, tasting and functioning!
How to Pace Yourself By Selection
Depending on the size of your event part of pacing might mean not tasting everything on everyone’s list. Vendors will likely want you to taste their full flight. The farther and longer you spend tasting you will want to try more and more from the list. This is the time when you have to say no to some wine. The best way to taste is to pace it right from the first vendor, or tasting on. If you just no you would never purchase the type of wine that is being presented to you, then it’s one to skip. If you are thinking to yourself, oh boy I would love to buy this wine coming up – that’s one to taste.
If you are a dry wine lover at home, then stick to dry wine only at a large tasting event. If you know you are only running into your local liquor store quick and they have only three wines out to taste, then by all means try them all. However, at a large event with multiple vendors with long lists of wine, it’s best to stick with what you will buy.
Tip: You might notice a bottle of wine that sounds delicious to you, but it is out of your price range. You can choose to include this or leave it out. You may never have the chance to taste that type of wine if you don’t, so skimp out somewhere else on this list.
How to Pace Yourself with Time
Another thing on your side when drinking any alcoholic beverage is time. If you know you want to try as many wines at the event as possible, start at the beginning of the time slot and take your time between each vendor. No need to rush. If you are in a time crunch you will need to keep that in mind when pacing yourself. You will need to remember to decrease the quantity of wine at each vendor knowing you don’t have the time to try everything.
Tip: Take a friend or family member with you. You can talk and catch up between tasting tables or even lists. The more time you spend relaxing the better your body will process your tasting. The more you will enjoy your wine.
Snacks & Water
If the tasting is offering light finger foods or pairings this will help even more. While pacing yourself with time add in your food and water. The more water you consume between tasting sets the better off you will be.
Overall, you want to enjoy your wine, keep your head about you and arrive home safely. The point of the tasting is to taste and learn about wine. Food, water and time are your friends. Keep it simple and know your limits.