Wine tasting tips to get you through a fancy tasting

By / Magazine / May 12th, 2018 / 1

I don’t know much about wine but just got invited to a fancy tasting. Any wine tasting tips on how I can fake my way through the evening without looking like a dope?

Someone smarter than me once said there is no stupid question, so if you’re attending a wine tasting unarmed, feel free to tell the world you’re new to the scene and looking to learn. If there’s one thing I’ve had to come to terms with after three decades in the booze business it’s that those who think they know anything about wine simply love shoving their knowledge down your throat. While it sometimes comes with a bitter finish, if you can stomach their pompous ballyhoo most people who show up for a “fancy” wine tasting will be happy to take you under their wing as long as you keep your comments to yourself.

I guarantee there will more fakers at your event than wine stains. Keeping things real will ensure you’re not at the receiving end of an uppity eye roll and allow you to soak in what knowledge you think is worthy of adding to your mental rolodex.

Now, it doesn’t hurt to do a little research. Ask for a list of the wines being poured so you can get a feel for the selection and highlight those you really need to try even if it’s just those with the coolest-sounding names. If there’s a theme, say the wines of Bordeaux, hit up the internet for a little background on the region and what to expect from its output.

The key to any learning opportunity is to have some takeaways. Since you’re never going to become an expert overnight (heck, I’m still trying to get there), consider what you really want to know to get you on that road and ask those questions. If anyone dares give you the business just smile and wave; there are plenty of tasting opportunities out there looking for your support and, trust me on this, you’ll find a more welcoming one very easily.

Looking for more wine tasting tips? Read “House wine & old vines: a lesson in both” and “Should you swallow your gum before you taste?


Fresh, funny and down-to-earth, Peter Rockwell is the everyman's wine writer. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia he's worked in the liquor industry for over 30 years and has written about wine, spirits & beer since graduating from the School of Journalism at the University of King's College in 1986. His reviews and feature articles have been published in Tidings, Vines, Occasions, Where and on to name a few; he has been a weekly on-air wine feature columnist for both CBC-TV and Global Television and his wine column 'Liquid Assets' appeared weekly in two of Nova Scotia's daily newspapers, 'The Halifax Daily News' and 'The Cape Breton Post.' Today Peter's irreverent answer man column 'Bon Vivant' appears each month in Tidings Magazine and his weekly 'Liquid Assets' column is published across Canada in editions of the METRO newspaper. When not drinking at home, and at work, Peter travels the globe looking for something to fill his glass and put into words.

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