Thursday, July 24, 2008

On Your Next Trip To a Winery, Remember These Rules

On the Musings Over a Pint blog there's a post about the etiquette of drinking beer with friends. This inspired me to think about wine tasting etiquette, and I thought particularly about wine tasting etiquette at wineries. When you visit a winery there are certain 'rules' I think it's important to follow, and they are:

- Don't say that you don't like a particular wine, unless you're out of earshot of a winery employee. If somebody tells me they didn't like a particular wine from our store, I don't take offense. For starters I didn't make the wine, and if you don't like one there's a few hundred others to choose from. But a winery only has probably 6 to 12 wines in total, which represents a whole year's worth of labor. Have you ever spent a whole day baking something only to have somebody tell you they don't like it? Multiply that by 50 and you have an idea of what I'm talking about. If you really like a wine a lot then tell them so, but otherwise the polite thing to do is keep silent.

- If you're planning on going with a large group, say 6 or more people, check ahead to see what the winery's policy is. Some welcome groups, others do not. Checking ahead will save you from being offended when the winery turns your group away.

- Whenever you visit a winery, make sure at least one person from your group buys at least one bottle of wine. It's not polite to take lots of free samples and then leave. Wineries in California now charge fees for wine tastings because of freeloaders. Don't encourage Virginia wineries to follow suit.

- If they offer a particular bottle of wine to taste, don't refuse. For example, if they have a rose wine that they are offering and you generally don't like roses, taste it anyway. They are giving you wine for free and they want you to experience everything that the winery has to offer, so it's not polite to pick and choose. Some wineries will let you decide which wines you'd like to taste beforehand, in which case it's fine to pick. But if it's offered, take it and remember rule #1.

- Don't bring bottles of wine you got somewhere else to enjoy on a winery's property. That's like bringing food into a restaurant.

- If somebody from the winery wants your genuine opinion on a wine, remember what is a valid criticism and what is not. For example, big and rich red wines are popular now (like Australian shiraz) but most Virginia reds are not in that style. Being lighter is not a flaw. Saying a wine is 'too sweet' is not a valid criticism because it has to be qualified. Does the acidity not balance the sweetness? Is there not enough flavor to stand up to the sugar?

These are the ones that come to mind. Remember these rules, and go out there and support the Virginia wine industry. My top recommendations are Linden Vineyards, Gray Ghost Vineyards,
Barboursville Vineyards, Kluge Estate, and Veritas.

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