7 tips for a successful cellar tour!

conseils pour une visite de cave réussie

To cross the door of a Swiss winemaker is something that is becoming more and more popular thanks to the advent of wine tourism. And that’s good news! At SWISS WINE DIRECTORY, we are convinced that this phenomenon will become even more popular in the future, and it is important to know the tricks of the trade so that you are well received by the winemaker and you leave… sometimes several hours later… with stars in your eyes!

To taste a wine while listening to the winemaker talk about it… is a unique experience!

I love listening to the winemakers talking about their wines and their passion. I advise all wine lovers to try out this experience: you will see that the wine will have a different flavour, and that you will then have plenty of stories to share with your loved ones when you let them discover your new found treasures.

In order to get the most out of your visit to the winemaker, I have listed below some tips that come from my own experience and from the questions you ask me regularly:

1.Do I have to make an appointment before going to visit a winemaker?

Yes! The days of the winemaker are well charged and his time (just like yours) is precious. It is important to know that several trades are hidden behind the vineyard: first of all – the most tedious – work in the vineyard, then work in the cellar, sales, marketing and finance. And often, a winemaker works alone or as a family.

2.When is the best time to visit a winemaker?

You want to visit a winemaker in autumn: you must know that the busiest period of the year for a winegrower is the harvest.

For my part, I avoid this period out of respect for his work… But things are changing: some winegrowers propose for you to experience a harvest day, a unique experience to do at least once in your life, ideally with friends, family or even colleagues as a team building activity!

My trick is to visit the winegrowers at the beginning of the year, when the vines are at rest and when the wine is fermenting… these are for me magical moments to share.

3.What is the best day to visit the winemakers?

I am always surprised to hear from friends who want to visit winemakers on Sundays … it’s good, but just like you, the winemaker is entitled to his days of rest!

If you cannot make time during the week, I recommend Saturday morning, always making sure that the winemaker is ready to receive you on that day. There are nevertheless exceptions because some winemakers like to programme their open cellar days during the entire weekend. Make sure you know these dates, which normally occur in spring and autumn.

4.How long does a visit last?

If you decide to enter the world of a winemaker, you must give him time to tell his story, his philosophy, his anecdotes and above all to taste his wines. I recommend a minimum of 1 hour if you enjoy 4-5 wines.

When contacting the winemaker, ask if a visit to the winery or vineyard is also possible. He will very often be happy to explain to you the characteristics of his vines, soils or the various methods of winemaking. In this case, add at least 30 minutes per additional activity. And if you are curious like me, double that time J

5.Do I have to buy wine?

Even if the cellar visit is a friendly moment, a winemaker must pay his bills at the end of the month!  When you make an appointment, you will ask the question and there will be possibly 2 choices:

  • Either it is a paying tasting (count between CHF 15 and CHF 50, depending on the number of wines to be tasted and the accompaniment), so you will not feel compelled to buy wine. If you decide to buy some, as a rule, this package price reduces.
  • Or the tasting is free, but in this case, I strongly suggest you buy at least one carton per couple. Think of yourself, but also about the gifts you could make, because winemakers usually offer you mixed cartons so you can let your loved ones know about the wines. You are on foot, the winemaker can even deliver the wine to your home!

6.Do I dare ask lots of questions?

You have probably experienced it during a group visit. People who are knowledgeable about wine will speak and ask all their questions. If you are not in this situation and know little about wine, what does it matter? The winemaker is happy to answer all the questions and to pass on his knowledge.

And during the tasting, if you do not find the aromas of wine as described by your expert colleague, it’s normal! We all have a nose and a palate with different sensibilities, share them with others and entertain an exciting discussion! The winemaker is also passionate and will be happy to know your opinion!

7.What to do after my visit?

Each winemaker has multiple addresses of restaurants or wine tourism activities to do in his region. Before the visit, check out their recommendations on-line or ask them when making an appointment. You leave with your car full of bottles? Do not hesitate to ask him for his recommendations for winemakers in other regions of Switzerland … because yes, in Switzerland, there are winemakers in all the cantons!

I hope you have enjoyed your cellar visits, do not hesitate to share your experiences in the comments below with the #swisswinelovers community!

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