So you’ve Been Invited to a Wine Tasting

Going to a wine tasting

Wine tasting - St. Helena, CA

If this is your first time at a wine tasting, don’t worry. They’re genteel, low-key affairs full of pleasant conversation and (obviously) fine wine.

Dress well, but not to the point of discomfort. If the tasting is at a winery where you’ll be walking around outdoors, prepare for sun or rain. Don’t wear perfume or cologne, or anything else with a strong smell. A big part of the pleasure of wine tasting is appreciating the nose of the wine. Speaking of which, be sure to get a good, long inhale of the wine’s aroma before you take your first sip. Place the wine glass on a flat surface and swirl it just a little. This is called aeration.

There’s a good chance there’ll be fees to taste. You may want to split your tastings with a friend, to keep from spending too much (to say nothing of drinking too much). If you find something you like, buy a bottle and you might save on the fee.

There may be a spittoon available. Using it might seem gross and wasteful of good wine, but it keeps you from taking too much alcohol on board over the course of the tasting. This is important if you happen to have a low body mass or low tolerance for alcohol. As further precautions, drink water (which will also clear your palate) and eat something.

When the experts start talking about wine, here are some words and phrases that will help you understand them:

  • “Cigar box” is a term for an aroma that wines pick up after some time in the cask.
  • “Bouquet” is different from aroma. Any wine can have an aroma, or nose, but only an aged wine can have a bouquet.
  • A wine’s “finish” is its aftertaste. If this sounds bad, it’s because most things that have an aftertaste don’t have a good one. Wine is different — it is judged in part by the quality of its finish.

There are many, many more.

A wine club worth joining near St. Helena

Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards in Napa Valley, a 10-minute drive from downtown St. Helena, holds tastings in its barrel caves, where current releases and library wines may be sampled and visitors can learn all about the process of making and storing the wine. Cave tastings are $65, but one tasting fee can be waived by joining their wine club or making a $100 purchase. Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards produces world-class wines at affordable prices. The vineyard is a 40-acre estate just south of Howell Mountain, and has been owned and operated by the Anderson family since 1983. Anderson’s wines are sold online and in five locations in Napa Valley, and many other locations nationwide.