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A Beginner’s Guide to Attending a Wine Tasting


Bucket lists are an interesting concept in that one person’s “once before I die” can be another gal’s “typical Thursday night”.

I was thinking about this last week while waiting in line to enter the New Zealand in a Glass wine tasting. This was the second of three tastings on my schedule this month, but I know that only 10 short years ago “attend a wine tasting” may very well have taken up a high priority spot on my own bucket list.

Since then my life has changed dramatically, and I know that my reasons for not attending tastings back then were that I was afraid of not knowing what to do, and of not fitting in.

Now, as a frequent attendee, I am here to tell you that there is room for everyone in the world of wine, and to ease the fear of the unknown for others I have compiled a beginner’s guide to finding and attending one’s very first wine tasting.

Choosing the Event

Start with a walk around style tasting

These are often less formal than a sit-down affair and allow first-timers to go at their own pace.

Look for an event that will be pouring a wide varietal of wines, preferably from different countries and/or regions

Many tastings can be country or even region specific, but for your first event try and find something that is offering a wide variety of wines, especially if you are completely unsure of your likes and dislikes.

Below are links to two tastings happening in Vancouver over the next few weeks that are perfect for first-timers.

Pelican Bay Spring Tasting

Unlocked: Australia’s First Families of Wine

Preparing for the Event

Eat Before You Go

Even if the promotional material says that there will be snacks served, eat something before you go. Trust me. You may be pleasantly surprised and arrive to find a delicious assortment of small bites that are routinely replenished throughout the evening. On the other hand, you may walk through the door to find the only food in sight is a small table topped with a meagre assortment of cheeses that is already being devoured by the first-in-line folks.

Have a snack before leaving home and you will be prepared to hit the ground running when you arrive.

Wear Dark Colors

The aisles can be narrow and crowded, people are consuming alcohol, and there is a very good chance that some fellow taster could get emphatic with their arm gestures. Tempting fate by putting your favorite white dress in a room full of slightly tipsy folks armed with splatter able sized servings of Pinot Noir is just not worth the risk.

Do Not Wear ANYTHING Scented

In general the wine tasting crowd tends to be a pretty friendly bunch…unless you show up to a tasting wearing perfume or cologne. Even casual attendees have been known lose their s@#t on anyone around them wearing scent as it compromises the smell, and consequently the taste, of the wine.

Do not wear perfume, cologne, body spray or any other personal care product that is strongly scented and you will be A-OK.

The Big Night

Your Glass

Upon entry to the event you will be given a glass. This is yours for the night.

You will find pitchers of water near the dump buckets on each table which you can use to rinse your glass throughout the event, but you don’t need to do it between every pour. Rinsing is usually practiced when switching between white and red, or if you have tasted a very powerful red and you are re-visiting a lighter tasting varietal.

Sparkling, White, then Red

Typically one starts the event sampling the sparkling, then moves on to whites, and ends the evening drinking reds.

When you approach each table ask the pourer what to start with and go from there. You can return to that table to taste their reds later in the evening when you have made the big switch.

Get Your Pour, Ask Questions, and Step Back

If you have any questions about what you are drinking be sure to ask the vendor. The pourers are very knowledgeable, not just about their own brand, but about wine in general, and they are there to ensure that you enjoy your experience.

With that said, once you have received your pour and your questions have been answered step back and allow the tasters behind you to access the table.

Spit/Dump Buckets

Don’t be afraid to dump your pour. The buckets are provided for spitting and rinsing, but they are also there to get rid of any wine that you really just don’t like. The night is short and the real estate in your belly (and blood alcohol level) is too valuable to be taken up by something you hate (I’m looking at you Chardonnay).

Learn from the experience and move on.

Know Your Limit, Taste within It

Generally each pour is about an ounce, but those seemingly small samples can add up over the course of a two hour event. Pace yourself. There will be water available so make sure you take a few breaks from the vino to hydrate yourself.

At the End of the Night

Have a Plan to Get Home

Call a cab (Yellow Cab Vancouver also has a groovy mobile app for both IPhone and Android), hop on a bus and/or the Skytrain, or make a night of it and arrange a hotel room close to the event.

Many tastings held in the downtown core will hand out free, individual Faresaver tickets. If you do plan to take transit home make sure to grab yours at the end of the night.



And there you have it! All of the basics you need to know in order to breeze through your very first wine tasting like a seasoned pro.

If you have any questions or know of any great wine events happening near you be sure to post in the comments section below.

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