Wine tasting is a fun and social experience for those who are just starting to drink wine, and for those who have been enjoying it for years. Those who are out and about touring and tasting are often there to learn about wine and also to enjoy a variety of different types of wines and wine styles. However, most are not wine connoisseurs – they are just interested in having fun and maybe learning a little bit as they go!
There is a “suggested” method of wine tasting (whites before reds, dry before sweet, light body before full, young before old), but there are no strict rules to follow. Relax, enjoy, have fun – after all, wine tasting is supposed to be a fun, interactive experience. Wine is a process of discovery. There are no prerequisites and no right or wrong opinions. All you need to do is have an open mind and let the experience guide your adventure.
With that being said, if it’s your first time on a wine tour, it’s nice to have a little primer. Here are some useful tips for your first experience in wine touring and tasting:
1. KEEP AN OPEN MIND
You may have tried an oaky chardonnay at your friend’s house and maybe you didn’t enjoy it. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t like chardonnay. Chardonnay is widely known as the “winemaker’s grape”, as it takes well to a wide range of winemaking techniques. To put it simply, you can taste 10 chardonnays and they’re all going to be different. Give it a chance! For instance, some are 100% oaked, while our Chardonnay at Monte Creek, is aged half in stainless steel and half in oak, so it is not overly oaky, but you still receive some butteryness and lemon.
2. MEET, GREET, AND ASK QUESTIONS
Wine tours are a great way to learn about wine, but it’s also an opportunity to learn about the people behind the winery – staff, owners and the winemaker. For instance, is the winery family owned and operated? How did they get into the wine industry? What’s their winemaker’s winemaking philosophy? Getting to know the people behind the business opens up new avenues you can consider when you visit other wineries. How do they differ? How are they the same? Wine tasting is not just about the wine, it’s about the people behind it, and it’s also about the experience. So don’t be shy while on a wine tasting – ask as many questions as you’d like. Here at Monte Creek, we love to chat!
3. BE ADVENTUROUS
Not sure what wines to try? Never heard of a type of wine on the tasting bar menu? Ask the tasting bar associate. Those who work in wineries love to talk about their favourite wines, so why not ask them what they would recommend for you to try, and even what food they might suggest pairing it with. If you don’t know whether you like sweet or dry wines, red or white wines, simply be open to their suggestions, even if you are unsure. You might stumble upon your next new favourite! Maybe they have varietals that are unique to their region that would be hard to come by elsewhere.
4. USE ALL OF YOUR SENSES
Wine tasting is quite the sensory experience. Start by looking at the wine in your glass – notice the colour, clarity and the viscosity. Next, smell the wine – see if there are any aromas in there that you recognize … flowers? Fruits? Spices? Minerals? Earth? Anything is possible. When you sip the wine, swish it around in your mouth a bit before you swallow. Notice the sensations in your mouth: if there’s a tingle at the tip of your tongue, the wine is a little (or a lot) sweet. If it tingles at the sides of your tongue, that’s acidity. Bitterness on the back of your tongue is tannin, which gives a drying sensation in the mouth like an over-steeped tea bag. If you feel heat at the back of your throat, that’s a sign of high alcohol. Is it smooth? How about full-bodied and voluptuous, or is it light and fruity? Every single wine is different, just like every person is different. You might taste one thing, while your friend picks up on something totally different. That’s completely normal! Just like a snowflake, no two sets of taste buds are alike!
5. DON’T JUDGE BY YOUR FIRST SIP
Wine is a living thing and it changes when it blends to the heat of your body, the air temperature and the saliva in your mouth. That taste can be short and crisp, or it can linger for a minute or more, continuing to unfold the flavor secrets of the wine before finally fading away. This is called the “finish”. A long, complex finish is an indicator of a highly concentrated wine. Try taking at least three small sips of each wine you try to really allow the wine to unfold on your palate.
6. HIRE A DRIVER
There is nothing worse than having to argue over who has to be the designated driver. Having a DD is the responsible way to go, however, maybe you should consider hiring a driver or a tour guide to take you from winery to winery. That way you can just relax and have fun without worry. If there are wineries where you’re going, there is guaranteed to be a wine tour service. We have a handful of wonderful tour companies here in Kamloops who all offer unique experiences for their guests!
7. ASK AT THE WINERIES WHO ELSE YOU SHOULD VISIT
While you’re at the tasting bar, ask your tasting room associate if they would recommend any other destinations they would recommend. Even wines produced in the same region can be completely different depending on the winemaker’s style. Tasting room associates may be able to recommend some other wineries in the area that would have wines to suit your taste buds.
So, forget about all those stuffy rules you think you have to follow when you’re out on a wine tour. Just relax and open yourself up to new flavours and experiences. It’s a fabulous way to spend a day with family and friends. Cheers!