Wine Tasting Etiquette

If you are planning a visit to wine country to do some wine tasting, it is important to be aware of the proper etiquette when in the tasting rooms. You would not wish to offend the proprietors of these wonderful properties by breaking one of the unwritten rules of the wine world. But if you’re new to the wine tasting trail, allow me to start you off on the right track. Here are some Wine Country Tasting Do’s and Don’ts.


Ask questions!

If you want to know more about the wine in your glass or about wine in general, speak up and ask your tasting room server. Most of the associates working in a tasting room are passionate about wine (and sometimes it may in fact be the winemaker themselves pouring the wines.) There are no wrong questions to tasting and tasting room staff should be educated or know something about the winery they are representing. Show an interest in the wines you are tasting along wiht the storied history of the winery. Their tasting room servers andmanagers are bursting with information, so take advantage of their knowledge.

Mind your manners.

Experts & novices alike stress the importance of being polite to your tasting room server. This means answering a greeting using your words, making eye contact and being patient. Just like any service industry, tasting room staff can posibly see hundreds of people in a day so give them a break if it takes them a moment to get back to you. Being courteous and polite can get you much further than rudeness or being impatient.

Ask for a personal spittoon or spit cup, and use it.

I have heard several winery visitors speak about how they find it difficult to taste the differences between wines after the first few, or that they skip wines to avoid drinking too much when visiting more than one location. The key to tasting and learning about multiple wines at one time is to spit when sampling. The large buckets on the tasting bar are best for dumping any excess from your glass (and it can be pretty unappealing to put your face over them to spit). Instead, ask your server for a spittoon or cup and a napkin so you can spit your wine out considerately. They are often available but are rarely offered in tasting rooms without request.

Ask for more, the right way.

If you wish to sample a wine that you have already tasted, a very nice way to ask is ‘May I please revisit…' instead of ‘Top that one up…'



Be impolite.

A winery tasting room is a lot like a nice restaurant, not your local corner dive bar you shoot darts at on Thursdays. You would never holler across the room of a fine dining restaurant for a drink refill from your server while they are talking to another table. Have some respect for the server and other patrons, wait your turn and speak clearly to your attendant about what you next selection is. Above all, do not throw your elbows pushing your way to the front of the line. Nobody likes that someone ruining the experience for others.

Argue when it comes to winery policy.

Please keep in mind it is up to the winery to set the rules of their establishment and they are most likely in place to provide an equally comfortable environment for all guests. Check in advace to see if the winery allows for bringing your own snacks, large parties without a reservation, animals, bikes, or children. Remember, when you have your own winery, you can set the rules.

Try to visit too many places in a day.

If you try to see and taste as much as possible in one day, it usually ends up meaning lots of time spent in the car and by the end of the day all the wines just blur together in memory. It’s recommended that you make appointments for any tours or private tastings that you wish to attend, as this will help pace the time at each location getting to really know the wines, the winery, and the employees at each winery.

Feel obligated to finish the wine.

You should never feel like you need to drink all that is poured into your glass. It is okay if you don't like the sample, or for whatever reason you wish to move onto you next selection. If what you wish for is a smaller pour of wine, just let the server know that you wish for a smaller amount in your glass when it comes time to pour your next selection. 

Go wine tasting on an empty stomach.

There are lots of reasons not to start any day of alcohol consumption without first eating, but in 1994, a team of Swedish researchers found the rate of intoxication was slower and the subjects reached significantly lower blood-alcohol levels over all -- on average of 30% lower -- when having a complete breakfast in the morning on the days of alcohol consumption. The wines also taste better with paired with food, so I suggest you carry snacks for before, during and after your wine tasting.


Be courteous, ask questions, and mind the rules so you will get the most from your visit. It's easy enough, considering the reward is a few glasses of wine and an enjoyable time. Cheers!