I am a sucker for a good wine trail. There are so many fabulous wine trails around the country that you do not have to go far to find one. A popular way to enjoy them is to turn it into a weekend getaway. Whether you are a wine aficionado or someone who just wants to learn a few things, wine trails allow you to sample many types of wines and wineries in a short period of time.
That being said, wineries along wine trails are typically small establishments and a certain amount of wine-tasting etiquette is expected to ensure the best possible experience for everyone. Here are some things to keep in mind before you hit the trail:
1. Don’t get drunk! Go into the experience knowing that you will likely be drinking more than your typical amount of alcohol. In order to enjoy as many wines as possible — and remember the experience– pace yourself. Maybe have one sample instead of two at each winery and be sure to work in meals and snacks along the way so you have food in your stomach to minimize the effects of the alcohol. If you appear drunk, the tasting room attendant is not allowed to serve you and may even ask you to leave.
2. Proper attire. While there is typically not a dress code for wine tastings, keep in mind that these are sophisticated establishments and you are a guest. Shorts and casual shoes are acceptable, but courtesy dictates that dressy casual is a better bet. Also refrain from wearing perfume the day of your tastings as it interferes with the aroma of the wine.
3. Keep it down. If you have ever attended a wine tasting, you know that even with 100 people in the room, it is fairly quiet. That is because loud voices are not appreciated or necessary in this setting. Conversational tone is appropriate.
4. Pour it out. The whole purpose of wine tasting is to try many types of wines. You will not like them all and you are not expected to drink something you simply do not care for. If you do not want the rest of your sample, there is typically a “dump” bucket available to dispose of the extra in your glass. It is perfectly acceptable.
5. You are not obligated to buy. If you find a sample of wine you love and want to take a bottle home, buy it. But, do not feel obligated to purchase bottles of wine at every tasting. The idea of a wine trail is to sample different kinds of wines and visit wineries….it is the experience that you should treasure and you are not expected to buy unless you choose to.
6. Don’t help yourself. If you are lucky enough to be invited into the vineyard during your tasting, do not pick the grapes. This is a major faux pas and it will likely be your last invite into the vineyard. Be respectful of the products and processes at the wineries you visit. If you aren’t sure about something, ask.
7. Palette cleansers vs. lunch. The cheese and crackers served at wineries are not appetizers and should not be consumed as such. They are simply there to cleanse your palette and used to demonstrate how certain wines pair with certain foods. If you are hungry, many wineries have adjoining restaurants or cafes that will gladly accommodate you.
Some wine trails are self-guided tours, others planned as groups with a guide. Every winery along the trail you choose has unique character and you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy the experience.