Monterey County is one of the top wine destinations in the world, so all visitors have good reason to sample some new varietals when in town. While the passionate world of wine can be a bit intimidating for novices, all are encouraged to sample this praised local bounty. To help ease the transition, these wine tasting tips for beginners should help.

What To Wear

While you might think that you need to throw on your finest duds to go to the local winery, the culture is actually a bit more lax when it comes to dress code. Sure, casual-yet-professional is probably best. More importantly, avoid white shirts because of spillage, and refrain from wearing any strong-smelling perfume or cologne, as it will detract from the important smelling process.

Don’t Question The Pourer

The people who run these wineries and wine shops serve varietals to tasters every day of the year. Each pour is a pre-meditated calculation of what’s a sufficient sample size for the taster and distributor. While many newcomers will mistake the experience for that of a restaurant, this is no place to tell the server “when.”

Look For Clarity

One simple way to tell if you’re drinking quality wine is to hold the glass up to some light and observe it closely. If the liquid appears crisp and clear, than it’s nice. If it appears to be cloudy or hazy, then you may not have found the ideal wine.

Take A Whiff

You’ve surely seen a wine enthusiast bury their nose into a glass, taking long, curious whiffs of the varietal before sipping. First off, this practice isn’t reserved for experts, and it’s a fun aspect of the wine tasting process. Use your smell to try and get a more intimate understanding of the wine. Close your eyes and try and imagine what elements create the flavor—ask yourself if it is fruity, tart, floral, etc.

Focus More On Flavor Than Buzz

As tempting as it is, wine tastings are not the place to go hogwild. You’re likely to catch a pretty good buzz just by spending an afternoon sampling, but if you try and get drunk, you’ll likely end up making a scene. Instead, swirl the wine around in your mouth, really focus on the flavor and talking about it, and don’t be afraid to spit some out here and there.

Now that you have some starting points, it’s time to get to Monterey and start tasting. For some insight into what to try, here are some of The Best Varietals in Monterey.