Whether you’re new to wine tastings or a long-time aficionado, visiting a winery’s cellar door can be an opportunity to learn about wine and try something new. Darren Vincent, Guest Services Manager at Brown Brothers, shares his tips for enjoying the experience.
Take your time to the counter
Visiting a winery is a wonderful experience, and you might like to take your time looking around.
There’s no urgency in racing to the counter to taste. It’s okay to start to feel comfortable in the space first, perhaps getting your bearings, having a wander and looking at the information on display. You can go to the counter when you’re ready for a taste.
Try something new
It’s always a good idea to tell your cellar door attendant which types of wine you’ve enjoyed in the past. This helps them steer you towards wines that are close to those you normally enjoy.
But don’t forget to try some new wines, too. Being at the cellar door is all about trying things that you normally wouldn’t.
Choose your own adventure
While it’s an exciting chance to try lots of new varieties, don’t feel that you have to taste everything. It’s definitely okay to pick and choose: you’re in control of your tasting experience. That might mean you only want to taste a handful of wines.
It’s usually best to start with sparkling wines, then move on to the whites, and finish with reds. That’s the best way for your palate to enjoy the flavours in each wine. The cellar door staff can guide you through.
To drink or to spit?
That is the question – and the answer is, it’s purely a personal preference.
Consuming wine tastings can be enjoyable if you’re not driving. But if you’re driving or you simply want to be careful about how much you drink, it’s a good idea to use the spittoon. You’ll still have a great experience: you can appreciate all the flavours and get the feel in your mouth, without having to drink the wine.
Get to know the lingo (if you want to)
We know that winemakers sometimes have their own language, and that lingo often seeps into the tasting notes that you’ll read at the cellar door.
You can use these tasting notes as a guide, but don’t take them too literally. For example, if they’re talking about blackberry or plum flavours they mean the wine has deep flavours; notes of peach or nectarine refer to lighter flavours. And no, it is not because the winemaker put a blackberry or a peach in the wine!
It’s okay to know what you like without knowing why. If you can describe them in your own words, share your thoughts with the attendant - you might start a great conversation.
Open your mind
The best cellar door experience is one where you learn a lot.
Even the best winemakers say they still only know a small amount of all there is to know about wine, so don’t ever feel underqualified to go and enjoy some wines. Ask as many questions as you can, because that’s how you learn and that’s how you can build up the knowledge you need to be able to go into a shop and pick up a bottle of wine that you’ll enjoy.
Buying at the cellar door is great, but you don’t have to
Once the tasting is finished, you might like to buy some wine. It’s all done at the same counter, and you can just let your attendant know what you’d like.
It’s also okay not to buy anything. The cellar door staff don’t mind if you just say thanks for the experience, and let them know that you’ll consider grabbing a bottle if you see their wines in the shops. They want you to enjoy the experience rather than feel pressured.
Whether you want to purchase two bottles, two dozen bottles, or none at all, that’s perfectly okay.
Hopefully at the cellar door you’ve learnt a little and enjoyed your time tasting some of Australia’s best wines.