By Kori ~ February 20th, 2008.
Through the years, we have taken a number of trips to different wine regions throughout the world. As you might expect, we have had a wide range of experiences, some great and others not so great.
We found visiting Australian cellar doors (wine tasting rooms) to be one of the great wine experiences in the world. First, there are virtually no tasting fees (at least as of 2005 when we were last there). The hosts are knowledgeable and extremely friendly. Rather than limiting you to three small tastes for a $5 or $10 fee, the Australians want you to taste all ten or 15 wines they have on display and are almost offended if you don’t. And they don’t hide the “good” stuff. We had free tastings of $70-$80 bottles of excellent wine. [I realize that Liquor Control Board laws in many states in the U.S. do not permit this same level of hospitality.]
“…I found in Australia a soulmate. And I sometimes feel as though purely by chance we’ve both been beating the same path to the same destination at the same time. Good wine; enjoyable approachable wine available to all, affordable by all. Sometimes seeking to provide the greatest pleasure for the greatest number and achieving it. Sometimes saying ‘We’re not frightened, we can equal those old-timers from Europe.’ But more often saying ‘We’re Australian, we don’t try to copy anyone. Take us for what we are and enjoy it.’” –Oz Clarke, Oz Clarke’s Australian Wine Companion
In North America, we have found the wineries and tasting rooms in Washington State and the Okanagan Valley of Canada to be the closest to Australia in their friendly attitude toward consumers.
In contrast, we have visited a number of regions that are very well-known for their wines but, for the most part, the people seem to fall short in their customer service skills. While I would recommend that any wine lover take a trip to France if the opportunity arises because of its rich wine history, many chateaus in France are not open to the public and some of those that are act like they are doing you a favor to let you taste their wines.
Napa tends to be over-crowded and charge high tasting fees. We even found some people at the tasting rooms in Napa who looked down their noses at us and their other guests while charging us all to taste their third label. [If you go wine tasting in California, we recommend that you visit Sonoma instead where we have found the wines to be just as good yet the people are much friendlier.] And finally, the most disappointing in all of our wine trips was the reception we got (or should I say didn’t get) in Oregon. Really, what do they have to be snooty about?
Now, in which of those environments do you feel an obligation to buy? For me, the easy answer is Australia. Even though I am not able to visit Australia frequently, the positive experience that we had there, not to mention the fact that they produce outstanding wines at reasonable prices, makes me want to buy their wines and encourage you to do so also.
What have been your experiences, great and not so great, as you have visited wine regions throughout the world? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts with us.
Filed under: American Wine, Australian Wine, California Wine, Canadian Wine, French Wine, General Wine Information, Oregon Wine, Washington State Wine, Wine Travel