Tactful Tasting: The dos and don’ts at wine tastings

Large wine tastingI’ll admit, Emily Post rhetoric is not my style. But sometimes I cringe when poser wine tasters commit truly offensive faux pas at large tastings. Yeah, yeah, I know this is supposed to be the new era of “live and let live” and “wine for the people” but it’s kinda gross to see people spit, miss the bucket or, worse, splatter my shoe. Ewww.

I’ve hit quite a few wine tastings in my day, ranging from a casual, wine store tasting to the hoity-toity Aspen Food & Wine Festival. Both feature great people watching and I learned that no matter how much money you have, you can still piss off everyone around you with etiquette ignorance. Here are some of the most frequent, hyper-annoying offenses:

1. Ever the sign of wine geekdom, spitting wine is helpful for many reasons: It avoids embarrassing inebriation and allows you to taste more wines without falling over. Believe me, it doesn’t offend the pourer. But for everyone’s sake, spit in a smaller glass or cup and not directly into the bucket. If a small vessel isn’t available, pick up the bucket and discreetly expectorate into it. This way, aim becomes less important (and keep in mind aim worsens as you drink). Also, try perfecting the art of spit at home before you try it in public.

2. When you approach a crowded table with several wines to taste, get your wine and get the hell out of the way. There is nothing more irritating to other tasters — or the wine pourer, for that matter — than a camper who wants to wax philosophical and try to impress everyone unfortunate enough to be standing around. We don’t care what esoteric wine knowledge you possess. Move your loudmouth away from the table and let people through to the juice. If you’d like to talk with the wine professional, come back later when the crowd isn’t as thick.

3. Don’t block the dump bucket. The best way to get red wine down your pants is to camp in front of the dump bucket (refer to tip No. 2).

4. Don’t wear gallons of cologne or perfume. Try sniffing a delicate Sauvignon Blanc when the chick next to you is drowning in Eau de Whatever. Somehow, the olfactory glands will translate that sweet smell to the taste of the wine every time. If you must wear a scent, spray on some Chardonnay before you leave the house.

5. Don’t wear light-colored clothes. You’ll regret it and get really miffed when someone accidentally spills dark red Cabernet on your pressed white pants. Red wine is really hard to get out of clothes (but give Wine Away a try).

To prove a point, take this column to the next tasting you attend. If you spot someone who lacks wine manners, tuck the words into their pocket and discreetly flick red wine on their white shirt. Maybe they’ll get the hint and you’ll save the world from yet another Emily Post reject.



  1. #2 and #4 are so key. Why is it people hog the table and then get pissed when you cut in to get a taste. The pourer could also be an aid in helping to keep things moving but they dont get it either.

  2. After my very long weekend of pouring wine for the masses at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, I have a few more you can add to your list:

    1) Do not tell the pourer, “Give me your best wine!”. First, it is like picking your best child, it is hard to do. Second, doesn’t it depend on what you like? That comment grates my nerves. As does, “Give me your most expensive wine”. When someone tells me this, I typically pour them the least expensive wine out of spite. They won’t know. If they knew anything about wine, they would not be making this statement in the first place.

    2) When asking for a taste at the table, please make sure that your glass is empty of other wine, water, or food. I cannot tell you how many times I have been disgusted by people handing me a glass with the inside rim crusted in cheese and cracker, or other nasty food items. Gross!

    3) Do not grab the bottle of wine off the table yourself! This is not a self service event.

    4) Do not pour your extra wine out in the ice bucket or other POS items on the table. Happened many times this past weekend.

    5) When tasting a wine at a table and you do not like it, please use the old adage “If you do not have anything nice to say, do not say anything at all”. I can understand saying, “It is not my favorite” or “Not my style”, but do not say “This is disgusting”, “I like XYZ winery’s wine so much better” or anything else that is rude.

    6) Do not ask for the pourer to give you a bottle of wine to take home. It really puts us in a bad position. First, it leaves less wine for the other paying customers at the event. Second, it is illegal for us to do so. Third, most wine events search the bags of the patrons leaving the event.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *