What do the towns of Beaune, Sonoma, Montalcino, Adelaide and Napier have in common? They all either sit at the centre of, or the gateway to, renowned wine growing regions that attract lots of visitors. Every day from towns like these, in wine growing regions around the world, tourists venture forth into the countryside to visit the wineries that have put the region on the map. Some will travel around the district on their own – wanting the freedom that being under their own steam provides. Most, though, will choose to join a local tour operator and be guided around unfamiliar territory. So what is it that makes for a great wine tour? After all, each wine region has its own unique characteristics. However, there are some common traits that every top rated wine tour, anywhere in the world, possesses. Here are 4 ingredients to look for when choosing a wine tour in a region you’re new to;
1 A Great Guide
The single greatest influence on the atmosphere, pace and tone of a tour of any kind is the guide. And the top attributes a great tour guide will have is passion and personality. A great guide will interpret and present each tour as an extension of themselves – seemingly as naturally as drawing breath. Of course, to be guided by someone with extensive local wine knowledge is the main reason people take organised wine tours rather than just blundering around on their own. That and not having to drive. A great guide will utilise their wine knowledge to give context and perspective to the information gained at each winery visited. Their general knowledge of the local area will also add to the colour of the day. One of the best aspects of most wine regions is their beautiful setting and a great guide will know just how to make the most of the local sights and scenes. Every group of tourists has a unique dynamic with a wide range of individual interests and diverse backgrounds. A great guide will temper and adjust their presentation to take account of the interaction of the group and their levels of interest. As it’s almost impossible to know much about your guide before you take a tour, use your favoured online travel forum to get a feel for how others found their tour. People will often mention their guide in their review. There’s still nothing so assuring as a personal recommendation.
2 A varied and flexible itinerary
A great wine tour should give the visitor an accurate picture of the variety of wine styles produced in the region. If the region is home to a mixture of large and small producers, then a general wine tour’s itinerary for the day should reflect this. If you’re only intending to take one wine tour in a region, look for a tour company that will show you a good cross-section of wineries. Each wine region has it’s distinct character. A great wine tour should reflect that character and yet be flexible enough to cater to any obvious group tastes.
3 An exceptional level of service
The best local tour operators will have a nothing-is-too-much-trouble attitude. Perhaps it starts with you being collected from your accommodation. Maybe the tour adapts through the day to suit your tastes or creates opportunities for you to enjoy local food. A high level of care and attention throughout every aspect of the tour should always have you feeling that you and your fellow tour participants are at the centre of your guides’ world. If just for today. Question: If they’re a one-man-band and running their business from their phone, how much distraction is likely to creep into your tour? Like so many things, the best will plan and work hard to make your day appear seamless and natural.
4 Comfort & Safety
There’s nothing more likely to distract you from the relaxed enjoyment of a great wine tour than the worry of an unreliable or uncomfortable vehicle or a dodgy driver. Everyone who has done even a little international travel will have a ‘dodgy vehicle’ story. A tour operator that clearly takes pride in their vehicles will, in all likelihood, be taking your travelling comfort and safety very seriously. When checking out their website, do they show off their vehicles? Do they talk about safety and vehicle compliance? If they’re thinking and talking about it – you won’t have to. You can simply relax and enjoy the day. So to summarise, a great wine tour can contain many different components. But if you feel confident that the tour you’ve booked will deliver all four traits we’ve listed above, then you’re well on your way to experiencing a great tour with a passionate, well organised, well connected, caring operator who loves showing visitors around their region.
Life’s too short to take bad wine tours