As far as wine goes, I’m essentially clueless. When I saw the signup for a $10 wine tasting at Ibby’s, I knew I absolutely wanted to go so I could learn a few things to prepare myself for the real world. I took my friend Hunter, who is already something of a wine connoisseur. While I was trying to figure out the difference between Franzia and Pinot Noir, he was explaining what “legs” of wine are and catching scents of fruit, flowers and herbs in the various wines we tasted. I spent half the time at the tasting embarrassing myself and the other half learning way more about wine than I thought was possible.

Wine Tasting Etiquette

Wine tastings definitely involve some level of manners and class. Here are some ground rules you should follow, based on my mistakes:

1. Make a Reservation. The Ibby’s wine tasting filled up fast, and in the real world, some wineries are only open on the weekends or by appointment. I reserved my space pretty late and was originally put on the waitlist at Ibby’s (but luckily made it off).

2. Wear something comfortable and elegant. What you wear shows respect for the winery. So going to the tasting straight from track practice was definitely a mistake on my part.

3. Lay off the perfume. Heavy scents are a distraction from the aroma of the wine.

4. Shhh. A winery, unlike a bar, is a great place for quiet and relaxed conversation.

5. Chew quietly and with your mouth closed. A good rule to follow in restaurants at all times, but especially during a wine tasting, since the food comes second in priority to the wine anyway.

6. Read up on some of these wine terms. Slip them into conversation when applicable at a wine tasting, and you’ll sound like a pro.


Photo by Julie Rub

The first thing I noticed upon walking into Ibby’s for the wine tasting was a huge platter of nice cheeses, crackers, grapes and berries. My brain went, “yes, free food” and I made a beeline to the platter, piling my plate high with everything. I began stuffing my face, but when I looked up, basically the entire room was staring at me. It turns out that the food at a wine tasting should be eaten sparingly, only to complement the flavors of the wine itself.

How To Taste Wine


Photo by Julie Rub

1. Neutralize tasting conditions. Cleanse your palette and make sure to minimize distractions, such as too much noise and strong scents. If some wine is colder than other wine (which will affect its taste), warm it by cupping the glass with your hands.

2. Look at the wine. First, look straight down (depth of color), then from the side in the light (clarity), and finally tilted (age/weight and alcohol content).

3. Swirl. This aerates the wine. Oxygen gets into the wine and brings out the full flavor. Hunter also taught me that the longer the wine sticks to the sides of the glass when you swirl it, the more robust (sweet and syrupy) the wine is.

4. Sniff the wine. About half of a wine’s flavor actually comes from the smell, which is why wine glasses are so big. Get your nose into the glass. Start by looking for fruit scents, then try to smell flowers, leaves, herbs, spices and vegetables. Also look for wine barrel aromas (literally from the wood of the barrel) and secondary aromaswhich come from the fermentation process.

5. Taste it. Finally, take a sip. See if it’s balanced (flavors in proportion), harmonious (flavors are integrated) and complex (seems to dance in your mouth and change flavor as you’re tasting it).

Looking for more free/cheap food events like this wine tasting? Check these out:

If you’re like me and ran out of meal points (oops), you’ll find this list super helpful.

1. Freshman Free Ted Drewes and Music
Tuesday, April 21 at 7 pm on the swamp with Freshman Class Council.

2. Earth Week
Right NOW – Wednesday, April 22. Check out the featured Earth Week meal at various DUC and BD stations for healthy and sustainable options throughout the week or take the Green Monday pledge. Earth Week also features a panel on sustainability featuring Professors Lowry, Krummenacher, Wysession, and Fike, Dean Smith, and Vice Chancellor Phil Valko in DUC 276 on April 22 at 3 pm and an open Student Green Council Meeting on April 22 at 6pm with dinner included. Click here to RSVP for the free dinner.

3. Tuesday Tea at 3
Every Tuesday at 3 pm in DUC Tisch Commons, featuring a variety of teas and free pastries.

4. Jilly’s Cupcake Boot Camp
Thursday, April 23 at 9 pm in Ursa’s Fireside. This is your chance to actually make Jilly’s Cupcakes (two-time Cupcake Wars winners) yourself. You’ll also get to watch audition tapes and clips from the competition.

5. Free BBQ with Your New Execs
Thursday, April 23 midday on Ruby Lawn. Enjoy delicious BBQ and the nice weather while getting to know your new 2015-16 CS40 execs.

6. BBQ Fridays
Every Friday at 11 am outside the DUC in Edison Courtyard and outside Etta’s.

7. Ashoka Presents: Bazaar
Saturday, April 25 from 2 pm – 4 pm in DUC Tisch Commons. Celebrate WashU’s diversity with free ethnic food, music, performances and even a photo booth.

8. Skillshare Sunday
Sunday, April 26 at noon in the DUC. This is the second annual Skillshare Collective, which is a day of 30+ 1-hour workshops on any number of interesting skills taught by students, faculty, staff and St. Louis community members. There will be tons of free food, shirts and even tattoos.

9. Cold Stone Creamery Ice Cream Bar
Monday, April 27 at 7:00 pm in DUC Tisch Commons.

10. Midnight Milk and Cookies
Monday, April 27 – Wednesday, April 29 at midnight in DUC Tisch Commons.

11. Sunrise Yoga and Coffee Featuring Kaldi’s Coffee
Tuesday, April 28 at 7:30 am in DUC Tisch Commons.

12. Gourmet Coffee Bar
Tuesday, April 28 at 7 pm in DUC Tisch Commons. Take a break from the usual Whispers coffee and try out some fancy gourmet varieties.

13. Moonlight Breakfast
Tuesday, April 28 from 10 pm – midnight in BD and the Village. It’s Wild West themed, so now’s the time to throw on your cowboy hat and boots. People usually start lining up before 10 pm because of the crazy crowds for all the free eggs, pancakes, French toast and more.

14. Pillow Fights and Pancakes
Wednesday, April 29 at 7 pm in DUC Tish Commons. Unfortunately, after the Booboo the Bear catastrophe last year, bringing animals to Wash U is no longer an option, so puppies and pancakes is now pillow fights and pancakes – should be interesting.

15. DUC n’ Donuts
Free donuts and coffee straight from Dunkin’ the first Friday of every month from 9 am until supplies run out. Yup, all you homesick Northeasterners, you heard me right. The last one of the year is on May 1.

And of course, don’t forget to get your fix of free food (loads of pizza and fro-yo) at Spring W.I.L.D. this Friday in Brookings Quad starting at 5:30 pm!

Check out this spreadsheet created by Wash U Senior Brittany Scheid for updates on free food on and near campus.

For more on wine, check these out: