A wine tour is a learning experience. So if you don't know anything about wine before you go, that's OK. While most wine tours are filled with others who want to learn, it's easy to feel intimidated the first time you attend one. Knowing the proper way to taste wine may give your confidence a boost.
When you enter the wine tasting room, your host will greet you with several samples of wine. The host will pour one sample and describe both the smell and the taste. Hold the glass up to the light and notice the color. A bright, clean color signifies quality. Tilt the glass slightly to the side. Younger wines will maintain uniform color throughout, while older wines will lose their coloring and become translucent close to the rim.
Smell the wine before drinking. The scent of vinegar or prunes signify that something went wrong with the aging process. The wine is either too acidic (vinegar scent) or has been exposed to air and has oxidized. Wine that has oxidized will develop a prune-like scent and an off taste similar to cough syrup. Smells of flowers, vanilla, coconut, oak and even toasted bread all signify quality wine.
Take a small sip of the wine and let it spread through your mouth. Concentrate on the different flavors of the wine. Listen to how the host describes the flavor and compare that to how it tastes in your mouth.
Next comes the part that many people find awkward: Do you swallow the wine or spit it out? Either is perfectly acceptable. They'll be spitting buckets available, but you can swallow also. Over the course of one day, a person on a guided wine tour may end up sampling 12 to 18 different wines, so many people refrain from swallowing all of the samples.
The host will begin the tasting by offering samples of dry white wines and move to dry reds. The dessert and other sweet wines are saved for last. Wine tours are great fun, and there's no reason to worry about a stuffy atmosphere. If you show up prepared to learn and are interested in broadening your wine tasting horizons, you're sure to enjoy yourself.