wine rack on wood wall

The more your staff knows about your wine, the more they’ll be able to make good recommendations and sell more wine.

The wine world can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. The best way to learn more about wine is to taste more and pay attention to what you’re tasting. Increase your staff’s knowledge by hosting periodic wine tastings for your staff.

Here are some tips on how to have a successful staff wine tasting.

Pick A Theme

Don’t overwhelm everyone by tasting through the whole wine list.

Instead, pick a theme and plan the tasting around that theme. Try a theme like “Sauvignon Blanc from around the world” and choose selections off your wine list that are good examples of Sauvignon Blanc from different parts of the world; New Zealand, Sancerre, Chile, California. Focusing on one grape helps tasters learn more about that specific grape, but also see how different it can be depending how where in the world it is made.

Look At The Glass

The first step in any tasting is to take a look at what’s inside the glass. Is it opaque or translucent? Dark or light? Bright red or more purple? Practically colorless or a straw-like yellow? Hold the glasses by the stem, swirl the wine around and take a good look at it. Also, pay attention to the “legs” of the wine (or “tears” as they call them in Portugal) this can say a lot about the wine’s sugar content and consistency.

Red wine pouring into glass, close-up.

Smell Your Wine

After a good swirl, which helps your wine get some oxygen, everyone should take a deep smell and talk about what you smell. Really get your nose in the glass, and encourage people to say whatever they smell, without feeling like they have to use wine terms.

What people smell comes a lot for their life experience, and there are no wrong answers. Someone who grew up in the mountains of Vermont will have different smells in their brain than someone who grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey. Someone who grew up in a house with an Italian grandmother, will smells things differently than someone with a Vietnamese mom. Dig into all these memories and just start talking.

Taste Your Wine

Notice, I didn’t say drink, I said taste. Encourage everyone to taste slowly and think about what they’re tasting and talk about it. Try and think of the wine as having three distinct stages to show you what it has to offer. First, the attack. What happens when you first taste the wine? What flavors are you hit with straight away?

Next, the mid-palate. What does the wine taste like as it travels through your mouth? Where are you picking up on those flavors? On the sides of your tongue, your teeth?

Lastly, the finish. What happens after you swallow the wine? Is the taste quickly forgotten, or is it lingering in your mouth? Does the aftertaste evolve into a new flavor?

Revisit The Wine

Everything on your wine list should be chosen because it works well with your menu. After you’ve tasted the wines, revisit them to see how they’ve changed over time, with more air and how they taste with food. Do they improve? Do they hold up to a food’s strong flavors or completely overpower the food? Which foods do they work with and which do they not?

I can’t stress enough that there are no wrong answers. Tasting wine in groups is so valuable because people listen to each other, and the more people are talking, the more people are paying attention and focusing on the wine and learning from each other.

Bonus to staff wine tastings? It’s also a great morale boosters! Who doesn’t have fun at a wine tasting? No one! These are fun for team building while also being an effective way to educate your staff and increase your wine sales. Cheers!
Written by   |  
Kristin lives on the West Side of Providence with her wine blogger husband. When she's not co-hosting their monthly wine tastings, she's planning her next travel adventure and daydreaming about Spanish jamón. She can often be found pouring over travel guides at her favorite neighborhood spot, Nick's on Broadway.