Tip #1: Research the wines before visiting the winery
Joking aside and fortunately, the winemakers of the Loire Valley are not as uptight as Mme de Rothschild, they have their feet on the ground and prefer to share a good bottle of wine rather than taking themselves too seriously!
However, it is important to research the wine region, grape varieties, and wines offered by a winery before visiting. This allows you to better understand the characteristics of the wines and to better appreciate the tastings.
In addition, some wineries may have a wide range of cuvées, it is therefore important to inform yourself in advance to target the wines you wish to taste and avoid getting lost in a full-range tasting. This also allows you to ask relevant questions to the winemaker and to make a good impression by showing an interest in his work and his products. Finally, this allows you to select the wines you want to taste and buy, for an even more pleasant tasting experience.
Regarding the order of tasting the wines, keep cool, the winemakers will guide you and you can focus on what is important: savoring each sip and letting yourself be carried away by the aromas and flavors.
Tip #2: Check the opening hours and make an appointment
Making an appointment for a tasting at a winery is first and foremost a matter of politeness. Nobody likes to see people drop by unannounced. It allows to organize, to plan things and to receive people in the best conditions.
By booking in advance, you can also ensure that the winemaker will be present to welcome you and introduce you to his best wines. By making an appointment, you can also organize to arrive at a time that suits you best, in order to be able to enjoy the tasting in the best conditions.
Tip #3: Spit the wine to taste more wine
For example, take the Beatles’ album “Abbey Road”: it would be a shame to stop at “Come Together,” when we know that behind it there is “Something” or “Here Comes the Sun”!
Spitting wine during a tasting allows you to taste several wines without going to the dark side of semi-drunkenness and continue to appreciate the aromas and flavors of each wine. Spitting wine is not a mark of disrespect for wine, it is simply a way to taste it seriously.
And by the way, how do you spit?
The technique for spitting wine is to take a sip of wine, keep it in your mouth for a few seconds to allow the aromas to develop. Then, open your mouth and spit the wine discreetly into a glass or a tasting bucket. Finally, it is recommended to rinse your mouth with water. This will allow you to move on to the next tasting with a fresh palate.
After, everyone does as they please. And in my experience, most tasters do not spit. Because the quantities served are small enough: one or two sips won’t do any harm, right?
For winemakers who serve more generous glasses (generosity is not a bad thing), if you don’t want to spit, simply empty the end of your glass into the spittoon. And that’s it, the trick is done!
Tip #4: Comment on the wines and share your enthusiasm
Because just like a movie, a good wine can tell a beautiful story, rich in emotions and flavors.
Commenting on wines and sharing your enthusiasm during a tasting is a key element to spark exchange and appreciation. And without making complexes: it is important to remember that comments on wines are subjective and can vary from person to person! We are not all pros!
Also, be careful not to take yourself too seriously during a wine tasting. It is above all about having a good time and discovering new wines.
It is also important to share your enthusiasm for the wines you taste. This can help create a friendly atmosphere and start a conversation with the winemaker!
Tip #5: Ask questions to the winemaker
So don’t hesitate to make him talk!
This will allow you to learn more about the wines tasted and how they were (lovingly) produced.
Examples of questions to ask the winemaker?
Here are some possible topics: grape varieties used, weather conditions of the production year, winemaking method, aging time in barrels, …
Asking a question to the winemaker is the path to everything you wanted to know… by daring to ask.
Plus, drinking wine in silence is like singing a song without music, it lacks a little soul, doesn’t it?
Tip #6: Thank the winemaker and buy wine
It is important to thank the winemaker for his time, his welcome and for the wines he made you discover.
While a simple thank you can suffice, I highly recommend not leaving empty-handed and buying even just one bottle (or two or three…). For some wineries, sales at the cellar are an important source of income. Also, buying becomes THE way to support the winemaker and his work.
I don’t know any winery who was offended that one left without buying. However, we are lucky in the Loire Valley that the tastings are mostly free (compared to, say, Burgundy).
Buying one or two bottles is still a give away for a tasting moment that is pleasant in 100% of cases.
In addition, buying wine from the winery is like buying souvenirs during a trip, it’s a way to relive the tasting a few months later by opening those bottles.
In conclusion, visiting a winery can be an exciting experience for all wine lovers. It is an opportunity to discover the different stages of wine production, to meet enthusiasts and to taste local wines.
It is important to plan your visit in advance, taking into account opening hours and necessary appointments. It is also important to prepare for your visit (which you are already doing by reading this article …). By following these tips, you will be ready to live a unique and unforgettable tasting experience at the winery. Cheers!