Wine tastings seem like the most intuitive—and most noncommittal—way to discover new varietals to work into your repertoire. But actually attending these things can sometimes cause a bunch of unwanted anxiety as you try to figure out the etiquette of swirling, sniffing, and sipping.

In Alexander Payne’s Sideways, the scene where Paul Giamatti’s character Miles Raymond shows his best friend how to taste wine gave some of us a peek into the rituals behind a proper tasting (though to be fair, it might have been meant more as a window into his neuroses). If you don’t want to be as boorish as Thomas Haden Church’s Jack Cole character, the Denver Post has a more practical primer on how to maximize your wine tasting experience:

To prepare:

  • Don’t smoke.
  • Avoid using strongly scented toiletries.
  • Don’t commandeer space or samples (sharing is expected).
  • Don’t ask for larger pours (samples are supposed to be small).

During the tasting:

  • Spit out your wine.
  • Take sips of water in between sampling.
  • Refer to the tasting guide shared by a staff member.
  • Do keep your options open and try the ones you really want.
  • To let the flavors build, trying going from white to sparkling before red and sweet wines.
  • Employ all of your senses when trying wine: “Look at its color and depth of hue; sniff its aromas; taste its flavors; and finally feel its texture.”

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjNmeRMrBRU&w=470&h=320]

[via Denver Post]