Of the many great experiences to be enjoyed in Niagara wine country, the tasting bar is certainly the most popular. Having an opportunity to visit Niagara wineries, sample superior VQA wines and speak with courteous, friendly and knowledgeable winery staffers – even the winemakers themselves on occasion – is, without a doubt, the best way to discover exceptional wines and new favourites not available elsewhere (not even the LCBO). Many Niagara wineries do not charge for a tasting of a flight of their wines – usually three or four 1-ounce samples served at the proper temperature in appropriate glassware.
Tasting sessions are not haphazard pourings, nor are the wines selected capriciously. Most flights have with a “plan” of some type – a comparative examination of wines based on the varietal, sub-appellation, vineyard, vintage (year), blend, sugar content, or other important characteristic(s) of the wines.
Wine flights are usually intended for those new to the experience of tasting wine, or those who want to increase their understanding of a specific region, vintage, or varietal. Tasting themes are varied but a half-dozen types are staged at Niagara wineries, depending on who is tasting the wine and why. On casual visits, most folks select wines for their own flights according to their wine preferences, while wineries put together flights that encourage more experimentation, even some instruction in the art of tasting or pairing wines with food.
Common flight paths: vertical (e.g. different vintages of one varietal), horizontal (e.g. one varietal from different vineyards (terroirs), blind (unknown wines to identify or judge), brix (e.g. dry / semi-dry / sweet), food & wine pairings, proportionate blends (e.g. varied content ratios) or multi-varietal (different whites or reds), price (one varietal, different price points).
Niagara wine tasting events: Niagara Icewine Festival, Cuvée, Days of Wine & Chocolate, F-ing Wine Tour, Wine & Herb Festival, Niagara New Vintage Festival, Taste of Niagara, Taste of the Season, Niagara Grape & Wine Festival, and individual winery “new releases” events.
Wine Tasting Tips
- Include a designated driver or use a tour operator.
- Plan to visit not more than 3 or 4 wineries in a day.
- Avoid the crowds. Visit mid-week / off-peak if possible.
- Taste, don’t drink. It is not necessary to drink all that is poured.
- Arrange a food & wine pairing (available at some wineries).
- Don’t taste wine on an empty stomach. Food helps to assimilate alcohol.
- Enjoy lunch or dinner at a Niagara winery – formal or casual.
- Avoid strong scented products that interefere with the wine’s “nose”.
- Don’t smoke, snack or chew gum. Cleanse the palate between wines.
- Learn about decanting, proper glassware, tasting techniques.
- Explore the wine – color, smell, mouth feel, taste.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. No one knows it all.
- Jot down favourite wines, vintages, wineries & prices.
- Support Niagara wineries and buy a bottle of a favourite wine.