Nothing is quite as satisfying as visiting the countryside as part of a wine tour – especially when you’re exploring a region as scenic and laid-back as Australia’s Hunter Valley. If you are planning an upcoming wine tour, keep the following tips in mind:
- Visit as early in the morning as possible.
In popular wine growing regions such as Hunter Valley, the cellar doors of wineries can become absolutely packed later in the day. If you make a point of setting out early enough to beat the crowds, then there is a better chance that the staff at each tasting room will have more time to spend talking to you about the wines.
- Know what questions to ask.
One of the great things about visiting the laid-back Hunter Valley region is that the locals you’ll encounter are genuinely friendly and not the least bit pretentious. You don’t have to be a wine connoisseur to enjoy yourself here. In fact, novices are likely to receive as much respect as the veterans simply for their eagerness to learn more about Hunter Valley wines. When you stop at a particular winery for a tour, make a point of asking questions about the property and the background of the operation as well as about the wine in general.
- Don’t try to do too much.
A visit to wine country is supposed to provide a relaxing and refreshing escape. However, it is far too common to hear of people getting so caught up in the planning and execution of their holiday that they barely have time to enjoy themselves. A good rule of thumb is to limit yourself to three or four wineries in a single day. Trying to visit more than that risks taking the fun out of the experience.
- Don’t take any chances with driving.
The biggest complication involved with visiting three or four wineries in a day is determining who’ll be doing the driving. Rather than conscripting an unfortunate designated driver who can’t enjoy as many wine tastings, consult with a local tour agency about the possibility of hiring a driver for the day. There are several companies around Hunter Valley that can help you plan every aspect of your holiday – from which wineries you’ll visit to how you’ll travel between them. Getting these details out of the way makes it that much easier to enjoy the outing.
- Try something new.
The Hunter Valley is particularly famous for its Semillon and Shiraz grape varietals, but there are plenty of others worth trying as well. It’s easy to get stuck in with a particular varietal that you like, to the extent that you fail to try anything new. On your next journey to wine country, make a point of trying a few new varietals or vintages than you normally would. You might even end up with a new favourite.
- Take advantage of special access in wine country.
One of the perks of visiting wine country – be it in Hunter Valley, Sonoma or anywhere else in the world – is the special access you enjoy to uncommon vintages. Virtually all wineries are going to have a few special vintages that are made in small batches and aren’t available in stores. In many cases, these end up being some of the best wines available at a given winery and are well worth asking after.
Perhaps the most important tip for anyone planning a wine tour is to simply relax and have fun. In Hunter Valley, you’ll have a lot more to enjoy beyond the local vintages. This region is also famous for its luxury accommodation, dining scene and farmer’s market. Make arrangements with a local tour operator to ensure you get to enjoy all of the highlights.