No matter how much you know about wine, there is always something more to learn. An excellent way to both experience Virginia’s wines and expand your knowledge is to attend a wine tasting. If you’re in luck, the owner or winemaker may be present, and they love to talk about their wines!
Whether it’s your first visit to a local winery, or you have years and bottles under your belt, here are the most common questions to ask a wine tasting.
What types of grapes were used to make this wine?
Wines can be identified on their label based on the type of grape used. For example, a Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. At other times, winemakers combine a blend of grapes to create an entirely new wine experience. Check the wine notes to see if they identify the varietals, and feel free to ask your server or the winemaker.
What should I be tasting with this wine?
It’s fun to rely on your own palate to see if you can pick out the earthy or floral notes in a wine, and afterwards refer to the tasting notes. Notice which tastes you experience first, and which come later on the finish. The tastes can change throughout the taste profile. Smell also plays a role and is an important step in the wine tasting process. Experience the “nose” of the wine prior to tasting.
How was this wine aged?
The aging process can make a big difference in the taste of a wine. Wines may be aged in oak barrels of French or American Oak, or steel tanks. How long a wine has aged and how long it has been in the bottle can also affect the taste.
In what type of soil does this grape grow well?
Winemakers enjoy talking about the soil and climate conditions that create a great grape and affect the taste of the wine. This is known as the “terroir.” No two winemaking regions are the same, even if the vineyards are in close proximity to each other.
What wines are your best sellers?
Certain wines become favorites of visitors and wine club members. Knowing what the most popular wines are lets you see if you agree with the crowd. But make your own opinion. What you like may be different than others.
What wines are you known for?
Wineries may have unique styles of wine, a rare varietal, or a process that makes them different. Ask this question and you may even be treated to a wine they rarely pull out for normal tastings!
What is the story behind this winery?
A number of winery owners never started out to own or run a winery. The stories of their journeys to where they are now are often fascinating.
Types of Wine Tastings
Learn about a particular winery’s choice in grapes, the types of wines they produce. Talk to the winemaker and owners. Tour the winery.
Wine stores offer tastings based on what’s new, a theme, a region, or with a representative of a winery or wine distributor. Compare the differences between wines from the same region or explore a new country. Attend each week for a new variety. Ask for wine recommendations.
Generally held by a wine association or industry. Many wines offered; be prepared to taste hundreds of wines in a short period of time. Focus on the taste.
Test Your Wine Knowledge
- What is the most widely planted grape in the world?
- How much wine is in a standard bottle?
- How many grapes does it take to create a standard bottle of wine?
- How much wine does one acre of grapevine produce, on average?
- Which two U.S. presidents attempted to grow grapevines?
- What is a vertical wine tasting?
- How many bubbles are in a bottle of champagne?
- Wine can be produced in what colors?
- What was the only winemaking region in the world not affected by the phylloxera aphid that caused a severe blight in the mid 19th century?
- What is the biggest wine bottle called?
- How much wine is in a wine barrel?
- How long does it take a newly-planted grapevine to bear wine-making fruit?
Answers to Pop Quiz!
Test Your Wine Knowledge
- Cabernet Sauvignon, with more than 700,000 acres planted worldwide
- 750 milliliters (about 25 fluid ounces)
- About 2.5 pounds, or around 200 grapes
- Around 800 gallons of wine
- George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Both failed.
- Wines tasted from the same vineyard or the same winemaker from different years
- About 49 million bubbles
- Red, white, pink (rosé) and blue
- Chile. A number of heritage grapes saved here were reinstated into Europe.
- A Nebuchadnezzar. It holds 15 liters of wine, or the equivalent of 20 standard bottles.
- About 60 gallons (126 gallons in a buttload of wine)
- About 3-5 years. Grapevines can bear fruit for up to 40 years.
Wine quiz from BrightCellars.com