Wine Tasting Etiquette

Heading out for a day of visiting wineries? Great! Here are a few wine tasting etiquette tips to know before you go.

wine tasting etiquette glassesPhoto © Delstudio | Dreamstime

Wine Tasting Etiquette Tips

  • Call ahead. Many tasting rooms in Napa Valley want reservations, especially for groups. It's a good idea to check the winery's website for visiting hours and reservation requirements first. Take care not to over-schedule your day so you'll arrive on time.
  • Wait to be served. Napa Valley tasting rooms are often busy. Don't nudge your way up to the counter ahead of others and don't shout to get your server's attention. Be patient. Your experienced server will wait on you as soon as possible.
  • Don't wear perfume or cologne. Strong scents in the tasting room will overwhelm the subtle aromas of wine.
  • Keep your voice at a conversational volume. You're at an educational event, not in a bar.
  • Silence your cell phone. It's discourteous to your server to take a call while he or she is talking to you. A ringing phone is also distracting to other visitors. Set your phone to vibrate, if you must, and excuse yourself from the tasting room if you need to take a call.
  • Spit out your wine. Yes, I know. Mom told you not to spit. But it's perfectly OK to do this at a wine tasting so you won't overindulge. Alcohol consumption will catch up with you and interfere with your ability to taste wine as you go down the list. There is a dump bucket on the counter in tasting rooms for unfinished wine. It's a good idea to use it.
  • Drink responsibly. Wine tasting at a single winery can make a person intoxicated...visit a few and you'll be schnockered before you know it. I can't emphasize this enough: Designate a driver before heading out. Drunk driving laws in California are strictly enforced for everyone's safety.

Wine Tasting Etiquette - Dress the Part

Wondering what to wear to winery tours and tastings?

You may have heard of  Wine Country Casual...a term coined for this relaxed-yet-refined part of the country.

Dress comfortably and sophisticated. Although a few winery workers may be in blue jeans, you may feel out of place in them. And leave your favorite sports team shirt at home. Show respect for your winery tour hosts by wearing casually elegant clothes. Khakis are right at home here, along with a sweater, button-down or polo shirt.

Wear comfortable shoes, too. Depending on your tour, you may be walking into the vineyards, strolling through gardens, climbing stairs and walking across wet cave floors, stepping over hoses. High heels and flip-flops are not recommended.

Even in summer, those wine caves can be downright chilly. You may be glad you brought a jacket or sweater.

Thrifty Tips to Save Money

  • It's perfectly acceptable to split a tasting with a friend. Just ask your server. You may not want to taste every wine on the list you'll share the wine tasting fee to boot.
  • Some wineries offer two-for-one wine tasting coupons. Your hotel concierge may have a few on hand. Don't be shy to ask about them.
  • Wine tasting fees are sometimes waived with a wine purchase. Be sure to ask your wine server.