We’re spoiled for choice when it comes to high-quality food and beverage producers in the Comox Valley. Small-scale producers are eager to share a passion for their product and a visit to one of the many tasting rooms is an excellent way to learn more about your favourite tipple. From award-winning grape wines and ciders, to fortified fruit wines and world-class whiskeys, there is plenty to appeal to all tastes. If you’re new to alcoholic beverage tasting, or feel intimidated by the experience, this short guide to tasting room etiquette will help:
> Always have a designated driver. Don’t put yourself or others at risk – hire a driver or ask a friend to make sure you get home safely.
> There’s no need to finish every glass. Similarly, there’s no obligation to try the entire tasting flight. If you intend to visit a number of tasting rooms, remember to regulate your consumption. Spittoons are provided for a reason. Don’t be afraid to spit or dump, especially if you are visiting multiple producers.
> With that in mind, visit wineries first, and then distilleries. Higher alcohol beverages should be tasted last.
> Forfeit perfumes, aftershaves, strong deodorants, coffee, and avoid cigarette smoke. Not only do these interfere with your ability to perceive aromas and flavours in wines and other drinks, you’ll also create a similar difficulty for others in the tasting room.
> Be sure to drink lots of water in-between tastings. Unsalted crackers are great palate cleansers. If the tasting room does not provide snacks or palate cleansers, bring your own.
HOW TO TASTE
> If the glass has a stem, hold that.
> Remember the five S’s: Sight (how does the liquid look?), Swirl (gently swirl to release volatile aromatic compounds), Smell (put your nose close to the rim and inhale), Sip (have a little taste) and then Spit (or Swallow).
> Many tasting rooms have a small tasting fee that is typically waived upon the purchase of a bottle. If you are unsure of how things operate when visiting a particular tasting room, simply ask a member of staff.
> Animals are best kept at home. Only service dogs are admitted to most tasting rooms.
Katie Phelan has an MA in Food & Wine Culture and Communications from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy. Since moving to the Comox Valley in 2014, Katie has been enthusiastically eating and drinking her way around the Pacific North West. Typically, you’ll find her in the tasting room at Beaufort Winery. And even if she didn’t work there, it’s probably still where you’d find her.