Alissa MillerComment

If you don't have anything nice to say...(wine tasting etiquette)

Alissa MillerComment
If you don't have anything nice to say...(wine tasting etiquette)

I'm going to try really hard to keep this short.

Since working in my new position as a wine marketer, I've had more time to connect with people at wine shows. For the most part, I love the opportunity to talk to strangers about our wine. Conversations can get deep and involved while they take you on their visceral experience. For the most part, people are really thoughtful about their comments. They describe what they smell, what they taste and how the wine evolves in their mouth. Of course, I understand that not everyone will like the wine. People will usually describe why it's not for their taste, rather than just say "I hate it", or "this is shit". It may be too tannic, too acidic, too sweet, or not sweet enough... I like hearing that too because then we can really drill down into their taste preferences. I can often find them something that fits their tastebuds better. The interaction wraps up warmly and that's that. 

THEN, there are people who take "honesty" to a whole new level. Look, I'm the first to admit I haven't got the thickest skin and you're wholly entitled to think I'm being overly sensitive. However, after another especially unpleasant experience at a wine show last Saturday, I felt compelled to say something. 

Bill and Bob* must have been on the wine tasting conveyor belt for some time because their teeth were that lovely shade of rouge. The first wine went down ordinarily enough. It received simple criticisms like, "it's thin" and "too acidic". The second wine - well - it set off an outright tirade. "This is the shittiest wine I've tasted all day," said Bill. "How embarrassing that your winery is producing something like this, you should have tipped it down the drain," laughed Bob. The couple didn't finish there. They proceeded to flag down some friends to show them "the worst wine". By this point my workmate and I had shrunk and shrivelled into the corner. We felt like we'd had the verbal beat down. The interaction wrapped up, but that was not that. The exchange tainted our whole day.

Bill and Bob aren't even an extreme version. Like others, they just think they're giving you their "honest" opinion. They don't see that at the other end of the glass is a person who either made the wine, or helps sell it for a living. I understand that taste is subjective and you'll never please 'em all. What I don't accept is the liberal licence people take with their opinion, which is neither conversational, nor constructive. Bill and Bob, you are entitled to your opinion, but your delivery is rude and one-sided. If you don't like the wine, why not start a conversation with the person about the things you don't like about it? You might learn something! For example, if you find it acidic, why not ask the winemaker what the vintage conditions were like? The winemaker probably had to pick the grapes early because of bad weather and as a result the acid levels were still high. 

If that's too hard, then maybe you should consider saying nothing at all.

*not their real names.