Advising Friends

Sometime in the near future, we certainly hope, people will start traveling again.  Some of your friends may plan on a vacation in which wine tasting will be a part.  Because they know that you’ve been to the part of the world that they’ll be visiting, they may turn to you for advice.  This can put you into a very tricky position.  You don’t want to be planning their vacation for them and they might not have the same level of knowledge about wine.  You don’t want to be evasive but you don’t want to be too prescriptive, either.

Let’s assume that they’ve been wine tasting before, so you don’t need to tell them about the basics.  At the same time, you don’t want them to be annoyed with you if they follow your advice and don’t have a good time.  Here are some tips to help you be to be helpful, without putting a strain on your friendship.

Tell them about the views.

  • Avoid the “favorite” question. There’s no way you can deal with “What’s your favorite winery?”.  For one thing, you may not have a favorite (and ought to say so).  But then there’s the matter of favorite for what?  The best wine?  The best tour?  The most fun?  The most knowledgeable servers?  You’re better off listing these types of categories and suggesting several places that fit in each one.
  • Steer them away from places you didn’t like. It’s better to tell people what to avoid than what they “absolutely must taste”.  If they go to your big time recommendations and aren’t as happy as you were, they’ll be disappointed.  But if you tell them that a certain winery has awful plonk or that the décor is lugubrious, they’ll thank you.  It’s a good idea to say why you did and didn’t like a particular winery.  For example, we remember one where the wine was just dreadful but they had an interesting collection of antique instruments.  If your friends are musicians or music lovers, they might put up with the wine just to see the cellos.
  • Consider the seasons. If you visited the area they’re going to in autumn, and their trip is in the early spring, they’ll have a different experience than you did.  You saw the radiant colors; they’re going to get bare vines.  They may have a wonderful trip but it won’t be the same as yours.  So qualify the advice you give them with the time of year in mind.
  • Think about their vacation, not just their wine tasting. No matter how great the wine wherever it is they’re going, it won’t be the totality of their trip.  The guidebooks will tell them about the great, new, chic restaurant.  You can tell them about the spot two blocks away with killer Mexican food.  Or the bar with jazz on the weekend.  Or the greatest chocolate ice cream you’ve ever tasted.  Let them discover the wines on their own.  They’ll never find that ice cream cone without you.

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