Pro Tips for Wine Tasting on the Central Coast
Wine is the language of the locals here on the Central Coast! While it may not come naturally to those passing through, we want to equip you with some pro tips to enhance your wine tasting experience! But first let’s start with some basic vocabulary:
Intensity: Refers to the concentration of color. The more concentrated and opaque a wine’s color, the higher its intensity.
Viscosity: Refers to its liquid consistency. Wines with high viscosity tend to cling to the side of a wine glass longer.
Earth: A wine that has earth flavors. The smell of earth or soil present in the wine.
Sweetness: Refers to the dryness of the wine. Often determined by residual sugar, acidity, alcohol content, and tannin levels.
Acidity: Refers to the tartness of the wine. Too much acidity results in sharpness, too little leads to dull, flat wines.
Tannin: A textured element that makes wine taste dry. Tannin comes from both grape skins and oak barrels and causes a dry, puckering sensation in the mouth.
Body: Substance or mouthfeel. The feeling of substance a wine forms in the mouth also called mouthfeel. Described in terms of weight, fullness, or texture.
Vintage: The year or place in which the wine was produced. A wine’s vintage can greatly affect the taste and quality, primarily because of the weather that affects the vines throughout the growing season.
Now that you know the local lingo, it’s time for those pro tips!
Keep the perfume at home
This may seem like an odd tip, but smell is a key part of wine tasting. It’s impossible to appreciate all the aromas of a delicate Riesling or a complex Cabernet Sauvignon when the air is heavy with perfume or cologne. You don’t want to miss out on the details of the very wines you’re trying to enjoy.
Dress in dark colors
The darker the better! Nothing hides a red wine stain better than a black blouse. It’s best to avoid dangling sleeves (so you don’t cause spills) and consider the venue to scope out the appropriate dress code. Ladies should consider wearing flats or low heels for comfort. If you have long hair, tie it back so it won’t hinder your tasting.
Plan it out
At most tastings, there will be more wines than you can (or should) try in just a few hours. If you can get a list of the producers or wines at the tasting ahead of time, come with a game plan. Our advice would be to to start with light wines and then move to heavier ones: Start with sparkling wines, then fresh whites and move on to richer whites and dark reds.
Make sure you eat
Tasting wines on an empty stomach is a recipe for getting drunk (and/or sick) quickly and not being able to enjoy the day. Remember to eat beforehand, and if there’s food offered at the tasting, take a break to eat there too. Drinking water in between wines helps to stay hydrated, as well as clear your pallet.
Check out the upcoming Taste of Pismo and get plenty to eat while enjoying some central coast wine! And if you find yourself up north in Paso, grab a bite to eat at the Steakhouse at the Paso Robles Inn in between tastings.
You may swear you’ll remember the name of that fantastic red from Paso Robles, but even if you don’t taste many, a couple of wineries and a day later, you’ll be struggling to recall whether you preferred one wine or the next. If you’re using the tasting as a scouting trip for bottles you want to buy, remember to bring something to write with so you can take notes. You can even use your phone’s camera or notes app to document the wines you liked. Remember, you don’t need to take official notes using fancy vocabulary, your method can be as simple as a plus or minus sign next to the name on the tasting sheet.
Wine can be more fun and memorable when you know the story behind the bottle. If you have any questions about styles, grapes, regions, etc, don’t be afraid to ask. If you’re polite and enthusiastic, they’ll want to answer your questions and make a connection—that’s why they’re there. For many winemakers, what you’re drinking is their life’s work—they’re happy to talk about it!
Don’t like it? Pour it out!
You’ll be tasting good wines, and yes, no one likes to “waste” wine, but those tasting-size pours really add up. To get the full experience of the event, you’ll want to pace yourself. That’s why there are buckets on almost every table in tasting rooms. Don’t be shy; the winery staff are used to it. Just pour your leftover wine into the bucket, and move on.
Wine tasting is far more enjoyable alongside company! You need people to share notes with, laugh alongside, and you may even need them to drive home. It’s always fun to bring friends with a variety of tastes and experiences with wine. Some may like bright whites, while others may like sophisticated reds—everyone is different!
Stay close to the action
When the day is done, you want a good place to lay your head down. Preferably one that isn’t too far away. Lucky for you, we’ve got you covered! If you’re looking to attend the annual Taste of Pismo, check out Pismo Lighthouse Suites or Shore Cliff Hotel. Both are conveniently located within walking distance of the event, overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean. Wine tasting in or near Paso? Stay at the nearby Paso Robles Inn. With winery themed suites, this historic retreat is the perfect place to end a day full of wine tasting!