Whether at a private wine tasting or at a vineyard, the rules of etiquette for wine drinking and tasting are the same. The following are some tips that will make you seem like a pro at your next wine tasting . . . host or guest.

For the Host

Serving Order
At a dinner party women and older guests should be served first, then men, then the host.

Body Count
Invite only the number of tasters that can fit comfortably in your home (or other venue). A crowd around the tasting table can be intimidating and guests should not feel rushed when pouring a glass of wine.

For those guests that get thirsty have bottled water on hand; also good for those that want to rinse their mouths between wines. A pitcher of water for rinsing glasses between tastings is recommended . . . and remember to have something into which your guest can discard their rinse water.

Food and Wine
Unsalted water crackers or unflavoured French bread should be provided for palate cleansing during the tasting. If you want to provide something more substantial, the rules of etiquette for wine drinking say that nothing stronger than a lightly salted mozzarella is appropriate. Save the stronger foods for after the wine tasting.

For the Guest

Handling a Wine Glass
The proper way to hold any style of wine glass is by the stem. This keeps fingerprints off the bowl and keeps your hand from heating the wine.

Perfume and Cologne
Avoid wearing scent to a wine tasting affair. This includes perfumes, colognes, after-shaves, and scented hair spray or gel.

Lighting Up
Smoking at or just before a wine tasting will affect the taste of your wines. The smoke and odour of cigarettes or cigars not only interferes with the enjoyment of the taste and smell of the wines, it can be irritating to other guests, both smokers and non-smokers.

Mints and Gum
Bubble gum, chewing gum and breath mints will alter the taste of wine. Be sure to rinse your mouth well with water before beginning a tasting.

If you have negative comments about a wine, keep them to yourself, particularly when at a vineyard tasting room.