Whether the thought of tasting wine with the winemaker makes you feel invigorated or slightly intimidated, we’ve compiled a list of questions to ask at your next wine tasting that’ll have them pouring you the “not-yet-released” and “members only” bottles before you know it.
If you’ve ever had the privilege of tasting wine with the winemaker or a knowledgeable tasting room ambassador, you understand that the experience they provide is second-to-none. It probably didn’t matter if weren’t a fan of every wine because they opened your palate to a new style of wine, a method to the madness, or a fun fact you can drop at the next dinner party.
So if you haven’t mastered proper wine-tasting techniques (yet), your ideal wine tasting experience is not in jeopardy. A little curiosity goes a long way at the tasting room.
What characteristics do you look for in the fruit to know if it’s ready for harvest?
This question will give you great insight into their winemaking style. Do they like to color inside the lines or dance on the edges? While there are common characteristics winemakers will look for such as the color of grapes, stems, and seeds along with flavor profile, some answers might surprise you.
Perhaps they share a few superstitions like only harvesting Cabernet Sauvignon on the 7th day of the month, or when the winery dog Billy howls at the full moon following 2 inches of rain. Hey, wine country is vast and bound to have a character or two in the mix! Although it’s far more likely you’ll learn about their expertise in the local climate and the effects of soil, water, wind, and temperatures have on the fruit.
What is your favorite varietal (grape) to work with and why?
Get personal. You might find there’s a story behind their favorite grape, the vineyard itself (tissues, please!), or maybe it’s purely economical and easy to produce, which is perfectly acceptable, however boring that may be.
How do you know when the wine is ready to bottle?
Winemaking is equal parts art and science. This question gives winemakers the chance to show off their mad scientist side as they describe their unique fermentation and aging process. It’s here where you’ll discover why you might taste a Werther’s Original or smell a Hunter rubber boot. Don’t be alarmed if you hear words like yeast, malolactic fermentation, and microbial stability – if it’s not your thing, just flash those pearly whites and nod right along.
What wine are you most excited to release next year but not yet ready to pour?
Talk about casually inviting yourself to a barrel tasting! Depending on the winemaker, they may want some early feedback on the wines and use it as an excuse to grab some juice from the barrel. Regardless, you’ll find out what’s so exciting about that next release – a new fermentation method, great yield, pretty label – and a perfect reason to start planning your trip back.
What food would you pair with this wine?
Food and wine, what could be better! This question will give you great ideas as to how you’d best enjoy the bottle at home with a meal. You may find yourself surprised by the pairing ideas and conjure up a recipe of your own.
As you may have noticed, the real secret to having a better wine tasting experience is simply being curious. Be curious about the wine and the winemaker and soon you’ll discover that each bottle has its own little story waiting to be told!