Winery Tours, Part 2: for Experienced Tasters

Several years ago, we wrote about winery tours from the perspective of those who had never taken one before.  For anyone with even the least interest in wine, a tour can be very educational.  There’s really nothing like seeing the process, especially if you can visit Wine Country during the crush.  It really does show you how difficult the winemaking really is.  And in many cases, a tour is a prerequisite for tasting the wines.

Seeing the grapes for Amarone drying at Quintarelli in Valpolicella,  Italy.

But what if you have some experience in wine tasting?  Maybe you have taken numerous tours in the past, so why take another one?  There are a number of good reasons, even if you think you’ve seen it all.

  • You haven’t seen it all. We don’t want to get into the argument about the winemaker’s skill vs. terroir, but surely the way a wine is made has some impact on how it tastes.  Otherwise, they’d all taste pretty much the same.  At any winery, they have a particular way that they harvest (or instruct vineyard owners to harvest), clean the grapes, press them, vinify the juice, blend different varietals, age the wine and bottle it.  If you have been on tours before, you’ll recognize the differences at one winery versus the others you’ve seen.
  • You may be with a less experienced taster. Taking a tour with a friend gives you the opportunity to add your own point of view that the tour guide may not have.  Careful not to be a wine snob, though.

The barrel room at Groth in Napa Valley.

  • Refreshers aren’t a bad idea. Yes, you’ve taken tours, but when was the last one?  It’s not that things have changed all that much (although there have been technical advances) but it’s a good idea to keep yourself up to date.
  • A tour can give you an idea of the quality of the wines. For example, some wineries are sparklingly clean, others less so.  A winery that cares enough to hire and train knowledgeable tour guides is probably more concerned about the tiny details of making wine.  If your guide can’t answer your questions, this will tell you something about management’s perspectives on their customers.  So pay attention to the details.
  • Tours can be fun. Some wineries’ tours are little more than exercises in industrial engineering and about as accessible to the general public.  But we’ve been on others that take you into the vineyards to show you where the grapes you’ve tasted came from.  Quite a few these days combine the tour with the tasting and have bottles stashed in the vineyards or in the barrel room, so you’re tasting as you’re learning.  Quite a deal!

The underlying answer is that there’s always something new to learn.  You don’t have to tour every winery you visit.  For one thing, that can be expensive and repetitive.  But taking a tour every now and again is good for brain as well as your palate.

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