Wine Tour 101: Wine Tour Do’s and Don’ts
What to do, and – perhaps more critically – what not to do when going on a wine tour. Here are some tips on how to get the most out of your wine tour.
Plan your Route
Select up to four wineries to visit – less for a group of 8 or more – and incorporate activities like tours and a big lunch break. By building in moderation you ensure you will have an enjoyable day and evening.
Assign a designated driver or book a guided wine tour. A wine tour company can also help you create a fun route and recommend lunch stops.
The majority of wineries are open seven days a week, but some are only open on weekends or by appointment; call ahead to ensure you’re able to go where you want. If you booked a wine tour, this is generally taken care of by the company.
Many wineries require reservations for groups larger than 6 or 8, and some are not able to accommodate groups at all. You’ll find the group policy and contact information on the website of most wineries.
Tours are offered at many wineries, and reservations for these activities are often strongly advised or even required. Call or email ahead.
What to Wear
Most tasting rooms offer a relaxed and conversational environment. Choose comfortable and casually elegant clothing and be sure to bring weather-appropriate gear (e.g. umbrellas and sturdy shoes during the rainy season; lighter clothing, hats and sunscreen in peak summer periods).
Don’t wear perfume or heavily scented cologne to tasting rooms; the scents can overwhelm the subtle aromas in wine – and interfere with your own and others’ experience.
Most wineries charge tasting fees. Tasting fees for groups usually are a bit higher because wineries have to make special arrangements to accommodate your group (e.g. assign a dedicated pourer and/or private tasting room). Many wineries will waive tasting fees with a wine purchase, be sure to inquire about such incentives.
Splurge on a reserve tasting if you’re interested in getting to know a wineries’ rare and exclusive offerings.
How to Taste Wine
It goes without saying that wine tasting is largely about having fun. But for those looking to glean the most from the wines on pour, swirling is a great way to stoke (read: aerate) wine’s myriad aromas. For maximum control, place your glass on a flat surface and swirl while grasping the stem.
When tasting, hold glasses by the stem rather than the bowl; holding them by the bowl coats glasses in greasy fingerprints and can disturb the temperature of the wine (ideally it’s been poured at just the right temp).
Inhale deeply before taking a sip; wine’s aromas comprise one of its most beguiling offerings! Which fruits and herbs do you smell; is there a hint of leather, chocolate, licorice, vanilla or earth? Rest assured, there is no clump of dirt in your wine, the aromas come from the type of grapes, the climate, the soil, the rain, the fermentation process and aging. The most common example is the ‘vanilla’ aroma associated with wines ages in oak.
Upon drinking, swirl the wine around in your mouth to ensure it coats all the surfaces; we pick up different texture and flavor sensations in different parts of our mouths. You will find that if you smelled for example cherries in the wine, it will be easier to actually taste the cherries when sipping the wine.
Make use of spittoons – or tasting buckets – on offer on bars. Spitting all or a portion of the wine you taste will help you to remain alert and get the most out of your experience. There’s usually water available to rinse your glasses between pours. Also drink plenty of water to stave off dehydration.
Purchasing wines you’ve enjoyed is a great way to keep the memory going once you’re back at home. Make sure you’re aware of shipping laws applying to your state if you need to ship wine back home; if you’re flying, consult your airline about weight, quantity and liquid restrictions.
Most wineries have wine clubs that offer periodic shipments of wine on an ongoing basis. Besides the wines that come with memberships, benefits and perks abound.
Don’t Forget the Tip!
If you’ve enjoyed the tasting, please leave a tip, it’s a huge compliment for the pourer!
Following these tips should ensure a smooth wine tasting and – even better – afford you the ability to focus on making memories rather than sweating the details. Cheers to that!
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