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16 Do’s and Don’ts of Visiting a Winery

Whether you are traveling to a wine region abroad or visiting a winery close by, tasting wine at the source is one of the most enjoyable and effective ways to learn about wine. Being among the vines, feeling the climate, seeing the soil will add to your understanding of the terroir of the wines. Wineries are in some of the most beautiful parts of the world. The endless green of the vineyards and the rolling hills paint a fairy tale landscape. Most wineries have a tasting room for visitors where you can taste the fruits of their labor. Here are the do’s of visiting to get the most out of your experience and the don’ts so you avoid making any winery etiquette faux pas. Happy wine tasting! 

Sign at winery
Don’t mind if I do!

1. Do make an appointment. 

Always make an appointment so the winery knows to expect you. Wineries will either have online booking or ask that you send an email. Make sure to inquire about the best time to visit that day to avoid crowds. Imagine showing up to find 50 buses in the parking lot and all those visitors vying for the tasting staff’s attention? Ask what packages they offer and if food is available for purchase.

Napa Valley in the fall
Visiting a winery is a a great idea year round.

2. Don’t expect to meet the winemaker or owner. 

When visiting a winery, meeting the winemaker or owner is a bonus, not a guarantee. It is the winemaker’s job to make the wine, not entertain the guests. There are winemaking tasks throughout the year, not just at harvest. The winemaker is generally in the cellars or in the chemistry lab and not entertaining guests. The owners have a whole list of other responsibilities that are happening behind the scenes. Generally speaking, they are happy to meet guests but rely on the tasting room staff to care for visitors.

3. Do your research before visiting a winery. 

Knowing a bit about the winery you’re visiting will help you focus your tasting strategy. Are you visiting a winery for specific wine? See if there are different vintages available for that wine. Is the winery known for reds? Make sure you pick the tasting package that includes them. Often there are wines that are only available in the tasting room which always feels special to experience.

girl in vineyard while visiting a winery
A hat, sunglasses, and casual attire are perfect for visiting the vineyards

4. Do dress appropriately. 

There is no need for a suit and tie or ball gown at a winery. Winemaking is fancy farming and you’d never wear formal wear to a farm, would you? Dress nicely if you wish but I recommend dressing practically. If your tour of the winery includes walking through the vineyards, make sure to wear proper shoes. Sneakers and flat shoes are best when walking in the vineyards. Long pants and skirts will also prevent any scratches from dried weeds between the rows.

Check with the winery in case there is a dress code. Wineries in warm climates are generally located at higher altitudes and are often much cooler than sea level. A shawl or light jacket can come in handy. It is best to wear closed toe shoes, long pants, and a hat if you’ll be outside in the vineyards. Oh, and take it from me, DON’T WEAR WHITE!

5. Don’t wear perfume when visiting a winery. 

The most important part of tasting wine is smelling it. If you’re wearing a strong perfume, that is all you and everyone around you is going to smell. I was once at wine tasting and someone walked in reeking of patchouli. The whole room turned and glared at her. It all but ruined the entire rest of the tasting. Strong scents completely mask all the subtle and elegant smells of the wine.

6. Do eat something before you go. 

Tasting wine on an empty stomach is never a good idea. Even if you intend to spit out most of the wine, some of the alcohol will still seep into your system. Eating a hearty breakfast before visiting a winery will save you from getting tipsy too quickly. There is nothing the hospitality staff hates more than a drunk patron and you don’t want to be that guest.

7. Do designate a driver

This cannot be emphasized enough.  Could be a taxi driver, sober buddy, or tour guide. Doesn’t matter who the driver is, only that you have one.

Hire a wine tour company
Hiring a wine tour company has many perks including having the undivided attention of a wine professional.

8. Do hire a wine tour company. 

Full disclosure: I own and operate Chania Wine Tours so I may be a bit biased but I truly believe hiring a tour company is worth every penny. It solves the designated driver issue so everyone can fully enjoy the wine. Your guide/driver won’t get lost in the windy roads of the countryside. Tour companies also know the area intimately and can provide information about the region, history, and other insights. Also, you’ll have your guide’s undivided attention, something you will not get from the tasting room staff. Tour companies will likely have close relationships with the wineries so there may be perks and bonuses like rare wines or discounts.

9. Do pace yourself. 

Take the time to enjoy each wine. Wine tasting should engage all your senses. Smell the wine several times before taking your first sip. As you swirl and more air enters the wine more smells and flavors will emerge. Sit with the wine and pay attention to the differences from sip to sip.

10. Don’t get intoxicated. 

This seems self explanatory but is worth mentioning. Clearly wine tasting, especially if you aren’t driving, is going to lead to getting a little tipsy. Know your limits or else you won’t remember a thing and annoy the staff and those around you.

man sleeping at winery
Too much wine might lead to an impromptu nap.

11. Do spit. 

I often hear that spitting wine is wasteful. Well, would you rather waste the wine or get wasted? No one is expecting you to spit each wine but it’s best to keep as clear a head as possible so you can remember the experience. You are not disrespecting the wine or the winemaker if you spit out the wine.

12. Do try something new. 

Learning about wine requires you to keep an open mind. If you “only” drink reds you might miss out on a spectacular white. You might discover a new variety you never knew you loved. In my experience, those that say they don’t like dessert wines often end up buying it once they try it.

13. Don’t be a snob. 

No one needs to know about your wine collection at home or who you know and what you know. Be open to learning something new which is hard to do if you think you already know it all.

14. Do keep notes. 

I am guilty of not taking notes thinking I’ll remember all the wines I’ve tasted that day. Wrong! By the second or third winery things tend to blend together and be a little blurry. If you’ve taken proper notes, you’ll also discover the similarities in what you like and don’t like. Are all the wines you liked very aromatic? Or are all the wines you don’t like high in acid? 

Taking notes is especially useful if you plan on purchasing any wines either on site or at a later date. You can download our customized tasting sheet here. Taking a picture of the label and scribbling a little note on your phone works great, too. 

Wine notes
Taking notes will help you remember all the wines you tasted

15. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. 

There are no stupid questions when learning about wine. Wine is a massive field of study and every bit of information adds to your overall understanding. There are new things to discover at each winery and some things may be unfamiliar to you. Tasting room staff are there to help you get the most out of your experience.

16. Do try to make a purchase.

Wineries are a great place to pick up souvenirs. Buying the wine you like is an obvious choice. However, purchasing wine is not always possible, especially if you’re only traveling with carry-on luggage. Tasting rooms often sell other wine related items like T-shirts, art, posters, or books. Some wineries waive the tasting fees if you make a purchase. It is a nice gesture to buy something to show that you enjoyed your experience. Check out my buying guide for wine suitcases to get your wines home safely.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many wineries should you visit in a day?

A good amount to keep a leisurely pace is between 3 and 5. This depends of course on how close the wineries are to each other.

How long do you spend at a winery?

Depending on how many wines are available to taste, if you’re eating, or if you’re touring the winery, you can expect to spend between 45 minutes to two hours at a winery.

What should I bring to a winery?

Bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen if you’ll be outdoors.
Bring a wine tasting journal to keep notes.
Bring a designated driver!
Bring an empty wine box with dividers so you can safely transport your single bottles home.
Bring water and snacks if they aren’t provided at the winery.

The Do's and Don'ts of Visiting a Winery
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3 thoughts on “16 Do’s and Don’ts of Visiting a Winery”

  1. I like how you mentioned the importance of spitting to keep a clear head throughout the tour and selecting process.

    We are looking to purchase wine, and we are looking for a winery we can visit; I’m glad I came across this article and read some tips to do when visiting a winery.

    I will share this with my husband and see how it can help us decide who and where to contact when looking for a winery to visit.

  2. Wow, it’s nice to know that some winery tours can encompass 5 different locations. I’m interested in looking for a good winery tour soon because I’m interested in knowing more about the processes involve in making wine. That might help me better understand how to properly assess wine pairing when preparing meals.

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