Who doesn’t love visiting a cellar door and tasting wine? Start with something cool and fresh, maybe the sparkling or a bright Riesling or Pinot Grigio; move onto a delicate Pinot Noir, bold Shiraz, gusty Cab and finish with something sweet. Great conversation, buy some wine and then do it all again just down the road! What could be better?
Despite the obvious ‘wins’ of a day in the vines tasting wine, it can end up a bit messy (and expensive!) if you’re not careful.
After years of visiting cellar doors, buying wine we didn’t actually like that much when we got home and missing out on some of the best things for one reason or another, we’ve put down a few of our tried and true tips and recommendations. These will ensure you have a great day tasting wine.
- Ask questions and don’t pretend to be a wine expert! The people serving you at the wineries are generally very passionate about what they produce and will happily share that with you! (If you’re visiting wineries in the BYO Vine Guides, we can guarantee the people are passionate and have much to share!)
- Ask how long a bottle has been open: during a quiet period, wines, especially red wines, can be open for 24 hours with no problem. This changes how you will experience them if you are going to open and drink the wine within a short period of time (ie an hour). What you are looking for here is information about how to serve the wine, not implying the wine is bad or flat!
- Beware of cold white wine! It will nearly always be very refreshing and could deceive you as to its exact flavour. Cup the glass in your hand while you swirl and warm it up; the flavour really comes through as it warms up. Before then, you might just want a cool glass of water!
- If you like a wine, ask about previous vintages: how did they differ and why. It is not uncommon for the cellar door to open a back vintage for you to try, but they generally only do it if you show genuine interest (And don’t just ask about the most expensive wine!).
- Ask about other wineries, restaurants and other places they would recommend: there are always new things opening, new chefs and winemakers. It will help you create your own unique itinerary and could lead to some incredible finds to share with friends and family at home!
- Don’t get too carried away with purchases! I can’t tell you how many times I have bought a wine that I ‘loved’, only to get home with the bottle and be surprised as to what I was tasting at the time. This isn’t really anything against the wine or winery, it is just that when tasting a lot of wine over a day, your tastes can be influenced by other factors.
- Wear comfortable and sensible shoes! The vast majority of wineries have gravel entrances, grass and other things that make fancy shoes – especially high heels – a nightmare! If you’re brave enough to venture into Mendoza, Argentina (and we highly recommend you do!), then consider a solid pair of boots! Our RM Williams definitely were at home in that harsh terrain!
- Have cash on hand to pay for wine tastings. It is only fair that if you are tasting wine and not buying anything that the winery can charge you something (In Australia, $5 seems to be the going rate). Having cash on hand means you can quickly pay and move on if nothing is to your taste (or you just don’t want to buy), rather than have to wait for an electronic transfer to happen
- Bring a snack box with some crackers, carrots and celery sticks, perhaps even a small sandwich. It will help you clear your palate between wineries and ensure the wine doesn’t go too your head too quickly.
- Have a cooler bag in the car to keep any goodies like cheese and meats your might buy. It is almost certain you’ll find something throughout the day, and keeping them fresh to enjoy when you get home is essential! Same goes for wine, although some times this can be more difficult.
- If there is just two of you, share a glass and be selective! If a winery has 10 wines and you get a ‘standard’ pour at each (~30ml, although many wineries can pour heavy), then each of you will have had approximately 3 standard drinks, putting you both over the limit. To remain safe all day, the driver has to limit themselves to 1 standard drink (100ml) per winery (and at most one glass over lunch, but even then it is risky).