Choosing a wine tour – what to look for and ask

Specialised wine tour company or general tour company

Choosing a wine tour and company can be difficult. In all wine regions of the world many different companies offer wine tours. Some companies offer many different tour options as well as wine tours. You need to decide if you wish to go on tour with a companies that offers purely wine tours. If you choose the specialist, you would hope their level of knowledge of the region and the wines / wineries is higher than those offering many different tour options not just wine tours.

When choosing a wine tour company, you will be looking at a number of different variables.

  1. Does the company operate in the country and region I want to do my wine tour in? It is pointless looking at a company offering tours in a country / region that you are not looking to take a tour in.
  1. Do they offer the type of tour I am looking for? You may be looking for an all-day tour or a half day tour. If you are looking for a half day tour you may want to include lunch at a winery or just do tastings. Does the tour start times offered match what I am looking for?
  1. Do the tours start from a central pickup point or do they offer pickup and drop off from your accommodation? In most countries of the world there are strict drink driving laws and therefore the option to be picked up and dropped off at your accommodation could be really important to you
  1. What type of experience are you looking for when choosing a wine tour? Some companies offer tours in large 45 seat coaches while others offer smaller tours in an 11 seater minibus. Both of these will be called group tours. Maybe you are looking for a more intimate experience in which case look for a private wine tour. If you are looking to visit smaller wineries, they do not normally have the capacity and space to host larger tour buses so that will narrow down your search options.


Chris and Lyndie posing with the minibus used for small group wine tours

Choosing a wine tour - Questions to ask when talking with potential companies

  1. Clarify the offering matches what you are looking for in terms of number of wineries visited. All regions are different. Some have wineries that are very close together, meaning you may visit more wineries in a shorter time than if the wineries are spread out.
  2. Is there an option to have lunch at a winery? If so, is that included in the tour cost or is it extra. If lunch is included, is it a set meal or are there options. Do they cater for dietary requirements eg vegan or gluten free?
  3. How much does the tour cost and does it include potential tasting fees or are they extra?
  4. Is the tour fixed in terms of the wineries visited and the time allocated at each winery, or can I request one or two wineries to visit?
  5. How do I pay? Do I have to visit the office before the tour and pay or can I pay on the day? Can I pay with cash, card or internet banking?
  6. How many customers are currently booked on the tour? What is the minimum and maximum number that can be on the tour? In some cases, companies may only run tours with a minimum number of customers. You would not want to plan your holiday trip in advance to turn up on the day and find out the tour is not running due to low numbers. At the opposite end the tour may have a capacity of 45 customers on a large bus and this may not be what you are looking for.
  7. How many years have they been operating wine tour? Newer companies may not have detailed knowledge of the region, wineries and wines.
  8. What is their refund policy? This may be important in the event they cancel the tour or you have to change you holiday plans and need to change the date or even cancel. This is very important at the moment due to Covid and plans changing all the time. It can be very frustrating to pay and find you can only get credits rather than your money back.

All the above should help you in choosing a wine tour company right for you


Choosing a wine tour with great guide

  1. This can be difficult when booking with a larger company as they will normally assign the guide on the day. In this case you are never sure on whether you are getting a guide or a driver. The difference to me is a guide knows the region and wineries and will introduce each winery as you arrive. They will be available for questions while at a winery without getting in the way of the winery host. A driver may just drop you off at the winery with just a small introduction.
  2. Choosing a wine tour and booking with a smaller company may give you the option to request a particular guide when choosing a wine tour. You may have read many reviews on a companies wine tours and one guide is constantly praised and therefore you would like that person as the driver on the day you book.
  3. Are the companies guides qualified in wine? This may or may not be important to you. If it is, it is worth asking the question as to the qualification and the guides overall knowledge of wines of the world?


choosing a wine tour qualified guide

Knowledge of the region

For some customers an integral part of you tour should be gaining knowledge of the region. This may take the form of the history of the region or the differences in the sub regions of the wine region. Climate differences and soils make a huge difference to the wine even though they may all be from the same region. All things you may wish to learn more about when choosing a wine tour.

Private wine tour or Group wine tour

This will depend on the type of tour you are looking for. If you are looking for a sociable day out and meeting and talking with other guests on the tour then a group tour is for you. You just need to decide the maximum group size you would like.

If you are looking for a bespoke tour designed especially for you then a private tour is the option. Most private wine tours will work with you to plan your tour and should have the option to visit appointment only wineries that group tours don’t have. This should also give the option to visit smaller wineries that may have a maximum group size which excludes some of the group tours.


Marlborough Private Wine Tour at Fromm Winery

Why I wrote this guide

In my experience choosing a wine tour can be a challenge to ensure you get the correct company and guide depending on what you are looking for. If you are visiting Marlborough New Zealand, I want to ensure you have the best possible experience no matter if you choose Na Clachan Wine Tours or one of our friendly competitors. I hope the above helps in your decision making in choosing a wine tour and you have a great time in Marlborough.

If you are interested in booking one of our tours and you will be in Blenheim or Renwick, click here for our options for group tours. For Picton or Havelock group tours click here. For a Luxury Private wine tour in our Mercedes saloon car click here.

Marlborough New Zealand is a beautiful place with many things to do. For more information visit the Destination Marlborough web site.

Thanks for reading my blog on choosing a wine tour.

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