Wine Tasting and Wine Tours FAQs
Are you planning on visiting a winery or new wine region in the new future? If so, you may have some questions on how to taste wine or how to act on a wine tour. Here is a list of the most common FAQs people ask regarding wine tasting and wine tours.
How To Taste Wine
What should I do before tasting the wine?
Before tasting a wine, you should look at and smell the wine. The steps to fully enjoying the wine are swirl, sniff, and sip.
What should I look for when wine tasting?
The first step to a wine tasting is looking at the wine under normal lighting. This shouldn’t take more than a few seconds. You’ll want to look at the color, opacity, and viscosity (wine legs). Thicker, slower moving wine legs can indicate high alcohol content or sugar content.
How should I smell wine?
Smelling wine is the second step to wine tasting. First, swirl your wine to release the aromas. Then bring your nose to the glass and breathe in through your nose.
Don’t be too worried if you’re not sure exactly what you smell at first. Noticing the aromas of wine takes practice. Look for broad categories, like fruits, instead of individual aromas.
What aromas should I look for in a wine?
The nose of your wine will probably have three different aromas categories:
Primary aromas: fruity, herbaceous, and floral notes from the grape.
Secondary aromas: the smells from the winemaking process, like cheese rind, vanilla, and butter
Tertiary aromas: savory, tobacco, leather, truffle, or forest-y notes that the wine picked up during the aging process.
How should I properly taste wine during a wine tasting?
When tasting the wine, take a small sip and hold it in your mouth for a moment. Swirl it around to oxygenate the wine and open up more aromas.
Tasting the wine isn’t just about taste. Putting a sip of wine in your mouth allows you to sense taste, texture, and length, as well as changes in smell since you are now experiencing the aroma retro-nasally.
What should I look for when tasting the wine?
Here are some tasting notes to look for:
Body – heavy body (like whole milk) vs. light body (like skim milk)
Sweetness – does your tongue taste sweetness?
Tannins – a drying sensation in the mouth
Acidity – Does the wine make your mouth water? If so, it has a higher acidity level
Alcohol Level – a warm feeling in your mouth
Finish – the length of time you can taste the wine in your mouth after you’ve spit or swallowed the wine
How do I properly experience a glass of wine?
Most of your senses will be alert during a wine-tasting experience. First, you want to look at the color of the wine. The colors of wine tell what type of grape it’s made of, its age, and more. Next, you want to swirl the glass and allow the wine to aerate. This adds oxygen to the wine, allowing you to “taste” the wine with your nose. It also helps eliminate any odd-smelling compounds that may come from sulfides or sulfites. Next, take several short sniffs and make sure your mouth is slightly open. Lastly, take a sip and let the wine sit in your mouth for a few seconds, and indulge your tastebuds. Once you swirl the wine in your mouth for a bit, swallow and enjoy the taste of the wine.
Should I swallow or spit the wine?
This is entirely up to you! We do recommend that you drink the wine to experience its full potential. However, when visiting several wineries a day, each providing 4-5 different wines, it is important to stay cautious of the amount of wine you are swallowing. If you need to spit the wine, do not hesitate; it will not offend the hosts.
How should I keep track of the wines I’ve tasted during a sampling?
We recommend bringing a notebook or notes app with you during tastings to track your favorites. If you’re trying a lot of wines at once, it’s best to take breaks every few samples to make your nose more sensitive again or for the wine to open up.
Wine Tasting Logistics
How many ounces are in a typical wine tasting?
A wine-tasting pour is usually 1 ounce in wineries.
What questions should I ask at a wine tasting?
If you want to learn more during a wine tasting, asking good questions is important. Ask questions about what type of soil the grapes are grown in, what types of grapes were used to make the wine, what should you notice when you taste the wine, how was the wine aged, and what is this winery known for?
Should I tip the servers?
Though it isn’t a requirement, we encourage you tip the servers the same way you tip at restaurants after a meal with great service. It shows appreciation to the server for their time and attention to the tour.
General Wine Questions
Why does wine have different aromas? Are those added flavors?
No, the aromas you experience when trying a wine are due to fermentation. To make wine, the natural yeasts eat at the grape’s sweetness, creating alcohol and many different chemical compounds. These chemical compounds have the same structures as the food/object they smell like. So, there is a science to the aromas of wine.
What are tannins?
Tannins are a compound that gives you a dry mouth feeling when you taste a wine. They’re found in the skin, seeds, and stalks of grapes. Tannins are also found in strong black tea, walnuts, and cranberries.
Are sulfites bad for you?
Sulfites are chemical compounds that occur naturally in all types of wine. They act as preservers and enhancers, so almost all winemakers add additional sulfites to the wine. Sulfites aren’t dangerous and are added to many other types of food, including dried fruit and shrimp. If you experience negative reactions to sulfites, you likely have an allergy to them — which is why the FDA requires “Contains Sulfites” on the label.
Are all wines vegan?
No, not all wines are vegan. When unwanted material is removed from the wine in the cellar during the fining process, the fining ingredient is often animal derivatives like egg whites, milk proteins, or animal proteins.
Why are some wines sweeter than others?
During fermentation, the yeast consume the sugar in the grape juice. The sugar that remains is what makes a wine sweet or dry.
That’s the simple, scientific answer, but when it comes to how the wine tastes, other factors can influence how you perceive the sweetness of the wine. Tannins, the dry mouth component of many red wines, can make a wine taste less sweet than it is. High acidity can make a wine taste drier than it actually is. The smell is also important. If the wine smells sweet, it can trick our brains into thinking a wine is sweet when in reality it is dry.
Do wines get better with age?
Some wines get better with age, some don’t. Wines that age well have higher phenol levels, like Syrah or Nebbiolo, age better than wines with low phenol levels. When a wine ages, the reaction between the acids, sugars, and phenolic compounds affects the wine’s taste, aroma, and color. Sometimes this results in a great-tasting wine, other times, not as much. It can also be a matter of personal preference, as some people love the aromas of aged wines, while others prefer younger wines.
How should wine be paired?
Food and wine pairing is a complex subject. But generally, you want the wine to stand up to the intensity of the food. That’s why rich reds are often paired with red meat, and lighter whites are paired with more mild flavors, like chicken or fish. When in doubt, remember some of the best wine pairings are between wine and foods from the same region.
Wine History Tours
How many wine tours do you offer?
We offer five different wine tours in Willamette Valley.
Our Best of Everything tour, as the title suggests, involves a bit of everything. We will inform you about the history of vineyards, as well as the best views, wines, and people.
Our Willamette Valley Early History focuses on the area’s oldest vineyards, wineries, and deepest stories.
The Newer History and Developments tour will teach you about the valley’s evolution and the people who have made it one of the top wine regions in the world.
To learn about women and minorities who are re-writing the story of winemaking in the valley, choose the Winemaking Diversity and Equity tour!
Lastly, we have our AVA Specific tour, where you travel to four different AVAs in one day!
When should I book my wine tour?
Of course, we recommend you book your wine tours a few months in advance. However, depending on the time of the year, we can accommodate last minute bookings. Summer months are usually the busiest, so if you’re looking to visit the wine tours during those months, make sure to book early!
What should I wear during the wine tour?
Dress depending on the time of year your tour takes place! However, wearing comfortable pants and walking shoes is a great idea. It is not recommended to wear high heels.
How many wineries will we visit on the tour?
You will visit four wineries per day with each tour. Each trip is customized based on the needs of our customers.