You are driving past a wine shop or liquor store, and you see it- it is probably one of those A-Frame, Sandwich Board Signs. It might have balloons tied to it. It reads "Free Wine Tasting: 5-8 PM". You are drawn in, tempted by the possibility of joyful Champagne dancing on your tongue, followed by a 98 point, $14 Cabernet soothing your soul- All for FREE! You walk in, thinking to yourself "how should I act?" and possibly "Do I really have to buy anything...it does say FREE afterall?"
Let the next few paragraphs be your guide on the proper ettiquette in the social situation known amongst industry types as "retail tastings". The people who follow this blog aren't necessarily the ones that need this information. You are nice, polite, calm, and rational, with the ability to handle yourselves appropriately in this situation. Hopefully, this will drift out onto the web, and the people who need it will read it. I will list suggested ettiquette, and follow with explanations:
1. Be Polite
Just like Mama taught you, the best thing you can do is be nice. The store-owner is spending his/her advertising dollars, increased labor costs, and so forth so that you can sample wines for free. Don't push up to the front of the table, sticking your glass in the person pouring's face. There is plenty of wine to be tried. Once you get your wine, step back from the table, so others don't have to push around you. Also, reuse your glass. Every new wine does not call for a new glass. This also includes timeliness. If the tasting ends at 8, and you rush in at 7:57, we might be out of certain wines, and probably won't open a fresh bottle to sample one person
2. Just Take One Sample of Each Wine
This is not your opportunity to get drunk for free. This is a Sampling, or a Tasting...meaning you get a sample or a taste, not an entire glass! If you are serious about looking for something to buy, then write information about the wine down. It's amazing how many people come back for the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th sample of the most expensive wine because they "just can't decide."
3. Be Prepared to Buy Something
Believe it or not, the store owner has a wine rep there to sell you something. We don't just stand in stores on Friday and Saturday nights, spending our sample budgets, pouring out free booze because it is a blast. That being said, there is a certain group of people- all the wine reps know who they are- that go around to every free wine tasting on Saturday, drinking the wares, and never buy one stinking drop. Seriously, please consider buying at least a bottle of something from the store. If you don't like the wines being poured, that's okay...that's what tastings are for. In that case, pick up a bottle of something else. If you say "I can't afford to buy a bottle at each of the 8 tastings that I go to on a weekend", then you go to too many tastings.
4. Don't Get Drunk
Again, this isn't the time to get your free buzz on. At all tastings, there will be a spit/dump bucket. It isn't in bad form to use these, they are there for you to use. Just don't dump your remaining wine in the water pitcher- that happens alot, and is gross.
5. Ask Questions, but Be Considerate
We like it when you ask questions about our wines, and are happy to answer them. However, please see that, when there are 10 people standing in front of the table wanting a sample, that probably isn't the best time for us to wax poetic to you about the brix level that the grapes were harvested at.
6. Have fun!
This is just fermented grape juice after all. Don't take it too seriously. Be willing to experiment, don't just try the expensive stuff. If you don't like a wine, you don't need to make the Keystone Light Bitter Beer Face, screaming out "oh my god, that's awful". Just say "eh, not my style", pour it out, and move on...no biggie.
I hope this list of suggestions doesn't sound too cynical. I'm really just going off of 5 years worth of pouring at these things, and watching people make fools of themselves.
You won't make a fool of yourself with the non-wine related drink suggestion of the day. It's muggy out, enjoy a Caipirinha- Get a bottle of Cachaca (basically Brazillian rum), sugar, limes, and ice. Muddle a few slices of lime with a couple tablespoons of sugar, add ice, and top with cachaca. You can squirt a little soda water in to make it bubbly, if you like. Enjoy!