Whether you are in Italy or not, it is important to know a few things before going to a winery.
Do not wear short trousers or sportswear.
Avoid wearing perfume when you visit a winery or attend a tasting: not only will you be unable to smell the wines but you will also annoy other people around you.
If you go in a group, try not to let the conversation wander away from the wine while you are there.
If you are inebriated, you will not be allowed in.
Check the visiting times and dates. Unless you are going to California or Australia, many wineries are not open to visitors at the weekend.
There’s no accounting for taste.
During a tasting, the wines are presented in a specific order. If you don’t like a wine, don’t say, “I don’t like it”; the next person may well like it. Better expressions would be “this wine isn’t to my taste” or “this isn’t my kind of wine”. It is entirely normal that some wines might not be to your liking. In that case, and also when you don’t wish to taste every wine, you may use a spittoon – a small receptacle to spit it into. It is mostly used by the sommeliers when they need to taste wine in small amounts without swallowing, to avoid becoming intoxicated with the alcohol.
Some cellars may offer you nibbles of bread, cheese or both. This isn’t a snack or a meal; rather, it gives your taste buds a hand, helping you experience the aromas or flavors to the full.
Taste buds are small neuroepithelial structures in the top surface of the tongue, the upper larynx and the lower part of the soft palate that essentially enable you to perceive the flavors of the food and wine. A typical adult has 2,000–10,000 of them.
Those who have more are considered “supertasters” – people who sense flavors much more intensely than everyone else.
Try this simple experiment devised by Dr Linda M. Bartoshuk, Director of Human Research at Florida University Center for Smell and Taste. Put 2 drops of juice of a bluish food on your tongue and swallow a couple times. Wait and see what happens: since the fungiform papillae (mushroom shaped projections on the tongue that have taste buds on top) do not absorb the color, if your tongue comes out in pink dots, that means you don’t have many taste buds. But if it is all pink, then you are a supertaster!
Plan your visit in advance.
Most wineries have websites, but if you can’t find enough information, just call or write. They will surely be glad to hear from you.
And finally, of course, good manners cost nothing; ask permission if you would like to taste the grapes or take photos.
Foss Marai brand ambassador