We asked wine educator and author Clare Burder (The Humble Tumbler & Vintuition) to share her tips on how to get the most out of cellar door visits. And Clare should know: In the last year alone she has visited 11 Australian wine regions, as well as international wine destinations as diverse as Central Otago, Napa and Stellenbosch. Check out Clare’s hot tips below...
Cellar Doors are a magnificent tradition in Australia, which might be considered the windows to the soul of any wine region. It’s a privilege to be able to visit a producer and taste their wines, meet the people and experience their winemaking approach and way of life. There are more than 1,200 cellar doors in Australia, so there’s almost no end to places to visit, and you just never know what gems you’ll discover.
TIP 1: Plan, plan, plan – but leave room for local recommendations!
Before I go I do loads of research, whether it be Gourmet Traveller Wine mag, a social media call-out for recommendations or other peer review sites like TripAdvisor. When I arrive in a wine region, my general approach is to start at a notable cellar door and then ask them for the local gems – I find that a personal recommendation is worth more than any guide. Secondly, I generally aim for three to five venues per day, maximum – being in a hurry defeats the purpose; I’d much prefer to amble along with the locals and enjoy the scenery.
TIP 2: Make appointments
Some of the most incredible experiences I’ve had have been at wineries that only open by appointment. This enables you to get up close to the producer, giving you a richer experience and time to really explore their wines and their approach to winemaking. In recognition of this generosity of time, I personally think there is an (unspoken) obligation to buy when you’ve made an appointment – even if it’s just a bottle to show to your appreciation.
TIP 3: It can pay to pay
Many producers now offer both a free tasting and a paid option. I always try the paid option as it’s almost guaranteed to be something memorable – whether it be older releases, some inventive food or cheese matching, or just the chance to taste the premium range.
TIP 4: Ask questions!
All of those things you’ve always wondered about wine can probably be explained at the cellar door, so go forth and ask all the questions. It is, after all, the point of visiting a winery… you never know what you might learn – and most cellar door staff love questions and conversation!
And a few more things: