How To Survive Your First Wine Tasting Session

We know that wine tasting sessions can be a little daunting at first, especially if you haven’t been to one before. Are you going to know as much as everyone else? Will you be able to taste the things that everyone else is tasting? There’s a lot to take in.

However, there’s really no need to worry. Wine tastings are fun, friendly events, and with our (tongue-in-cheek) tips on how to survive your first tasting, you’ll fit right in.

What to wear

Impressions are important, so you need to at least look like you know what you’re talking about.

We recommend dressing smartly, but not too smart, so perhaps a polo neck with jacket and smart jeans for the guys and cocktail dress for the ladies. Don’t go too smart with a suit or ball gown as everyone will likely think you’re just a bit odd. You want something that says ‘well this person clearly knows wine’, but not ‘because they’re clearly already hammered’.

Also, consider the colour of your outfit and stay away from wearing white - spilling red wine down yourself could be a disaster and spoil the illusion. Or you can wear white on purpose, showing how confident you are that you won't spill a drop.

Holding the wine glasses

Remember to hold the wine glass properly. White wine should be cooler so hold the glass by the stem, whilst red wine is generally served warmer so hold the bowl of the glass. Do what you want with rose; no true wine expert drinks that anyway (a joke, of course).

Sticking your little finger in the air when drinking is optional.

wine being poured at wine tasting


Looking at the wine

One of the first things you'll do is hold the glass in the air and swirl the wine around. Then peer closely at it, examining it in great depth as if you know exactly what you're looking for. Hold it up to the light and talk about the wine's 'legs', which are the viscous droplets that run down the side of the glass after your swill it round.

Smelling the wine

Once you're done examining the wine, stick your nose right in the glass and take a long sniff. This part is important as only the biggest wine buffs can evaluate it from smell alone. Loudly explain to people what the wine smells like, using terms like ‘aroma’ and ‘bouquet’.

For example: ‘ooo this is a full-bodied bouquet. I’m getting hints of elderberry and rose hips.’

The tasting

Then we come to the actual tasting. Take small sips of the wine (however tempting it may be to do otherwise), swill it around your mouth as if it’s mouthwash and look thoughtfully into space - just don’t gargle it.


As you may be aware after seeing it on TV, at wine tastings you’re not actually supposed to swallow the wine - you spit it out into a bowl. If no bowl is provided that complain loudly so that everyone knows how seriously you take it.

In a similar way to the smelling process, you need to comment on the taste, again using as much wine terminology as you can. Here are some terms you can force in there…

  • Aggressive
  • Chewy
  • Flinty
  • Herbaceous
  • Volatile

These are actual terms used to describe wine, although you can probably just make up your own, and it doesn’t really matter if you use them correctly. Just using them at all makes you sound like a pro.

Men smelling wine at wine tasting


Always complain about at least one of the wines, preferably the one that everyone else likes. This way it makes it seem like you know something they don’t and you must be an experienced wine taster.

The conversation

As well as describing the wine you’re drinking using impressive-sounding terminology as described above, you may also need to strike up a conversation with your fellow wine tasters.

Of course the conversation needs to be wine-based to hammer home just how much you love the stuff, so talk about good wine years (make them up), your favourite vineyards and how this wine tasting isn’t as good as the one you went to last week.

If you’re going to mention your favourite wines or wine regions, choose something completely obscure. For example, tell them your favourite wine is a lovely Namibian red or Latvian white.

Remember to get some more of those wine terms in there for good measure.


Some wine tastings will provide nibbles with which to try the wine to show you how the various styles work with different foods.

Glass of red wine at wine tasting


Use the old saying of ‘what’s grown together, goes together’ and refuse to eat anything that isn’t from the same country as the wine.

Remember, red usually goes with red meat and white goes with fish and chicken, although you can claim the opposite if you want to seem contrary. Talk about whether the wine complements the food, pH levels and your palate.

If you’re offered the opportunity to purchase any of the wines you’ve tried, of course decline, stating that your monthly wine subscription will be arriving tomorrow. Or order some wine but styles that weren’t on offer to try, making it seem like you know the wine by name and year alone.

This is, of course, all tongue-in-cheek and most wine tastings are great fun and very laid back. We have our own wine tastings at Calais Wine Superstore if you want to try before you buy.

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