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A Beginner’s Guide to Wine-Tasting

So, you’ve decided to try wine-tasting. Whether you’re newly 21 or not, going for the first time can be a little intimidating! It seems like only rich people who drink wine more expensive than your parking pass should enjoy this pastime, but that’s definitely not the case. You don’t have to be a wine snob in order to enjoy the experience and you certainly shouldn’t feel intimidated to go. Going with your parents or best friends can be really fun and relaxing!

That being said, going out and wine-tasting is different than just chugging the stuff from a bag (no judgment). While you don’t have to be stuck-up to appreciate wine-tasting, you do want to look like you know what you’re doing! Here are some tried-and-true tips that will make your wine-tasting adventure as smooth as a dark red Syrah:

Eat something beforehand

Especially if you intend on going to more than one winery. You may only be having a few sips of each wine, but chances are you’re trying five or six at a time. Most wineries don’t offer food; some offer little snacks like crackers. Nothing ruins the mood of wine-tasting like a rumbling stomach, so make sure to eat something substantial before you go.

Learn the etiquette of tasting

There is a certain etiquette when it comes to tasting wine; you’ll look and feel more confident during your tasting if you learn a few simple guidelines. Take note of the wine’s color when you get it, then swirl it in the glass to help the aroma come through more strongly. It’s typical to sniff the wine a little before tasting, but don’t worry if it’s a subtle scent that you don’t pick up. Do not chug – little sips are best for tasting and also not slopping wine all over your cute clothes.

Ask questions if you have them

Your wine steward is there for a reason! Beyond just pouring you the wine, it’s their job to know the details about the winery’s products and to answer any questions consumers might have. And don’t worry about feeling intimidated or not wanting to seem inexperienced – everyone has to start somewhere!

If you can, try a variety of wines

Some wineries allow you to choose the wines you want to taste, offering a variety of types and flavors. The great thing about wine-tasting is that you’re not committing to an entire bottle or even a full glass, so be bold and try something outside of your comfort zone. Others places have set wines for tasting, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t that red wine just because you usually don’t like it. Keeping an open mind is what wine-tasting is all about!

Be honest about what you like

Of course, if you don’t like a wine, you don’t have to drink it! Everyone has different tastes and preferences. Just because something is expensive or won prizes doesn’t mean you have to buy it. Appreciate the wine for what it is but don’t pretend it’s the best thing you’ve ever tasted when you actually have to stop yourself from gagging. Being honest about what kinds of wines you enjoy will allow the employee helping you to understand what your tastes are, and you’ll learn more about your wine preferences as well.

Happy wine-tasting, collegiettes!

Valentina Sainato is a 5th year English major and Ethnic Studies minor at Cal Poly SLO. She loves to read, always having a book in hand. She's also a devoted dancer who knows 12 different styles, and runs the SLO swing dancing scene. When she isn't working as a writing tutor, you can find her at any coffee shop in town (probably reading) or trying her best at the gym. Valentina is thrilled to be a writer and the senior editor for Her Campus Cal Poly!
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