How Does a Wine Tasting Work?

how does a wine tasting work

Interested in trying out a wine tasting, but not sure where to begin? Visiting a vineyard for your first tasting can be a little intimidating and first-timers have lots of questions regarding etiquette and what to expect during the tasting. The team at Olsen Run Winery have put together this beginner's guide to a wine tasting to answer the most important questions you may have.

The following helpful tips will help you feel at ease at your first wine tasting. Learn what you need to know before a wine tasting and what a wine tasting entails by reading the tips below.

What is a Wine Tasting?
A wine tasting is a trip to a winery where you experience various types of wines in small amounts. It allows visitors to savor small amounts of different types of wines in a single afternoon. Wine tastings encourage you to pause and really appreciate the aroma, flavors, and aftertaste of each wine.

At a wine tasting you'll typically be standing up for the duration, and possibly walking around the winery to view the wine production process. 

What do you do at a Wine Tasting?
You taste small amounts of different types of wine and learn about the winery. 

How Long Does a Wine Tasting Last?
Most wine tastings last between 30 and 45 minutes. However, wine tours can take participants to multiple adjacent wineries and last for a few hours. 

What Kind of Questions Should You Ask at a Wine Tasting?
History: Every winery has a story, and usually a few interesting ones. Wine grapes can be imported from all over the world and cultivated to grow in new locales. Asking the guide or staff about the winery's history can spark a conversation and lead to a richer wine tasting experience.

Do You Have to Tip at a Wine Tasting?
Yes, it's customary to tip at a wine tasting. Luckily, it's much simpler than tipping at a restaurant. You can tip $5 per person in your group, and if you had an amazing time and want to tip more it's suggested that you tip $10 per person in your group.

If you purchased a bottle of wine at the end of the tasting, or used a coupon take that into consideration if you choose to tip more or less.

Does a Wine Tasting Get you Drunk?
Wine tasting participants can choose to spit out their wine after tasting or to ingest it. If you choose to swallow all of the wine you taste for the duration of the wine tasting, you will have ingested several glasses of wine. 

Wine Tasting Tips

Drink on a Full Stomach
If you drink wine on an empty stomach you'll get drunk very quickly. Wine tasting events can last between one and several hours so it could be awhile before you get anything to eat. Plan ahead and either have a meal before the wine tasting, or bring snacks with you to munch on during the event. A full stomach will help absorb some of the alcohol and prevent you from being too buzzed to complete the tasting.

At Olsen Run Winery we can make you a cheeseburger, loaded fries, a chicken sandwich or several other quick lunch options. Feel free to grab something to eat before or during a tasting with us.
Book a Reservation
It's recommended to book a reservation in advance before enjoying a wine tasting. Visitors without a reservation may be placed in an "overflow" area, while guests with a reservation may have their own reserved area and sommelier to attend to them. We recommend calling ahead to schedule a reservation in any case.
Dress for the Occasion
Wear light clothing and comfortable shoes as a full day of wine tasting can have you on your feet for hours. There's a chance you may spill some wine, so wearing a dark shirt is a good idea. Avoid long shirt sleeves to prevent accidents and consider tying back long hair that could get in the way when you spit out wine.
Can You Wear Jeans to a Wine Tasting?
Yes, you can wear a pair of nicer jeans to a wine tasting. Wine tastings are typically an outdoor event where there is some moving around, so jeans are appropriate. If you're not sure what the appropriate attire is for the winery you're visting, check out their social media and see how other guests are dressed.
Ask Questions
A wine tasting is a bit like a visit to the museum. You can do a lap and go home, or you can stop to learn about the history behind each painting and have a richer experience. Listen to what the host has to say, and feign interest even if you're just thinking about which wine you'll try next. Usually they do a good job of sharing interesting stories about the winery and its history and paying attention will make the experience more memorable.
Plan for the Drive Home
Remember that after the wine tasting someone will have to drive you home. Nominate a designated driver, or arrange for a car service to pick you up. Never drink and drive.

Hold Your Wine Glass by the Stem
Moving from top to bottom, a wine glass has four parts: the rim, the bowl, the stem and the base. It's important to hold the wine glass by the stem, not just to look sophisticated, but because it actually impacts how the wine tastes!

Here's why. The warmth from your hand will actually heat up the wine, causing the alcohol in it to evaporate faster. When wine gets too warm, the flavors become dulled making it taste flat. The entire point of a wine tasting is to experience the subtle flavors and notes of each wine, so be sure to hold your wine glass by the stem.

Stay Hydrated
A sip of water between wines doesn't just wash the palate in preparation for the next wine, it also helps you stay hydrated. Hydration is especially important if you're travelling around a large vineyard for a tasting. The combination of alcohol, warm weather, and physical exercise can be taxing, so keep water at the ready.
Swish Your Wine Around
Sip, swish, spit. Swishing wine around your mouth "opens" it up, and coats all your taste buds with the wine. This allows you to get the full flavor experience; salty, our, sweet, bitter, and umami. Swishing doesn't have to be a major mouth workout, just softly move the wine around from left to right and front to back.

Spitting is Encouraged
Many people wonder: Do you spit out at wine tastings? Wine tastings are the one time where it's considered good manners to spit. Wine connoisseurs typically get a mouthful of wine, swish it around, and after appreciating the flavor, spit the wine out into a spittoon.
It's completely optional, and if you prefer to swallow the wine after tasting it, that's fine as well. Just keep in mind that after a long day of wine tasting without spitting any of it out, you may have ingested a decent amount of wine.
Before spitting make sure you're aimed directly above the spittoon so you don't get any on the floor or your clothing. You may even want to practice your technique at home by spitting out water into the sink. This way you'll feel confident when it's time to spit out wine in public.

Wait, did you say there's a wine spit bucket?
Yes, a wine spit bucket will be nearby at all wine tastings. This allows visitors to taste and experience the wine without drinking it. After swirling the wine in their mouth, they spit it out into the wine spit bucket. The spit bucket can also be referred to as a wine dump bucket, or a spittoon.

Cleanse Your Palate Frequently
You experience wine through both taste and smell; which means other aromas and flavors can compete with the wine. Strong scents like perfume, cologne, or aftershave can inhibit your ability to "nose" the wine, and strong food flavors like onions will interfere with the wine's flavor. Eating before a tasting is fine, just be sure to skip any spicy foods or any flavors that may overwhelm your palate just before the tasting. More importantly, skip any fragrances that will interfere not just with your own tasting experience, but potentially those around you.
Gum, candy, and toothpaste may normally help reset your mouth after a meal, but these flavors will also interfere with a wine tasting. Be sure to brush long before you arrive at the tasting, and skip the gum and peppermints or you may wind up with a mouthful of peppermint-flavored Chardonnay!

Pack a Bag
Some winery tours that include multiple stops are akin to a day at the beach, with lots of walking, sunshine, and long stretches outdoors. Plan accordingly and bring necessities like water, sunscreen, sunglasses, and headwear. Keep in mind that carrying around a glass of wine all day means you'll only have one hand free.
What are the Seven S's of Wine Tasting?
1. SEE - Hold the wine up to the light and view the color. With experience, the examination of the wine's color can tell you about how it was prepared and aged. 

2. SWIRL - Softly make small rotations with your wrist to swirl the wine around in the glass. Swirling the wine aerates it, and will help activate the aroma.

3. SMELL - Now hold the glass up to your nose, and breathe in the smell of the wine. What flavors do you detect? Almonds, nuts, vanilla, tobacco? The "notes" of each specific wine can tell you information about how and where it was created.

4. SIP - Now to the most important step! Take a small sip of the wine and softly swirl it around your mouth, coating the taste buds on your tongue. After a few moments of tasting the wine you can swallow it or spit it out. 

5. SLURP - On your next sip of wine, draw in some air and slosh the wine around inside your mouth. There may be a bit of a sound from the wine sloshing, but this is part of the experience. Just like decanting and swirling the wine in the glass, slurping allows air to interact with the wine and bring out the aroma. Move the wine around in your mouth. What types of flavors did you experience (sweet, acidic, earthy)? What did those flavors remind you of? Did the taste stay with you or quickly disappear? There's no right or wrong answer, and as you taste more wine you'll notice smaller differences between them.

6. SAVOR - Take a third and final sip of wine. Consider what this wine would pair well with. What type of events you would serve it at. Who you might gift a bottle to? You've gotten to know the wine through the tasting process, how does it resonate with you?

7. SPIT - After your wine has been fully tasted, it's time to spit it out! Wine is meant to be ingested but at a wine tasting you'll be sampling so many different varities that you're not expected to drink all of it. A conspicuous spit bucket will be located nearby for you to spit your wine into.
We hope you found this wine tasting FAQ useful, now get out there and enjoy!
Now that you're a wine tasting expert, check out these awesome wine hacks to get you out of a jam!
Back to blog