Visiting a winery or going on a wine tour is fun. Yet, you might wonder if it is right for you. I’ve been on wine tours in several countries, but I can still remember my first time. To help you have a good time, give some thought to wine tour things to do before you set off.
A wine tour is a way to deepen your knowledge of wine. You can take a focused wine tour of a specific winery or organize a multi-winery wine tour. In general, a wine tour is one of the best ways to discover how wines are made and pick up great wines at a good place.
1) Choose The Right Places To Visit (Not All Wine Tours Are Created Equal)
Be careful! Some wineries have invested in beautiful grounds, architecture, and amenities for visitors to make your wine tasting trip memorable like the ice bar in the Peller Estates Winery in Canada. That said, many more wineries offer a place to buy wine and the chance to wander the grounds. In general, I recommend that wine beginners start with a guided wine tour where you are invited to ask questions and learn about the fundamentals of wine production. Want inspiration for where to go? See my review of 1,000 Places To See Before You Die (Deluxe Edition).
To guide your wine trip planning, check out the winery website to find out the following.
- Are there guided wine tours? A guided tour, especially if it requires a fee, is more likely to give you an in-depth overview of the winery. A self-guided tour means you are usually on your own to explore the grounds.
- What amenities are available for guests? Some wineries have a restaurant, a tasting room, and more, while others are more minimalist.
- What recognition has the winery earned as a destination? Check out websites like TripAdvisor to see if the winery has a track record of a positive review. However, keep in mind that a newer winery starting to emphasize wine tours might not have much of a track record.
Visiting a winery isn’t your only option by the way. There are plenty of urban ideas. Check out my Ottawa wine travel blog for ideas on how I enjoyed wine travel in Canada’s capital.
2) Get Close To The Grapes
The chance to get close to the wine grapes is one of the best experiences you can have on a wine tour. To see the grapes at their past, visit in the summer. Visiting a winery in the fall can also be fun because you might see the harvest process unfold. When you see the grapes in person, you can better understand where your glass of wine comes from.
Most people are not wine growers by profession, so don’t be afraid to ask some basic questions about the grapes.
- Which grape varieties do you grow? (Many wineries grow more than one grape variety – you might see several kinds of red wine grapes)
- How old are the grapevines? (Grapevines take some time to mature before they yield good grapes)
- May I taste one of the grapes? (Always ask permission before eating a grape. Once receive a, yes, you can compare how your favorite wine compares to the grape itself).
Take photos of the grapes and the grounds as well. It is a free souvenir you enjoy when you go back home.
3) Ask About Award-Winning Vintages
While you explore a winery, you have an excellent opportunity to find out about the best vintages. If you read industry publications like Decanter or Wine Spectator, you might hear about great vintages and awards. However, these publications can only cover so much ground. Taking a few minutes to ask about the top vintages and wine awards is a way to discover what the winery is beat at. Many wineries will also display displays about their wine awards.
4) Have A Few Wine Samples Responsibly
Drinking some wine is part of the wine tour experience buy do so responsibly. If you are driving yourself later that day, keep local laws in mind. If you are on a wine tour that includes transportation, you have more flexibility on how much you drink.
When drinking wine samples, there are two approaches.
- Go Deep. With an excellent deep approach, you will choose between one and three wines and have a full glass of wine. Going deep makes sense if you are already reasonably confident about which wines you want to explore.
- Go Wide. Going wide means tasting a large number of wines but keeping too much smaller quantities. For instance, you could have ten one-ounce servings of wine (roughly equivalent to two full glasses of wine). Going wide makes sense in an extensive wine tour where there is an opportunity to taste many different kinds of wine.
At this point, you are probably going to ask if you should spit out the wines. Whether you spit out wines depends on your goals. As you drink more wine, your palate tends to become less sensitive. That means you will find it more difficult to appreciate subtle differences in wine as you drink more. By spitting out wines, you will preserve your ability to appreciate wines for a more extended period. If your goal is to taste 10 or 15 wines during a wine tour and you want to appreciate each one, then you will probably have to spit out wines to keep a clear head and palate.
If you are uncomfortable spitting out wine, look around to see if the tasting room is set up for it. Sometimes, wineries make it easy to spit out wine while others do not. If you are not sure if a winery allows spitting out wine, ask first.
5) Buy Wines Directly From The Winery
Buying wines directly from a winery is usually one of the best ways to get a deal on great wine. In many cases, the winery will hold back some of the best vintages to sell directly to customers. In some cases, I have seen wineries keep smaller vintages to sell directly to customers. This approach makes sense once you realize that stores and restaurants typically want to buy a large volume of wines at a time.
You may also see some wineries offer a wine club. Typically, a wine club involves paying an ongoing fee to the winery, then shipping wine to you. This might be a good option if you are particularly excited about one winery. In most cases, avoid signing up for a winery club or membership. It is usually better to keep exploring new wines rather than buying locked into a specific winery.
6) Meet People On The Wine Tour
When you get into wine, it can be challenging to meet like-minded people. Taking a wine tour is an excellent way to meet new wine friends! Keep this tip in mind if you are visiting wineries within an hour or two of your home.
Taking a few minutes to chat with other people on the wine tour is often fascinating. You might ask your new friend how they got into wine. Or you might decide to share one of your favorite examples of wine fiction. If you are at the start of a multi-day wine tour, ask for suggestions about where to eat and things to do.
7) Share Your Wine Tour Memories
A wine tour, like wine itself, is an experience best shared with others. Going to a restaurant at the end of the day to share your experiences is an excellent idea if you traveled with other people. If you are part of a wine group on Facebook or other places, take a few minutes to post about your experience.