Is it okay to ask for a glass of water to go with a wine tasting?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I love going to wine tastings and have really started to know what I like, which is really exciting, but I always experience a bit of awkwardness at them. I'm an extreme lightweight when it comes to alcohol and I always ask for a glass of water to go with the tasting. Sometimes the wine staff seems perfectly okay with it, like it's not a big deal, and sometimes they look at me as though I've grown another head. Am I crossing some sort of etiquette boundary?

Anne H., Independence, Mo.

Dear Anne,

Oh my goodness, no! You can’t possibly drink more water than I do, because I drink all of the water. Hydration is so important while wine tasting. I can’t imagine a server giving you side eye for such a simple request.

As a very thirsty person, I do have some tips. First off, I often carry my own water, especially if I’m traveling. It cuts down on your time seeking it out if it’s already on you. Most of the wine tastings I go to have plenty of water near the entrances and make it easy to stay hydrated. In fact, if you go to our upcoming Grand Tour, I’ll meet you by a water station.

If it’s more of a sit-down wine tasting scenario or you're at a restaurant, I often tell my server up front that I’m a water drinker. When they ask what I want to drink, I might joke for them to bring me their largest glass of water along with my wine or mention that I’m very thirsty or even quip that they can leave the water pitcher on the table—I love restaurants that leave water on the table. If you can afford it, you can buy a bottle of water, which is another way to keep the water nearby.

A couple other tips—who knew I was such a fountain of information on this topic? I know that in California, where they are suffering from drought conditions, restaurants are directed to only serve water on request and that might be a policy elsewhere. At some restaurants, the person that takes your order, brings your food and fills your water glass might not be the same person, so you might have to keep track of the water person for the fastest turnaround to your request.

—Dr. Vinny

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