How to Navigate a Wine Tasting
The annual PEI Festival of Wines is quickly approaching on May 21-23, 2020. This year’s featured country is Canada. This is your chance to sample over 250 new wines exclusive to this event. Wine tastings are a great place to enjoy and learn about new wines, but the huge selection and tasting etiquette can be overwhelming even for seasoned pros.
Here are a few helpful tips for getting the most from your experience.
1. Plan ahead:
With so many wines on offer, it’s a good idea to have a look at the list of wines available and make a game plan ahead of time. See the full list of wines here.
Note which products you’d like to try, and in which order. Keep in mind that you’ll discover the most flavours and aromas by starting with lighter tasting wines and finishing with more flavorful or aromatic products.
Basic strategies for deciding which products to add to your list:
- a. Varietal Tasting: if you’re new to the world of wine, try tasting wines from different grape varieties. Pinot Grigio and Riesling grapes are miles apart and are made into wildly different wines. Once you find a grape you enjoy, dig a little deeper!
- b. Regional Comparison: Try tasting the same grape variety from different parts of the world. A Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand will be very different from one from France. The climate, growing techniques, blending and aging process in each country can have a huge effect on the final wine you’re tasting.
- c. Horizontal tasting: This method compares wines that are similar in character but from different wineries. For example, try contrasting all the 2014 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and see how they differ.
2. Look, Smell and Taste:
Take the time to really examine every wine you try. Hold the glass up to the light; what’s the color and clarity like? Give the glass a swirl, get your nose in the glass and inhale deeply; what are the aromas? Take a sip and let it sit on your taste buds, swish it around let it linger; what do you taste? What’s the mouthfeel like? Finally, after you swallow or spit, what flavours linger? Keep your festival booklet handy, jot down any impressions beside the product listing and try rating every product you taste on a scale of 1 to 10. All the wines at the festival are available to purchase in the boutique, so keep track of which ones you’d like to stock up on!
3. Pace Yourself:
This is the only time spitting in public is socially acceptable, and for good reason. Even the small samples poured at tastings can add up quickly, so while it’s ok to swallow, it’s also ok to use the spit buckets to dispose of extra wine. Take a sip, enjoy the aromas and flavours, and then use the spit bucket provided. Rinse your glass with fresh water…. and repeat. Make sure you drink lots of water and have a snack or two.
4. Be adventurous and ask questions:
While it’s tempting to stick with what you already know you love, now is a great time to branch out and try new things. Knowledgeable staff are available at each table to guide you through your tasting, answer questions, offer opinions and make recommendations. Not sure what GSM stands for? Just ask! Not only can the winery representatives at each table answer questions about the wines they’re pouring, PEI Liquor staff are available in the wine boutique to help you pick out some great wines to take home!
5. Take a cab home:
Always drink responsibly. Plan ahead for a designated driver or keep a phone number for a cab handy.