Tasting Room Etiquette: The Dump Bucket

Here’s the deal: I know you don’t like wasting wine, but I would much rather that you dump your wine out than drink unsafely. I have so many customers come in and tell me that they hate wasting wine, so they would rather drink wine they don’t actually want than use the dump bucket. Maybe I’ve become immune to dumping wine out, but I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to waste that little bit of wine. It’s better than being wasted yourself! Here are some thoughts on dump buckets:

1. I would so much rather that you dumped out that extra sip of wine than, say, drink it and drive. All those little tastes add up; sip what you want, and then dump the rest and have some water instead.

2. You don’t want to see how much wine gets “wasted” on a daily basis. In a winery, you lose wine all the time when you’re cleaning barrels, moving wine, bottling, etc. What you pour out in the dump bucket is nothing, nothing compared to what gets lost during production.

3. When we have wine left in the bottle after a couple days, we either take it home or dump it out. Sometimes there is wine that gets poured out, and that just seems to be the way of the wine world. The winery where I work has a barrel where we turn leftover bottles of wine into vinegar, but it’s currently full, so we’re back to dumping out wine. What I’m saying is, there’s a good chance that wine might get dumped out whatever you choose to do.

4. This is a very small issue, but I run across it all the time; it’s actually really difficult to pour a tiny amount of wine into a glass, and I’d like you to have enough to overcome those last drops of the previous wine. Instead of asking me to pour “just the tiniest bit” into your glass, please just dump the extra. If you ask, I will try and pour less than an ounce (the standard taste), but that quarter-of-an-ounce that you have to pour out won’t make much of a difference in the long run and will save me from spilling some wine down the side of the glass as I try to gently tip only a few drops from the bottle.

Some people (especially if they have a driver) don’t even think about using the dump bucket, and that’s fine, but there is really no need to hesitate to use it. I always think it’s better to use it than drink something you don’t want to, especially if you’re trying to hit a lot of wineries in one day, and especially if you’re the one driving. I almost always dump wine after taking a couple sips, unless it’s a wine that I’m absolutely taken with.

I promise, using the dump bucket gets easier every time you do it! Readers in the wine industry; what are your takes on dump buckets?


4 thoughts on “Tasting Room Etiquette: The Dump Bucket”

  1. Here’s a question I have for you. I visit a lot of wineries here in NC. Most of them are small, family run operations. Some produce wine that can compete with the best of California, Oregon, and Washington. Some, tragically, still produce only muscadine. Often, I want to dump a wine that I don’t like (especially muscadine), but when the owner is conducting the wine tasting, I don’t want to hurt his or her feelings. How can I not come across as rude when dumping a wine at a small, family run winery?

    1. Hi Wandering Gourmand,
      I totally get that it feels awkward to dump wine out in front of the person who made it, but winemakers know that not every wine is for everyone. And, trust me, they have seen people dump out their wines before. If you want to dump without making it a commentary on the wine, make it your default to pour wine out after a couple sips. Dump it unless it’s a wine that absolutely thrills you. That way, you’re dumping until you love a wine, rather than drinking until you hate a wine. That way the emphasis is on the wines that you find exceptionally good, not exceptionally bad. If you need to offer a reason as to why you’re dumping most of them (not necessary, but it makes some people feel more comfortable), you can explain that you’re driving, have several wineries to visit, don’t want to overwhelm your palate, or don’t want to drink too much.

      If you do want to finish all your tastes, except the ones you don’t like, dump without making any comment on the wine. Lots of people think they have to make an excuse as to why they’re dumping, or verbalize that they don’t like it, but I think it’s easiest to just pour the rest out and move on with the tasting. Or, if you feel like you have to say something, something along the lines of “it’s good, but not my style,” is perfectly valid and not offensive at all.

      In any case, winemakers have seen many people dump out wine, and without a doubt, they have encountered people who have been straight up rude and told them that their wine was bad. As long as you’re not doing that, I think you’re doing fine.

      I hope this helps; it sounds like you’re an experienced and respectful taster, and winemakers will pick up on that. I’ve never had wine from NC; what are your favorite wineries there, and do you know if any wineries ship/distribute nationally? I’d love to discover some new stuff!


      1. I like the “it’s good but not my style” line. True story. We stopped into some random mountain winery. All their wines were from Niagra grapes (should have been a warning). We sampled, dumped, sampled, dumped, repeat. Everything was putrid. We wanted to pay our tasting fee and leave. This winery didn’t charge a fee. Feeling guilty, we bought two bottles and high-tailed it out of there. The bottles were gifts to my aunt who likes anything sweet.

        As for good NC wineries, we like Raffaldini, Ray Len, Shadow Ridge,and Laurel Grey. I am not sure if any ship. If they do, the varietals that grow best are Viogniers, Cab Francs, and Chamburcin (sp?). Ray Len makes a blend called Category Five that is quite good. Laurel Grey has the best Viognier I have ever tasted from anywhere in the world.

  2. In the wine world you either love or dislike the wine your tasting, no winemaker should be hurt if you dump wine. I hear all the time ” it a sin to dump wine even if it’s bad.” who really cares if you dump but your palate, if you drink all that wine in two visit to a winery you ruin the experience of what your tasting and you start buying cases of wine that normally you would never purchase. Trust me I’ve heard that story way to many times. If you spend time enjoying each wine you develop a better understanding of the winemaker and his style. Enjoy wine people this should not be a grown up game of let’s get drunk.

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