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What Is A Wine Flight? The Wine Tasting Event Defined.

You’ve heard of the wine train. You might’ve come up with your own variation on a wine-and-movie night. Now, how about the wine flight?

Despite its name, it doesn’t involve drinking wine on a plane (though you can certainly do that once travel restrictions lift). It’s a type of wine tasting event that gives you a full rundown of different varietals or regions. In other words, it’s the perfect choice for the beginner drinker without much of a reference point or the intermediate drinker who wants to level up. 

What is a wine flight? What do you get out of this wine tasting event that you won’t get from others? Let’s take a look, so you can refine your palate. 

What Is A Wine Flight And Where Did It Come From?

You can make the reasonable argument wine flights have been around since wine has been around, but let’s narrow things down a little. 

Put simply, a wine flight is just a winetasting event. More specifically, it’s a way to sample different varietals, regions, and wineries all in one convenient place. The term ‘wine flight’ (sometimes ‘tasting flight’ or ‘wine tasting’) has variations in other alcohol spaces. Earlier this year before COVID-19 hit I attended a local cider flight where I was able to taste a medley of different hard ciders such as cranberry, honey, and even pine. It was an illuminating experience that really clued me in on what I’ve been missing this whole time. 

The exact time and date of the wine flight is unknown, but dates back several hundreds of years. As for you, it doesn’t matter where you are in your wine drinking journey. The wine industry is indescribably massive and, just when you think you’ve seen it all, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Does A Wine Flight Include All Types Of Wine?

This is a common and confusing point. The function of a wine flight is to expose you to more variety, but how much variety really depends on the event. 

The thing is with wine variety? You can technically drink a single wine grape and still have a plethora of different countries, regions, and wineries to parse it up. That means your pinot noir from a small region in France will taste much different than your pinot noir from a medium-sized winery in California. As such, it’s common to have the same wine type so drinkers can experience subtle differences between them. However, other wine flights may be more geared to beginners who want to cement all their basics with an assortment of white wines, red wines, and rosés. 

When attending a wine flight you should double-check the event specs or talk to a representative so you know what you’re getting into. Wine flights are both fun and educational. You’ll learn new terminology, enjoy flavor notes you’ve never experienced before, and be exposed to recipe ideas you can’t wait to try when you get home.

How Is A Wine Flight Put Together? 

When you get down to it, anyone can do a wine flight. Just grab a few bottles, slap together a charcuterie, and turn on a Zoom call. What is a wine flight but an experience shared?

Wineries and restaurants are a little more detailed in their approach. They often look at the long game of a wine flight and how it can boost their sales or keep their repeat customers coming back for more. Winetasting events nowadays are being done virtually, but are no less enjoyable: you’ll still be walked through a beautiful winery to view equipment, bottles, and all sorts of interesting details you might be taking for granted. A representative from the winery, perhaps a reporter or a long-time customer, will walk you through each drink. 

A wine flight can last an hour. It can also be an all-day affair, particularly for the globe trotters who want to milk every last minute out of their trip. Either way, you’ll enjoy many benefits.

What Are The Primary Benefits Of A Wine Flight?

As touched on above, a wine flight will expose you to the subtleties of different regions and types all in one place. It’s also good for those on a budget.

Have you found yourself overwhelmed when standing in the wine section of a grocery store, unsure which bottle to commit to? It’s one thing to try a beer can and not like it, but an entire wine bottle that can run as low as $5 and as high as $50 feels much worse. A wine flight will give you risk-free samples of several wines so you can figure out which flavor notes, mouthfeels, and aromas suit your palate best. They’re also a load of fun. You just don’t know where you’re going to be taken to with the next glass. 

That’s far from the only thing you’ll learn at a wine flight. These experiences are just as educational as they are relaxing, ushering in a new group of wine drinkers alongside the more experienced aficionados. 

What Can I Learn At A Wine Flight? 

Do you feel at a loss when someone sniffs their wine glass and says it’s a little corky? What about when your friend makes mention of the wine’s legs, then gives the drink a swirl?

A wine flight will allow you to finally ask some questions and experience firsthand what all these seemingly fluffy and inconsequential vocabulary means. What makes one wine acidic and another dry? Find out during your first day! Depending on the wine flight you may even get a checklist to analyze your cup with: flavor notes, mouthfeel, aroma, color, and body are just a few of the details that will separate that cabernet sauvignon from that cabernet sauvignon. Your tongue is filled with unique receptors, making each sip more complex than the last.

The wine flight will also dip into the history behind each bottle of wine and what the individual winery brings to the table. The methods and the intent matter just as much as the flavor.

How Do I Cleanse My Palate?

This is a very important part of the winetasting experience. You don’t want each wine’s unique tasting and texture notes blurring together. 

Palate cleansers take the form of simple, dry crackers or starchy bread. This essentially soaks up excess flavor chemicals on the tongue and washes them down, allowing you to ‘reset’ your mouth and start again. While drinking a glass of water sounds helpful, it doesn’t quite have the same effect as food will. Make sure you don’t eat anything grainy or sugary, either, as that can cause your mouth to produce too much saliva and set you back again. Ration those cheese and chocolates carefully!

Next time you visit the store, consider adding a starchy white bread, water crackers, or a roll of French bread to your cart. These will not only settle your stomach with all that alcohol, but allow you to grasp the full range of tasting notes in your glass of red. 

Should I Attend A Wine Flight In Person?

Until COVID-19 is under control again, it’s unsafe to visit a wine flight in-person.

Think about it. Even if you show up in a mask and are constantly washing your hands, you’ll still have to take it off to drink. I visited a few wine flights early this year, before the virus started spreading, and they’re often intimate affairs in close spaces. People chatting face-to-face and sharing charcuteries is a pretty dismal way to adhere to social distancing and masking guidelines, no matter how careful you think you’re being. Add the lowered inhibition that comes with alcohol consumption and an in-person wine flight is a recipe for disaster.

There are plenty of interesting and snappy virtual wine tasting events going on these days. Play it safe and get creative so you and your loved ones can enjoy wine responsibly. 

What Other Details Should I Know About A Wine Flight?

Wine flights are about as varied as the wines they’re putting on display. It’s more than okay to be surprised. In fact, that’s kind of the goal.

You could have a wine flight combined with an art gallery viewing. Some wine flights will merge with book club readings or slam poetry to liven things up. Creativity is the key detail that’s keeping the wine industry afloat during COVID-19 and this is unlikely to change even when the pandemic starts to veer off into something resembling stable again. Many wineries these days are embracing technology to do virtual winetasting events that bridge the gap of not just distance, but different age groups and price brackets. 

If you want to attend a virtual wine flight, visit the site of your given winery and check out their events or promotions tab. There are also a plethora of wonderful wine websites you can follow for up-to-date wine news like Wine Folly, Wine Traveler, and Vine Pair. 

After visiting local winetasting events in early 2020, I can’t wait to attend more once it’s safe to do so.

If you have a friend or co-worker who’s never attended a wine flight, link them to this list. In the meantime: have you attended a wine flight, and if so, did you enjoy it?

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