The smaller wineries tend to have more charm and intrinsic interest than the larger commercial operators and it’s here you’ll often get to talk personally to the winemaker or snare some wines not generally available in wine shops. Groups are welcomed by most wineries but are encouraged to book, although some places are too small to accommodate them. You’re under no obligation to buy wine, but coming away with a few of your favourites of the day and some fruity adjectives to describe them is part of the fun.
For a novice, wine tasting can be an intimidating experience. On entering the tasting area (or cellar door) you’ll be shown a list of wines that may be tasted, divided into whites through to reds, all printed in the order that the winemaker considers best on the palate. This is fine, but if you are visiting several wineries and are only interested in reds, by all means concentrate on the reds. Always look at the colour and clarity of the wine first, then give it a swirl and a sniff. Then take a deeper sniff with your nose inside the rim of the glass to try to appreciate the aroma or bouquets you can pick up. Then take a sip, rolling it around on your tongue before swallowing; there’s always a spittoon if you don’t want to swallow. A great way to learn more is to think about what you can pick up on your palate and then check it against the winemaker’s notes. Don’t be shy about discussing the wines with the person serving – that’s what they’re there for, and even wine snobs are down-to-earth Australians at heart.