To Taste, To Treasure
Among their gorgeous, sprawling vineyards, rich histories and delicious wines, wineries are one of the few places to experience the delight of guided wine tastings. Kirrily Ireland consults Matt Johnston, cellar door manager of Doc Adams Wines, to find out how wine enthusiasts and novices alike can make the most out of this unique experience.
Have a Glass, Have a Few
While anyone can make a stop at their local bottle shop to grab their favourite red or white to enjoy at home, wine tasting sessions offer you the exclusive ability to try a little bit of everything – and something well out of your comfort zone. Johnston affirms that wine tastings are “an opportunity to taste a range of wines in one immersive session” while receiving “detailed knowledge on how that wine was made, and why it tastes the way it does”. “This is something that you would not normally be able to do at home unless you were prepared to spend hundreds of dollars on wine, wine books, and wine courses,” the expert elaborates.
This is one of the key reasons why wineries have become such a popular attraction for both tourists and locals. With cellar door members providing detailed explanations of each wine and curating the perfect range for visitors to try, guided wine tastings should definitely be on every wine enthusiast’s to-do list.
“All of our staff are passionate about wine, and are able to provide guests with an immersive experience and to taste the wines in the ideal order so that the flavours of each wine stand out,” Johnston says. “They will also offer as much or as little winemaking information to enhance each individual tasting experience. A little knowledge about the wine you are tasting can go a long way in improving your enjoyment of a wine, as well as helping you to understand why you may or may not like a particular wine style.”
For those who have never been to a wine tasting before, the concept may seem daunting. If you’re not particularly savvy with the many different kinds and varieties, never fear – this is a chance for you to learn and shape your limited wine knowledge.
Even for the more trained palates, Johnston offers some handy tips to maximise the experience, from asking questions such as “Why does this wine taste this way? What food does it go with? When should I drink it?”, to trying new wines. “Don’t assume you know what a wine will taste like,” he says. “Each winery has a style, and can make different tasting wines from the same grape.” If, for instance, you’ve always been partial to the lighter, softer flavours of white varieties, this might be your chance to cross over to the other side and discover a red that’s perfect for you.
Of course, if you do have a particular preference, Johnston assures readers that cellar staff will often check this with you first. “We then put forward a range of wines to fit [the visitor’s] taste profile.” Each wine tasting will differ slightly, depending not just on these preferences, but also how many people are in attendance, and their level of knowledge. “Larger groups generally have less time to taste wine, so we do a more condensed tasting with fewer wines to give a broader representation of our range in a shorter period,” Johnston explains. “If people are novices, or experienced wine drinkers, we tend to run through a more detailed experience so that more information can be passed on about each wine.”
While you’re appreciating aromas and savouring the flavours, it’s not unusual for the winery staff and group members to have discussions about the wine in question. If you’re unfamiliar with the terminology thrown around – from tannins to typicity, acidity and astringency – Johnston encourages visitors to still join in the conversation any way they can. “It’s easy for wine jargon to creep into conversation, just the same as when you take your car to a mechanic. If you don’t understand what’s being said, then say so. It’s your wine tasting experience, so you should feel totally comfortable in asking a cellar door member to explain any terms you’re not familiar with.”
Once the tasting is done, “usually all of the wines you taste are available for purchase by the glass or bottle”, so you can indulge a little further in any variety you particularly enjoyed. It doesn’t get better than that!
I’ll Drink To That
Wine tastings, by definition, do involve consuming a substantial amount of alcohol. This can pose a particular issue if you plan on embarking on a winery tour, visiting multiple cellar doors in a single day, to try out the unique varieties that each have to offer.
Johnston advises that “spitting’” is a good way to reduce intoxication. Spitting allows you to taste the wine without actually drinking it, preventing the alcohol from getting into your system. There is no pressure to finish each wine, either – small sips are fine. “It’s important to have a designated driver,” Johnston adds, “and to be mindful that every three to four wines tasted is approximately one standard drink … Also, you need to break the day up and stop for a meal, and drink lots of water throughout the day.” The cellar door manager and wine expert does still encourage “visitors to taste as many wines as possible as long as it is within responsible service of alcohol guidelines”.
Along with consuming alcohol responsibly, other recommended etiquette rules for wine tastings include respecting other people’s tastes; “Everyone’s taste is different so if you don’t enjoy a wine, you shouldn’t tell someone else that it’s terrible,” Johnston says.
A wine tasting experience is truly that – an experience, a rare chance to taste, learn and discover multiple wines at once without committing to an entire glass or bottle. Johnston’s parting advice is to treat a wine tasting as one of “the most fun ways to be educated”. “Keep an open mind, and be friendly to the cellar door staff. You never know what hidden gems they might let you try.”
Images courtesy of Doc Adams Wines and Unsplash