Last week we posted an article entitled “Top 10 ways to show off at wine tasting” (Top 10.) Today, we are focused on 10 ways to stand out from the crowd – but in a bad way. Hopefully everyone will consider this a list of things not to do rather than a list of suggested activities.
- Show up at the winery with no appointment or advance notice and expect to be accommodated. This is especially aggravating when a huge group shows up unannounced – a family reunion or the noisy bachelorette party – and piles out of a van or bus and descends on the tasting room. All or most wineries have specific visit restrictions (per day and per week) in their permits and cannot take all comers. Also, with the exception of the mega-wineries, most wineries have limited staff and simply cannot comfortably handle large (unexpected) crowds. So hey, why don’t you check online before you show up and see if reservations are required, or recommended. Even if they are not, maybe show some courtesy and call ahead and see how busy they are and if they can accommodate you.
- Visit five or six or seven wineries in one day. Unless you are an accomplished professional expert at wine tasting instead of wine swallowing, this is simply too many places to visit. After the second or third winery you’ll have blown out your palate and you’re just wasting your time. And thus everyone else’s. Moreover, that many winery visits doesn’t even allow you sit down and soak in the atmosphere or absorb any information. We call these “running tastings” because the groups that do this seem to literally run through the tasting room, hardly stopping to taste or engage.
- Complain about the cost of the tasting. Yes, we know, you visited Napa way back when you had hair and wine tastings were free; and the wineries back where you come from have free tastings. Apologies for discussing business but, well, wineries are businesses. If your tasting is $30, or $40, or $100, it’s because that’s how much wineries have to charge to cover all of the saps who visit and don’t buy any wine. Also keep in mind that in places like Napa Valley, an acre of undeveloped land costs upwards of $500,000 an acre. In other words, it’s super expensive and not a fair comparison to your favorite winery in your neck of the woods.
- Complain about the cost of the wine. See the discussion in #3. If you want cheap wine, go to a cheap winery. Even in Napa you can visit wineries that sell cheaper wine. If you go to Opus One and complain about the several hundred dollar bottle of Cabernet, that just makes you look bad.
- Complain about the size of your pour. Wine tasting rooms are not restaurants or bars. You are not purchasing a glass of wine, you are purchasing a series of small tastes. The objective is to put enough wine in the glass – 1-2 ounce pours are common – to enable you to evaluate the color, aroma and flavor.
- Gulp your wine. Wine gulpers – the visitors who don’t even bother to swirl or sniff – can make it through an entire tasting in 5 minutes or less. Slow down. Maybe even sit down.
- Get sloppy, stupid drunk. Violations of #6 often lead to this embarrassing outcome. Tasting room managers all have war stories about the person, or groups, that confused wine tasting with getting hammered. The results are many, and we have seen broken glasses, people falling down, yelling and screaming, and even crying (melancholy drunks).
- Complain that the white wine is “too sour” or “not sweet enough.” That’s probably what the wine maker was shooting for!
- Say that the wine is “not good.” Unless you are a sommelier or other qualified wine industry expert, stick to simpler evaluations: “I like” or “I no like.”
- Leave without showing your appreciation. If you had a great time at the winery, consider buying some wine. It might even reduce or eliminate the cost of your tasting. If you don’t want to buy wine, buy something else, like a winery souvenir. We often buy hats or sweatshirts from wineries where we didn’t love the wine but really enjoyed our time (and our wine tasting guide). If you don’t feel like buying anything, leave a generous tip for the tasting room staff.
See you around at a winery some time soon and we hope we don’t cringe when we see you.
John & Irene Ingersoll
July 10, 2017