Many who travel to France often do so for its food and wine, and the best way to experience its culinary wonders is through tours and classes. Wine aficionados, therefore, flock to tasting classes and tours of wine country to experience all that the fruit of the vine has to offer in France.
Choosing an experience that's right for you will vary based on your time and budget, but once you pull the trigger on your selected activity, you'll probably still have loads of etiquette questions before you attend the event. One of the most common dilemmas is deciding what to wear, so we've created a brief guide on dressing for your wine tour or tasting.
In order to adequately dress for the occasion, you need to know what to expect on tours and tastings. Whether you visit wineries in Napa or taste French wines in Paris, you'll need to keep a few common etiquette rules in mind when choosing your outfit:
Deciding what to wear to a class, vineyard, or winery can be a difficult choice, but as a general rule, you should do your best to balance style and comfort. Here are a few tips to help you choose the perfect outfit for your excursion to Napa or Champagne.
Whether you're at a class in a cellar or traversing through the vineyards of France, you need to choose shoes that won't kill your feet. Nice sneakers will often suffice for excursions through wine country, and for fancier affairs, you should opt for comfy flats or tried-and-true wedges.
In general, unless stated otherwise, you should keep it cute and casual at any event. Outfits like jeans and a fashionable top or a nice sundress ensure that you'll blend in at a nicer affair without looking overdressed if it's casual.
Even if you're on a full day trip, you should only bring a small bag, a jacket, and a cardigan if necessary. Whether you're in Burgundy or Napa, you'll likely be walking quite a bit, and you don't want to be bogged down with a gigantic tote bag and heavy jackets.
Simply put, you're going to dress nicer for an invite-only event than for walking around a festival. Pay attention to stated dress codes as well as other hints like the exclusivity of the event.
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At its most basic, a wine dinner is a dinner where each course is paired with a particular wine. While each wine dinner varies, a typical wine dinner will contain three to five courses that are pre-selected by a chef, and a sommelier will pair each course with a particular wine. Sometimes, the wines will be chosen specifically to suit the dish while other wine dinners may center on a particular brand or vineyard. Many wine dinners also contain an educational component where a sommelier will tell you about the wine and how it is paired with the food.
Depending on where it is held, a wine dinner may be a formal affair or a more casual gathering. In general, the event will specify the dress code, and even if the event is more casual, you should dress smartly out of respect for the chef(s) and sommelier(s) who host the dinner. You should also take care to avoid wearing light colors in case of spills.
If you are invited to a winery wedding, then you should expect the dress code to range from dressy casual to semi-formal unless otherwise specified. For women, most nice cocktail or wedding guest dresses should suffice, or if you prefer to wear pants, a dressy jumpsuit or slacks with a semi-formal blouse can be excellent alternatives. Men should wear either slacks and a blazer or a semi-formal suit, depending on the wedding’s dress code. Regardless of what you choose to wear, you should steer clear of deep reds and burgundies since many winery weddings use these colors in their decor, and you should also avoid light colors in case of spills.
You should also consider that many winery weddings will be at least partially outdoor since part of the winery experience is enjoying the vineyard and surrounding scenery. Therefore, you will want to ensure that your shoes are suitable for walking outdoors, and you should bring an appropriate jacket if necessary. You should also bring other items that you may need at an outdoor venue, such as sunglasses or an umbrella.
While getting drunk is certainly possible at a wine tasting, doing so is not advised. Since you are tasting alcohol, you are inevitably going to get somewhat tipsy during your wine tasting. Wine tasting is meant to be a good time, so it is perfectly fine to be a bit buzzed during the event. However, getting too drunk at a wine tasting is often considered rude. If you are too drunk and rowdy at a tasting, you will likely disturb others in your wine tasting group, and you will not be able to fully enjoy the wines that you are tasting. Therefore, to avoid becoming too drunk while tasting wine, you should eat a full breakfast before tasting and continue to eat throughout the day, and you should only take small sips of wine and use a spittoon to spit some of it out. In general, you will have a much better experience at a wine tasting if you avoid getting too drunk during the event.
In order to avoid becoming too drunk at a wine tasting, many tasting experts recommend that you spit out wine as you taste it. As you drink throughout a day of wine tasting, you may become increasingly drunk, which may not bode well for your experience. If you drink a large amount of wine, you may become drunk, which will impair your ability to taste the differences in the wines and to fully enjoy the various fine wines that you taste. Additionally, becoming too drunk at wine tasting is often considered rude, so you should refrain from becoming too drunk or rowdy. Spitting while tasting thus allows you to fully experience the wine without becoming as drunk, which will allow you to taste wine for a longer period of time. If you ask for a spittoon or a spit cup at a winery, they will likely happily oblige, and you will be able to have a better overall wine tasting experience.
In most cases, you should avoid wearing a T-shirt and jeans to a wine tasting - especially in France. In general, you should dress for a wine tasting as you would to go out to a nice restaurant or dinner party unless the venue requires formal attire. Therefore, wine tasters should wear items such as nice sundresses, blouses, slacks, polos, and blazers, and they should present themselves neatly to show respect for the winery. Tasters should also wear comfortable shoes since winery tours and tastings often involve plenty of walking, and they should avoid wearing light colors in case of spills. Dark denim may be acceptable if it is in good condition and paired with a nice top, but you must be careful to avoid looking too casual should you choose to wear jeans. Wine tasters should therefore wear outfits that are smart yet comfortable to ensure that they are fully dressed for the occasion.
Although you should dress nicely for a wine tasting, you should avoid wearing high heels. When you tour a winery or vineyard, you will likely walk on grass, cobblestone, and other ground that is not suitable for high heels, and you should expect to walk quite a bit. If a large portion of the tour is outdoors, then your heels may also get dirty. Even if you only partake in the tasting, you will still be on your feet for an extended period of time, and high heels may not be comfortable. Instead of high heels, you should choose shoes that are nice-looking yet comfortable to walk in. A nice pair of flats is always a good choice, and if the event is more formal, you may consider wearing comfortable wedges. Boots can also be acceptable footwear if they are in good condition and if the event is during winter or outdoors.
The majority of wine dinners will have dress codes that range from business casual to semi-formal, depending on the venue and the occasion. Venue is perhaps the important indicator of how you should dress for a wine dinner. A wine dinner held at a hotel, for instance, will often require cocktail or semi-formal attire, but one held at an outdoor venue will likely only require business or smart casual wear. If your wine dinner will occur at a winery, find out if it will be hosted in a normal tasting room, a dedicated dining room, or an outdoor space. Additionally, if your wine dinner is a part of a special occasion, the dress code will likely be fairly formal. Finally, if you are attending a wine dinner and are unsure of what to wear, it is best to graciously ask your host about the dress code than to show up under- or over-dressed.
When visiting a winery, you should generally avoid clothes that are uncomfortable, high-maintenance, or excessively casual. One of the most common mistakes that people make when visiting wineries is wearing uncomfortable shoes. While you shouldn’t wear sneakers to a winery, you should opt for classy sandals, loafers, or booties over heels or dress shoes. You should also ensure that your outfit won’t be too difficult to maintain throughout the day. A complicated hairstyle, tight-fitting dress, or awkward romper could distract you from your winery experience. Finally, while you should be comfortable in your outfit, you should avoid dressing too casually. Sweats, workout clothing, and T-shirts are never acceptable at a winery, and jeans can only meet the dress code at more casual wineries – and even then, they must be dark, pressed, and well-kept. You should therefore stick to slacks, skirts, and dresses as a general rule, and you should always be presentable when visiting a winery.