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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I am a member of a couple of local winery wine clubs, which offer free tastings for members. What is the proper etiquette for how often we should go so we don’t look like we are taking advantage of the perk? Once a quarter? Once a month? Once every couple of weeks?

—Miche, Atlanta

Dear Miche,

My guess is that because it occurs to you that you might look like a freeloader, you probably aren’t one. (That doesn’t apply to everyone—there are absolutely people who take advantage of free tastings.)

From a retailer or producer’s perspective, they’re offering free samples because they want to entice you to buy something, usually whatever it is they’re offering for you to sample. I don’t think you’d necessarily be expected to buy something every time you sample, but you should approach things as a prospective customer—if not that day, then sometime in the future. The spirit of a free tasting isn’t really just to walk in, throw some wine back and leave.

There’s no single right or wrong answer—every place and person will have a different tolerance for this scenario. But please try to use each tasting experience as a way to learn about wine, not just drink it. You can demonstrate this by engaging your host with questions, or by taking tasting notes. I’m guessing your membership wasn’t free, but even so, you could express your appreciation by thanking them for giving you an opportunity to taste there.

—Dr. Vinny

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