Wine Tasting Do’s And Don’ts

Roberto Viernes
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Wednesday - August 04, 2006
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The 17th annual Honolulu Wine Festival “From the Vineyard to the Sea Down Under” was quite a splash! It featured some of Australia’s finest seafood products cooked by the best chefs in Hawaii. It also had a huge selection of wines to taste from all over the world. As with many events like this one, getting around to taste everything that is offered is quite a challenge. I thought that I’d give you some fun tips to remember when you attend these types of events, some etiquette and some uncommon sense.

1) Always hydrate. When tasting so many different foods and wines, you don’t realize how much alcohol your system is taking in, even if you’re just tasting or sipping your wine. Take a break every once in a while and have a glass of water. Try to drink as much water as you do wine. That way, your body won’t feel so bad later.

2) Spitting. Professionals always spit when tasting. There is no shame in it so don’t be embarrassed. More often than not, there is a dump/spit bucket on the same table so if you want to taste it before you commit to a full glass, that’s the way to do it. Even if it’s a glass bucket, where it’s see-through, no one should mind. After all, it’s better than drinking everything you taste, and getting wasted and into trouble.

3) If you’re not familiar with the wines at the table, don’t be afraid to ask the person who is pouring them about them. More often than not, the person pouring the wine actually sells them. So they should know quite a bit about it. This way, it is not only enjoyable, but educational as well. You never know, it could be me pouring the wine too.

4) Once you have your glass poured, please step to the side so others can partake as well. It’s OK to stand to the side while you’re talking to the person who just poured you the wine, but there are others behind you waiting to try it too. It’s not church service, but it does keep the flow going.

5) Rinsing your glass. If you want to be puritanical, you should rinse your glass after every taste. This is way too tedious for me. If I’m trying a white wine after a white wine, I usually don’t have to rinse, unless it’s a fortified or super aromatic grape type like Gewurztraminer or Muscat. And I don’t usually rinse if I’m going from white to red. But if I’m going from red to white, it’s always a good idea to rinse, lest you end up with rose. A friend once told me that “I would rather have wine dilute my wine than water.” I happen to agree.

6) Try something different. When was the last time you got to try more than 100 different wines in one place? There is bound to be something out there that you like, that you’ve never tried before. Throw in the myriad of food combinations and you have one multi-faceted experience.

7) Many wine tastings are just that, wine tastings. I always seem to encounter that person who just can’t fathom drinking only 2 ounces of one particular wine. According to liquor laws, wine tastings are only allowed to pour 2 ounces of each wine per glass. So please don’t complain or be snooty about how “little” is poured. Not to mention, there are others who want to taste that wine too, you know. And if you just can’t help it, ask nicely. Some people are happy to oblige.

8) Don’t wear too much perfume or cologne! Please! It ruins the aroma of wine and its enjoyment for those around you. Can you really smell anything when you wear that much anyway?

Two wines I tried at the festival that reminded me of why I drink wine:

2004 Donnhoff Estate Riesling ($18) Wow, what a beautiful perfume (pun intended)! Exotic fruits and flowers, light, piercingly intense with just enough sweetness to enrapture your palate. Absolutely delicious!

2004 Terlan Pinot Bianco ($16) A wine with a sense of place, grown in the Alto Adige Hills on hard soils, it has a light chalkiness swirled with yellow and peach fruit. Completely refreshing and vibrant, a real thirst quencher.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. E-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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