If you’re not sure what’s expected of you when you visit vineyard cellar doors, there’s no need to worry. You don’t have to be a pro wine buff to enjoy the experience of trying wine at its source. Here are our top 5 tips for making the most of your wine time.
I always feel like I should know more about wine when I walk through a winery’s cellar door. I feel a bit guilty I should have done some homework on viticulture or swatted up on some industry lingo.
But there’s never any need. There have been perhaps 3 times ever when I’ve felt uncomfortable at a cellar door, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t my fault.
The thing with wineries is they’re really excited about showing you the wine they’ve got.
Here are our 5 top tips for feeling more comfortable at the cellar door
This is supposed to be a fun experience. Plus, if you’re not relaxed, you won’t enjoy any part of your tasting time. And wouldn’t that be a waste?
The people delivering the tastings aren’t expecting you to be a wine expert. Of course they can talk about wine at a very high, complex level, but they’re also really good at explaining wine to the layperson.
2. Use the wine menu
Every cellar door you visit will have a tasting menu somewhere. If you can’t see one, ask.
The wine is always organised in ‘weight’ order – the lightest wines first, the richest, heaviest wines towards the end.
Start at the top and work your way down. You don’t have to drink all the wines – though you can if you want!
Try a sparkling, then a couple of the whites, then a rosé and then the reds. They might have some fortified wine on the list too right at the end.
3. Learn to swirl!
Swirling the wine in the glass has a few positive effects.
It aerates the wine and brings out more flavour.
It lets you look at the colour and admire the wine as it moves.
It also makes you feel like you’re a wine pro, even if you have no real idea why you’re swirling it.
If you can’t swirl wine in the glass without spilling it, put the glass down on the counter, grab the stem and base with your good hand and make a circle with the glass on the counter.
If you’re not sure which wine to try, chat the staff. As long as they’re not crazy busy, they’ll be able to give you some guidance and recommendations.
Ask what food would go well with the wine you’re trying, when would be best to drink it, what temperature it should be served at.
Ask the staff what they really love and why.
5. Look for the winery’s point of difference
Every winery in the world has its own unique passion; it’s own specialty. I doubt if there’s a winemaker alive who just thinks ‘oh, I’ll just slop some grape juice in here and see what happens.’
The process for making wine is so infinitely complex, there are very few accidental successes in the industry.
Check out our earlier post on getting the most out of your cellar door experience. It’s got some very salient tips from two of our Wine Saints: St Peter and St Andrew.
What do you enjoy about visiting cellar doors? Do you have any tips for what to ask the winery staff? Tell us in the comments!