Friday, March 6, 2015

Tasting Etiquette: How Not to be a Wine Snob

I am a fairly seasoned wine taster. I haven’t been to Italy or Napa Valley yet, but I have been to wineries in several other places, including Texas, Maine, New York and Canada. Wine tasting is one of my favorite activities and I generally find it very enjoyable. But sometimes, there are wine snobs and pushy people who also decide to go wine tasting on the same day you do. 

2014 Barrel Tasting at Hermit Woods Winery
During a recent trip to a New Hampshire winery, I encountered such guests, which prompted me to write a list of do’s and don’ts. Please read them with a good sense of humor. A glass of wine is also helpful. 

DO ask questions. I’m not a wine expert or a sommelier, and even when I have tried a wine before, I like hearing its description. I like hearing about how it is made, what it pairs with and other essential information. I may even ask some questions myself. I appreciate when other people ask questions too. I like watching others learn more about wine. Please just be aware that the winery employee may have several customers to pour wine for, so be patient and courteous. They are there to help and discuss the wine with you, but when it is busy, they have multiple customers to attend to at the same time. Repeating your question over and over doesn’t mean it will get answered any faster. 

DON’T ask awkward questions like “how much residual sugar is in this?” or ask the winery employee to keep repeating the name of the wine. It’s right on the bottle. 

DO try each wine (within your own and/ or the winery’s sample limits). On the particular day I went, it was quite busy, so I had to wait a few minutes between tastings. But I didn’t mind, because it gave me time to enjoy my company and the wine itself. Wine tasting is meant to be an enjoyable, relaxing experience. I dislike feeling rushed. 

DON’T be pushy and impatient. If it’s busy, chances are you will have to wait. Winery employees can only pour so much wine and talk to so many customers at once. They are doing the best they can to give everyone the same great experience. Pushing your way through people to the bar or table is rude, and it doesn’t make the atmosphere pleasant or relaxing. Also, holding out your glass in front of other people isn’t appreciated either. Everyone is waiting for more wine, so please wait your turn. If you’re in a hurry, a busy weekend tasting may not be for you. 

DON’T be overly loud. Remember the “inside voice” we all learned to use in school? Please use it in the winery. I am trying to have a nice relaxing experience, and your yelling doesn’t help. It may be busy and loud due to the crowd, but your voice doesn’t need to rise over everyone else’s. During Lakes Region Barrel Tasting Weekend this past fall, my group visited wineries with some of the same groups of people who seemed to be on the same route. One guest in particular rounded up her group at each winery by yelling loudly. This did not add to the atmosphere, especially when we were in one of the smaller wineries on the circuit. Please be courteous of other visitors. I know we aren’t in a library or anything, but we’re also not in a nightclub. 

Wineries should be places where everyone is welcome, no matter how much they know about wine. One of the things I appreciate most about our New Hampshire wineries is their welcoming atmospheres. I want to enjoy my wine without being elbowed or shoved or having to yell loudly to speak to the person next to me.