I'll be attending my first formal wine tasting, hosted by the winemaker. Any advice?
Congratulations, you're about to become an official nerd. Welcome to the club. I have a few thoughts:
a) First and foremost, avoid wearing perfume or cologne. It will distort your palate, which relies heavily on the sense of smell. Worse, other guests may give you the stink-eye.
b) Wear dark colours. Trust me, this comes from experience. There will be much swirling and slurping. Red wine has a knack for finding its way onto a white shirt even if you use a tablecloth as a protective napkin. I was at a tasting recently where a server dropped and shattered a wine glass right behind my chair. I was wearing a dark-brown suit, thank goodness.
c) Keep in mind that any food you eat can greatly distort the wine's taste – sometimes for the better, often for the worse. Go ahead and chow down if you want to, but don't write off a wine if it happens to taste bitter after an anchovy-pimento-caper canapé roll.
d) If you're within earshot of the winemaker, try not to be too critical. Think of the wines as offspring; it would be like saying, "Your child is ugly and an imbecile."