I hate feeling awkward! And I have to admit it’s happened on more than one occasion at cellar doors for me. Sometimes when you don’t visit cellar doors all the time, it can be hard to know what to expect and if the cellar door staff aren’t up front, it can be a rather uncomfortable situation. Do you just ask straight out for some free wine or what?
If you’re left feeling awkward and too scared to ask about anything then you may miss out on an awesome cellar door experience. Naturally you do get better at this on a day out in a wine region after you have visited at least a couple of cellar doors. Go the liquid courage!
So what I wanted to share with you all today was some etiquette tips for visiting winery cellar doors just in case you ever walk into one and don’t know where to start or how to act.
How do cellar door tastings work?
Typically you’ll be greeted by the cellar door staff and explained the process of their tastings from what’s available to try, if there’s a cost and where you can locate water and a spittoon/bucket to tip out or sip any unwanted wine (you don’t have to drink it if you don’t like it or are driving for instance).
If they don’t tell you, just ask! I usually walk straight up to the counter and say ‘We would love to do a tasting please’. After this they’ll normally explain the process and if it costs. If there is a cost, they should mention it and it’s typically always noted down on the tasting menu too.
I always find it awkward when the cellar door staff say ‘what would you like to try’ which I then proceed to say ‘well lets just start at the top and work our way to the bottom’. I immediately think they’ll judge me and sadly they probably are because of the hoards of people they get in the door thinking a cellar door is a free bar.
Typically as we move through the tasting, and the cellar door staff see that I’m genuinely interested in the wines and learning about the winery their perception changes. Unfortunately it’s one of those cases that the few who do act like drunken lunatics at cellar doors ruin it for the rest of us. If there are any cellar door staff out there reading this, then just make sure you’re not too quick to judge some one who wants to try the lot.
The Do’s and Don’ts of wine tasting at a cellar door
- Be polite! Ultimately this is a free service the winery is offering you
- Do spit if you’re planning on trying more than a handful of wines and want to make smart buying decisions
- Do ask questions. Extend your wine knowledge from the experts and find out the story behind the wines and winery
- Do feel comfortable. Just because the dude next to you is swirling and sniffing you don’t have to. Do it your way and don’t take a second glance
- Do try something new. A cellar door is the perfect place to try something you normally wouldn’t – who knows you may actually like Chardonnay after all
- Don’t complain about the size of a tasting or not getting to try it again. A tasting is a tasting, not a free drink
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions
- Don’t spray your perfume on at the cellar door otherwise everyone else won’t be able to smell the wines
- Don’t push, be impatient or hog the counter. If the cellar door is busy, make sure you step to the side once you have a taster to let others have a chance
- Don’t rinse your glass with water between each wine as water has a big diluting effect on the wine to come. If you do need to have some water, make sure you shake out the water well before proceeding with the tasting
- Don’t stand in front of the spittoon or spit bucket and block others access to it
- Don’t bad mouth wines in front of the staff, would you like to hear negative comments about you to your face?
At the end of the day, have fun! Visiting a cellar door is an awesome experience so make sure you soak it all up.