Grape Grazing – 10 tips on how to behave when visiting wineries

Saw that Tilar Mazzeo had done a post called 5 Huge Misconceptions About Visiting Wineries. Here’s my take on the subject.

If you’re lucky, you may have wineries near where you live. If not, you may at least find yourself on holiday in a wine region. But whichever, I have a few pointers on how to  get the most out of your trip…

1) Business as Usual. Some wineries can cater for coachloads of tourists. Others can’t. Find out beforehand whether visitors are actively welcomed or merely tolerated. If you’re going to turn up at a small winery unannounced, don’t expect the proprietor to drop his secateurs and give you two hours of his undivided attention.

2) There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Pouring wine down people’s throats may be good PR, but it’s expensive, and there’s now a fee for tasting at some wineries. If there isn’t, and you leave empty-handed having slurped your way through half a dozen wines, don’t be surprised if your ‘farewell’ isn’t received with great enthusiasm. However…

3) Don’t leave your critical faculties in the car park. They may be trying to get you to open your wallet, but crap wine is crap wine, and it’ll taste worse when you get it home. If you genuinely don’t like anything, don’t feel obliged to buy.

4) Breakfast of Champions. If they ask for feedback, be honest. Why tell them you love their oaky Chardonnay when it really makes you gag? It’ll only encourage them to make more of it.

5) Move along please. There’s nothing so annoying at a winery as people who slob across the counter and don’t let anyone else near the wines. Get your sample of wine and move away, or risk a kick in the pants.

6) Limited appeal. Look for limited edition wines, or older wines that have sold out in the stores. Often the cellar door is the only place you’ll find such things.

7) Paying through the Nosé for the Rosé. You’d think that the wines would be cheaper from at the winery than in the shops. And it probably will at the farm gate in Europe. But at the gleaming new visitor’s centre in California or Australia, it might even be more expensive.

8) The Long & Winding Road. Even if you’re spitting all the wines out – and let’s face it, very few people do – a bit still ends up going down your throat. If you don’t want to end up in a ditch, make sure you have someone sober to drive you around.

9) Transports of delight. You bought three bottles at the first winery, four at the second, a case at the third… All well and good if you’ll be driving home, but if you’re not, where are you going to put it on the plane?

10) Your turn to provide the tenth – please leave some comments below saying what tips you’ve picked up on your winery visits….

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

11 thoughts on “Grape Grazing – 10 tips on how to behave when visiting wineries

  • Angela Reddin

    Ask questions – even dumb ones, winemakers have a standard patter for all levels of visitors, but get them off track and they will remember you and probably enjoy talking to you much more. Say thank you, even if it has obviously been a marketing spiel.

  • Simon Post author

    Good one Angela – I’m always surprised how reticent even gobby journos are to ask questions. Then after you’ve asked them, they’ll say, ‘I was wondering that myself…’

  • Wink Lorch

    Great Tips, Simon.

    I’d add in particular that in many European countries, most wineries are closed to visitors on Sundays and many on Saturdays too, though the smaller family-owned wineries may welcome you on a Saturday. And, yes, most close at lunch-time every day for up to 2 hours.

    Regarding your point 2 about payment, if you are flying home, in most cases you simply can’t buy wine or no more than a good bottle. Two tips to appease the winery: first ask if they have an distributor in your home country so you can buy the wine back home and secondly, simply look for (or tactfully ask) if they have a tip box – many small family-owned wineries do.

    Regarding point 9 about transport, if you are buying wine to bring back home in your car, if it’s summer, do ensure you protect the wine from the heat that can ruin your purchases. Park the car in the shade (in extremis unload the wines each night) and/or buy expensive protective packaging.

    And finally, if you’ll let me, perhaps I can suggest a look at our website for some top suggestions of wineries who will accept visitors in all regions of France, in Rioja and in parts of Tuscany.

  • Micaela Frow

    Don’t be afraid to ask for the spitoon or crachoir as it is known here in France. It is really not necessary to consume all the wines tasted and some wineries here in the Loire can offer between 10-15 different wines in just one tasting! Best to do a little homework first and decide which wines you would like to taste before you go. You can be selective too if you know a winery is well known for it’s whites then taste these and then go on to another that is famed for it’s reds for example. The winemaker will probably appreciate you being selective especially if you are going to buy rather than plowing through the whole range and leaving empty handed.

  • stephen barrett - wine writer and tour manager

    Simon. Good stuff indeed. If you come on a guided wine tour or visit please remember to “mark your card” with simple tasting notes or scores(out of ten?)as when it comes to purchasing wine delays will be inevitable. If you are a large party this will inevitably delay getting back to the hotel for a beer! Stephen @

  • Kirk Bray

    be interested, do ask questions and be honest but most of all leave your preconceptions at home – dont say ‘i dont drink riesling’ or ‘i only like sweet wines’ – be open. most of the time in smaller wineries you will be talking with the winemaker or owner – we love the interaction – you dont have to love the wine, thats ok, but you’ll be better off for it

  • Pingback: Twenty lessons from twenty years of wine writing | Drinking Outside The Box

  • Jonathan Hesford

    That is a great set of points, Simon.

    The one I really encourage is “Ask questions”. Do not be intimidated by your lack of knowledege.

    As a winemaker, it’s far more interesting to answer people’s questions than to listen to their views on really famous wines they may (or may not!) have tasted.

    Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount if you are buying case or more.

  • Ben

    Save yourselves the time. There is only one thing you will be told in any winery, anywhere in the world.
    “Great wine is made in the vineyard.”
    There, now you can stay at home and save money.