Wine has been produced and enjoyed around the world for thousands of years. Whether you are a just having your first sips of wine or you are a seasoned sommelier, traveling on a wine tour is a great way to learn about the art of winemaking and wine culture.
Not only do you get to indulge in delicious and unique wines from around the world, but many tours provide you with a significant amount of wine education. You have the opportunity to learn about various food pairings and about the detailed processes used in creating amazing wine. Winemakers love sharing their knowledge!
With dozens of wine regions around the world and hundreds of wineries within each region, it can be difficult to organize a wine tour on your own. Luckily, there are plenty of well-chartered wine tour companies ready to take you along for the ride -- and all you have to do is taste!
Where to Go
It may come as no surprise that Spain is a top destination for those interested in a wine tour. The country has warm climates perfect for growing grapes and producing some of the world’s signature wines. While the best times to visit vary by region, generally sticking to April, May, and June or September and October provides you with nice, stable weather for wine tours.
It’s hard to talk about wine without thinking about fine Italian wines and visiting the region of Sicily. Italy has been producing some of the world’s finest wines for centuries, making the country of cuisine and culture a great place to head out on a wine tour. The best time to visit Italy on a wine tour varies, but May and June offer good weather and fewer crowds while October is the heart of the harvest season.
There are many wine growing regions in Canada -- from the Okanagan Valley on the West Coast to Niagara on the Lake in Ontario. The Niagara region of Canada is actually known for its world famous “ice wine." The unique climate of the Great Lakes region allows for this sweet specialty wine to be produced. For the perfect wine tasting experience, you should visit in the summer months of July and August or in the early autumn months when the cooler weather mixes with beautiful sunshine.
After decades of a slumping wine industry, winemaking in South Africa has turned around in recent years. With many wine regions differing by climate and geography, producing different grapes with unique tastes has become a well-known characteristic of South African wines. South Africa has a pleasant climate year-round with the hottest and driest weather during their summer from November to April.
Planning Your Trip
What to Look for in a Wine Tour
When looking for a wine tour, there are a few aspects you’ll want to consider. For example, the pace of the tour is important. How many wineries will you visit over how many days? What other activities will you do, if any, to break up the trip? Is there a great deal of transportation time between wineries in the region you're visiting?
The primary modes of transportation offered by the tour are important to consider, as well. While some tours take place entirely on a rented coach bus, other tours are done using bicycles or even walking. It's a good idea to compare tour companies with customer reviews, if possible. Look for accreditations from local tourism boards to check the safety and legitimacy of the tour operator.
Average Wine Tour Cost & Length
Wine tours vary in length and are dependent on the modes of transportation used. A two-week bicycle tour around Cape Town and the wineries in the region costs around $2,200. This includes the bicycle rental, accommodations, most meals, and tastings at the wineries.
If you wanted to head to Sicily for a more traditional wine tour, a one-day tour on a luxury coach bus with guide and meal can cost around $200 per person. Multi-day tours -- such as a 5-day tour -- can start at around $800.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
Generally, you should pack comfortable attire for light walking and moving around a winery while on a tour. Most wineries don’t have a stated dress code, but typical wine tasting attire is a little nicer than everyday clothing. If the tour includes renting things like bicycles, the tour provider should be the one to organize these details for you.
Depending on the country you are traveling to, you will need to check if you can enter as a tourist visa-free or if your passport requires a travel visa. Checking with your country’s embassy website is a good way to determine what documentation you will need, if any.
It’s also wise to have change or small bills in the local currency with you for tipping during tours and tastings. While this is not mandatory, it's polite to recognize good service at the wineries by tipping your local guides.
Qualifications & Training
There aren’t any technical qualifications for going on a wine tour. However, you might consider picking up a book or taking a crash course on wine basics beforehand. Some of the basics to get familiar with include the types of grapes commonly used in the region you're traveling to, what makes different kinds of wine unique, and recommended ways of tasting wine like a pro.
Wine tours themselves are generally quite safe. That said, additional experiences like bicycle riding and grape mashing are activities that you’d need to be properly guided through. Depending on the vineyard, walking tours might take you on across slightly uneven ground so consider stable and sturdy footwear.
Wine tours aren't overly dangerous, but they are not without risks. Be careful around large agricultural equipment and always follow the guidance of the vineyard owners and your guide. It’s always recommended to eat before engaging in any tastings to make sure that you are able to keep your wits about you and enjoy an entire day. In general, know your limits. Paying for a wine experience is only worth if you can remember and enjoy it!