Wine tours - what to expect22 March 2015
by Karen Christian (@learningtodrink)
So you’ve followed Conrad’s tips and you’ve planned your visit; you’ve checked ahead to see that the wineries you want to visit are open; you’ve packed an extra jumper for the cellars and you’ve assigned a designated driver. But do you know what to expect from a visit to winery?
Winery tour – a look inside where all the magic happens. But don’t expect rustic barrels seeping red wine and people stomping grapes. On the whole wineries today are super clean and hi-tech. There’ll be big steel vats, pristine oak barrels and maybe, if you sniff really hard a touch of angels’ share. A winery tour can provide the opportunity to find out what happens to the grapes once they’ve been picked. It can also be a good time to ask wine geek questions such as how much Dosage is used, what Filtration process they use or whether they use natural Yeast.
Vineyard tour – a stroll around the vines. No matter what time of year I love walking around the vines. But if you want to see leaves and vines sagging with abundant bunches of grapes rather than gnarly-looking empty branches then you will need to plan your visit accordingly (northern hemisphere June-August, southern hemisphere October-January). But in both cases be aware of the harvest, which, depending on the weather, can be early or late and mean wineries are less receptive to visitors. During a tour you may learn more about Viticulture, the types of grapes they grow or what makes the area special.
Both a vineyard and winery tour will usually be accompanied by wine as you go around or afterwards. However you may just want to taste the wine.
Tasting – a tasting is pretty much what it says. Sometimes you may get food to go with the wine, anything from water crackers or baguette to locally produced foods that have been matched to the wines. They may be sit-down events in nice air-conditioned rooms or stood up against a bar in a converted barn. You may get a couple of different wines to try or a flight of twelve. Whether you spit or swallow is up to you!
Finally, whether you are visiting a corporate winery were millions of bottles are produced or a tiny, cellar door where the tour guide, wine maker and grape picker are all the same person, they hope that you will like their wine enough to buy a bottle or six. Sorry to be so blunt, but after all, even if the owner is proselytising about their love for the land and the wine, they still need to make some money. But don’t feel obliged. If you really don’t like the wine, be polite and move on.