The Beginner's Guide to Going Wine Tasting for the First-Time

Wine tasting season is just around the corner, which means it’s time to start planning your vineyard trips. But if you’ve never been on a wine tasting tour before, you may be unsure of the protocol that you should follow. 

If you’re new to the experience, we want to make sure you have the best first time possible, so we made this handy wine tasting guide so you know what to expect before you hit the road.


What is Wine Tasting?

Wine tasting has existed since the beverage’s inception centuries ago, and revolves around a sensory examination of the wine’s characteristics. Modern day wine tasting has become a kind of warm weather staple for wine-lovers and allows them to visit their favorite wineries and vineyards, try different selections, and purchase them directly from the producers. The wine tasting experience provides a unique opportunity to see where the grapes are grown, processed, and fermented while giving visitors the ability to meet the winemakers themselves.

Couple wine tasting near sunflowers on a sunny day


Wine Tasting Tips

If you’re just starting out, you’re probably wondering “how do I go wine tasting at wineries?” “What does it entail?” “What do I need to know before I go?” We’ve got you covered!

Here are 10 helpful tips for wine tasting beginners.


1. Dress for Comfort

It’s crucial to dress correctly for your wine tasting experience. You’ll be walking all around the vineyard seeing where the grapes are grown and learning about the growing process, so unless there is a dress code, wear comfortable and casual clothing. Your choice of shoes can mean the difference between a good and great time. Wear shoes you don’t mind walking around in a while, so no heels! 

You’re going to want to stick to dark colors so if you spill wine on yourself, you don’t end up with a permanent visible red stain. Avoid dangling sleeves and if you have long hair, tie it back—you don’t want things knowing over glasses of getting in your way! As you walk through the vineyard, you aren’t going to have enough hands to hold your glass, food, notes, and stuff, so bring a small bag to keep everything handy and accessible.

Oregon wine tasting room


2. Plan, Plan, Plan!

Going wine tasting with a plan will help prevent you from overspending. A wine tasting experience can cost $15 – $20 and there are so many choices available, so it’s easy to overspend. Come prepared with a plan and budget ahead of time so you know how much you’re going to try. The best way to prepare is to get a list of the wines that will be at the event and decide which are at the top of your list before starting. Don’t forget to bring enough money to go home with a bottle of your favorite wine as a souvenir… or three.

Wine tasting staff explaining wine to first-time tasters


3. Ask Questions

The knowledgeable tasting room staff will gladly tell you about the wines they pour, so it’s the perfect opportunity to ask them all of your questions. There may even be an opportunity to meet with the winemaker! Prepare a list in your notes so you can remember everything you’re curious about.

Learn about the history of the vineyard or why they chose a specific cultivar of grape to make their wine. Tasting room staff and winemakers are a great resource for curious minds—both professional and amateur—so ask them any questions you may have regarding the process or about wine in general. They love the enthusiasm!

Winemaker teaching beginner wine tasters about grapes in Oregon vineyard


Swirling wine glass at Stoller in Oregon

4. Practice Proper Technique

When wine tasting, it’s critical that you hold your glass correctly. It may seem like a silly detail, but in reality, using the proper grip will enhance your experience. If you hold it by the bowl, your hand’s warmth can alter the flavor and smudge the glass.

Hold your glass by the stem and swirl the wine before you drink. This increases the oxygen content in the glass and helps the wine “breathe,” which will give you the best flavor.


5. Use Your Nose

Tasting requires more than just your mouth—a significant portion of taste comes from your nose’s olfactory receptors.

This means that you probably should avoid wearing any perfume or cologne on your wine tasting trip because their strong scents can impede your ability to appreciate the delicate flavors of the wines you’re tasting. This is also just good etiquette when being considerate of other tasters at the winery, and sometimes you’re not even allowed to wear scents. 

In general, it’s good practice to smell a wine before you drink it so you can get acquainted with the notes. It may also clue you into whether a bottle has gone bad—if it smells musty or like raisins, chuck it.

Man smelling wine during wine tasting tour


6. Rinse and Repeat

When you’re drinking a bunch of wine, it’s important to make sure that you don’t get dehydrated. Drink some water throughout the event to prevent getting lightheaded or thirsty. It’s also good practice to rinse out your glass in between tastings to prevent the competition of flavors. Start out with lighter wines and work your way to darker selections—the darker the wine, the more intense the flavor will be and the harder it will be to compete with in flavor.

Pouring red wine at table during wine tasting tour


7. Eat Some Sustenance

If you go wine tasting on an empty stomach, you can accidentally get drunk quickly or wind up feeling nauseous. This will make it hard to enjoy the rest of the experience. Combat this by eating a light meal before going wine tasting to give yourself something to soak up the alcohol. Often there’s food at the tasting room that you can eat during the event, but you can throw a snack or two in your bag just in case.


8. Spit it Out—It’s OK

Woman pouring wine at Oregon tasting roomA long day wine tasting can get you pretty drunk if you’re swallowing all of your wine quickly. It’s best to pace yourself by sipping your wine rather than chugging it.

Many seasoned tasters also spit into a spittoon when they’re done with each wine. It’s a totally acceptable common practice to spit out or pour out wine that you don’t like. Don’t worry about wasting wine. Practice spitting at home before going wine tasting. Since you’re all spitting into a communal bucket, it’s important to balance speed, force, and distance so you don’t get backsplash on you!


9. Don’t Worry About Red Teeth

Unfortunately, one of the struggles of wine tasting is the cruel reality that too much red wine will dye your teeth red. When you hit the vineyards, it’s nice to keep it under control so you can keep those pearly whites sparkling. Keep in mind though, that everyone has the same problem, so no one is going to be thinking about your red teeth any more than their own.

You may have a desire to brush your teeth right after a day of wine tasting, but the combination of the wine and toothpaste can strip the protective enamel right off of your teeth. Stick to drinking water and chewing gum when you’re done and you’ll be golden.


10. Just Have fun!

Don’t get stressed out with doing everything the way the pros do it! You can be serious about your wine tasting experience, but the most important thing is to have fun and smile. It’s the perfect opportunity to spend quality time with friends or family while feeling classy and chic. There’s no test at the end of the tasting and you don’t need to impress anyone. Just enjoy it! 

Wine tasting group standing in front of helicopter on Tour DeVine trip


Tour in Style

Unsure where to start? Here at Tour DeVine, we offer memorable helicopter wine tours to those living in or visiting Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Book a wine tasting tour like no other when you and your friends or family climb aboard our helicopter. Choose from several different wine tour packages that allow you to travel in style to some of Oregon’s best vineyards in the Willamette Valley AVA, Eola Hills, & McMinnville

Still nervous about the process? We’ll brief you on wine tasting steps during your tour so you’re not without guidance! What are you waiting for? Contact us today to schedule the wine tasting tour of your dreams.