Planning your perfect wine country travels »

Tips and advice from VisitVineyards.com subscribers

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Innocent Bystander/Giant Steps cellar door, Healesville, Victoria

Innocent Bystander/Giant Steps cellar door, Healesville, Victoria [©Innocent Bystander/Giant Steps]

Wine tasting at Boyntons Feathertop winery
Wine tasting at Mulyan Wines cellar door, Cowra, NSW

 

The old saying about "planning and preparation prevents poor performance" (and its ruder versions!) also applies to your wine travels.

Sure, a spur-of-the moment trip with a few friends to wine country can be a load of fun, but  to make the most of your winery visits, and fit in the most wine tasting whilst making sure the whole party has a good time and gets home safely, a bit of advance planning doesn't go astray.

Of course before you leave (or on the road) you'll want to start with the VisitVineyards.com iPhone app, so you can find the cellar doors, vineyards, wineries, restaurants and accommodations, and plan your route, but what else can you do before you leave to make the experience more enjoyable?

In our 2013 survey, VisitVineyards.com subscribers gave us a car load of tips and hints on wine travels and wine tasting. So many that we've made them into three articles! 

This one covers planning and preparation with some handy hints. Thanks to everyone who contributed including the ever-helpful Anon!


Desi driver

One often repeated plea was to always have a DD (designated driver). At best, you can cop a big fine or lose your licence if you are caught over the limit (0.05 in Australia), at worst you can lose your life (or someone else's) if you don't pay attention to this aspect. And no-one wants that.

Rotate your designated driver so it's not always the same person. Or travel with someone who is pregnant! Anon

If you're traveling in pairs the designated driver should always spit. The next day reverse positions. Have fun. Mahmoud A, of Sydney, NSW

 

Research first 

Do your homework – know the  regions varietal strengths and don't be scared to ask the producers what their flagship wine is! Ruzenka P, of Heathfield, SA

Keep looking up winery websites to identify cellar door only releases (as they are not held on the shelf or advertised by the large retailers). Anon.

Remember to check the cellar door opening hours and events when planning for a trip that include wine tasting to avoid disappointment. And remember to have an alternative driver if you are going to drink/taste any alcohol. Anon

Have knowledge of the wines you may be tasting  Don't ask obvious questions  If you have reasonable wine knowledge and they are not tasting the wines you might like to taste, drop a subtle hint. Bernie W, of Balmain, NSW

Be prepared to plan ahead and make appointments to go to wineries that are open "by appointment", giving plenty of notice and turning up on time. Anon

Do a little price research to know rough prices before doing a cellar door tour, you may pay more at the door for the same product available at your local store. Anon

Take a bit of time to work out what each winery offers, what you would most like to taste in varietals and if possible, share the tasting glass between  two. Anon

I always reseach the region I will be visiting and make up a list of wineries to visit/taste, and then check them out on-line for operating days and times, so that I know in advance that they will be open for tastings/purchase and food where required. Lindsay P, of Kilmore, Vic

Don't try and visit too many vineyards in one day. Your palate will only take so much tasting before it is impossible to taste the wine to its best advantage. Always have a designated driver and try and include a vineyard that has a restaurant so you can break the day with some great food to compliment your wine tasting experience. The most important thing is to have fun! Anon

 

Travelling in a group?

If you're planning to visit a cellar door with a group of 6 or more people, call ahead to the winery first. This little bit of courtesy allows the winery to have sufficient cellar door staff on hand to look after your group as well as other customers. You could also find you're invited on a tour of the winery or you may be offered some special wines not usually available for tasting. Anon

[VV: you can also hire a mini van – with or without driver – limo, or even book a tour yourself]


Your health and sanity (especially travelling with children):

Carry bottled water in the car. Anon. [VV: and bandaids and a first aid kit, plus some children's Panadol. It's hard to find a pharmacy in many wine regions.]

Wine tasting with kids in tow is a challenge, but is becoming easier as more wineries and vineyards realise if they don't cater for little ones, then their parents (or grandparents) will go somewhere else. First, search on our website or app for those offering child-friendly facilities or entertainment (one even has a zoo!).

In addition to playgrounds, etc, a number of vineyards and wineries have a grassy area that kids can play on, so make sure you bring a ball or frisbee to keep them running, or if the weather is no good for outside activities, some colouring or puzzle books so they don't get too bored. Anon

Make sure your kids have appropriate amusements (quiet, that they enjoy) eg colouring in, books, your mobile or a 3DS (with earphones) etc so you (and others) can enjoy the experience without being nagged by bored kids. Anon

[VV: take snacks that they enjoy – often those available at cellar doors are too sophisticated/spicy/unappealing to many young palates. Tomato sauce sachets can help, too.]
 

Small is good

Visit the obscure little cellar doors however try to phone in advance to ensure they are open for visitors. Anon

We always visit the cellar doors without the big name tags and off the beaten track, you never know what special drops you will discover and the people are always so friendly. Anon

Seek out smaller producers in big regions. There are some gems to be found down the less-travelled track in regions like Rutherglen and the Yarra Valley. Eliza M, of Brunswick East, Vic

 

Time to perfection

If going away for a wine weekend, take a day off work and head off on the Friday. You will always get much longer to chat with the wine maker or tasting person and will therefore have better service and a much better time!! Mondays are great to visit cellar doors too as often they will have had wine reps in on the weekend and may have wines open and available for tasting that aren't usual available to the public. Daniel C, of Marrickville, NSW

When going to big wine regions, ie the Hunter Valley, try to visit the smaller, less known wineries. Generally you get better attention from staff, they are more knowledgeable about the wines and the region and are more friendly. Smaller regions within regions are worth visiting, ie the Broke area in the Hunter Valley, it's the only place we go now when heading to the Hunter, wineries are smaller, friendlier and the wines are nicer. Melissa B, of Rydalmere, NSW

Try to avoid going on the weekends if they are open during the week. Brianna P, of Croydon, Vic

Avoid clashing with bus tours like the plague!! If you see one arriving just before you, go to another cellar door nearby, and come back later. [VV: or phone ahead and book/enquire (bus tours are usually required to book, so the staff usually know in advance if they have any coming]. Anon

 

General tips:

Remember always to be courteous when visiting wineries, especially when tasting. Most wineries don't appreciate people arriving just as they are about to close their doors. Arrive in plenty of time to savour! Margaret W, of Peregian Springs, Qld

When you go to a wine region, book a tour, so that some one else drives and you can taste to your all that you want and not worry about DUI. Anon

Recently purchased some bubble wrap bottle shaped packages* for transporting wines in your suitcase, they have worked very successfully. Even on International travel!! Cheryl S, of Chelmer, Qld

[*Ed: these are called wineskins and are available at many wineries, Vintage Cellars, some LS Travel outlets in airports and various online retailers including www.wineboxwarehouse.com.au/Wine-Carriers ]

I carry a little folder I obtained in NSW many years a go with a colour chart of wines,  a map of Australia with areas and a list of the regions just for reference and find it very useful although now a little out of date Bevan B, of Glenalta, S.A.

Combine a wine tasting with other activities such as a bike ride, walk. Get the most out of your trip away. Anon

Susan M of Wallan in Victoria suggested ladies wear comfortable shoes and Mike V of Ashfield in WA suggests dark clothing.

A must read: the book by Emile Peynaud is The Taste of Wine: The Art and Science of Wine Appreciation. Anon

Funny one: if tasting near a wildlife park, stay away from the emus! They have an issue with wine drinkers and give chase, staring you down with them beady eyes! Melanie O, of Dernancourt, SA

 

And finally, three great tips from Lisa A, of Marulan, NSW:

  • Tip number one - don't try to cram in as many wineries as you see on a map. Four is a nice number and will allow your taste buds to savour each location.
  • Tip number two: get off the main road! Take a chance and follow the road less travelled to the winery no one has ever heard of. You'll generally be surprised and delighted.
  • Tip number three: always take water and a pack of crackers or bread with you and sip and munch between cellar door stops. You'll refresh your palate and reduce the effects of alcohol by keeping something in your tummy.

 

Read more tips on how to make the most of your cellar door visits » 

And here's some subscriber advice on wine tasting in general »

Download and print off some VisitVineyards.com wine tasting templates to take with you to record your wine impressions – believe us, you'll forget otherwise! »

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