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FeatureFood & Drink

How to go wine tasting.

You don't have to be a wine expert to enjoy a tasting at a local cellar door with cheese platters, vineyard views, and great wines.

Feb 9, 2023

Words: Mel Gilcrist

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Get out your calendar, find your next free weekend, circle it – this is when you’re doing a tasting at a local cellar door.

Seriously, it’s the best day out. Cheese platters, vineyard views and awesome wines – need I say more? Plus, visiting them can count as a hobby, I checked.

Gippsland wines are among the best in the country, but our wine tourism is still our secret. Here, you’re more likely to have the winemaker, a family member or someone who is close to the wine taking you through a tasting, providing you with special insights and stories.

If you’re reading this thinking, ‟Sounds delightful Mel, but you need to be a wine person. Someone who knows what tannins are” – I get it. Been there. I had no idea what to do at wineries when I first started going tasting either. Here’s your guide to wine tasting: the tips, tricks and lingo.

Do your research

Jump on their website and understand whether you need to book or not. If it’s a walk-in system and you’re going on a weekend, don’t be afraid to get there early. You get more time and attention from the host around 10–11am, before too many people arrive.

Did you just spit out your coffee? Yes, 10am is a perfectly acceptable time to be tasting wine, in fact they say that’s when your palate is most sensitive (feel free to use that reasoning whenever you need to. It’s my pleasure).

Before leaving the house

It sounds crazy, but there are a few things to note before you head out. Firstly, avoid perfume and cologne. Otherwise, every wine will smell like No. 5 by Chanel.

Don’t brush your teeth right before you go. Give ‘em a clean early – before breakfast, if you can. Toothpaste interacts with wine, stripping fruity flavours and making it taste astringent.

Some say not to wear lipstick because the wax will interact with the bubbles in sparkling wine. Codswallop, in my opinion. Plus, you need to look fabulous for photos in the vineyard.

Ask questions

If you don’t know much about wine, don’t sweat it. In my time working at cellar doors, my favourite people were those who were open minded and came to learn. Us wine nerds really enjoy recruiting new wine lovers. So, don’t be afraid to ask anything; you’ll get enthusiasm in return.

Use the spittoon

Here’s a scenario I hear often: you’re driving, don’t want to drink too much, or a certain wine isn’t for you, but you stand there and drink what’s in your glass anyway, just to be polite.

In the wine world, spittoons are highly used. When tasting, whether you want to spit the wine, or pour out what’s in your glass, that’s seriously okay and no one will be offended. They won’t assume you don’t like the wine, but even if you don’t – that’s okay too!

Buying wine

Do I need to buy a bottle of wine at the end? If you like something, show your support, especially knowing all the money goes directly to the producer. But no, you’re under no obligation to buy.

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Now a brief round-up of some great Gippsland cellar doors:

Bass Coast & South Gippsland

Purple Hen Vineyard & Winery (Rhyll)
Rick Lacey and the team are running out of space to display their many trophies. Consistently great wines and a beautiful spot.

Phillip Island Winery (Phillip Island)
Nick and Misha Say are wonderful hosts with a lovely restaurant, deli shop and events space.

Harman Wines
(Wattle Bank, near Inverloch)

Relaxed restaurant dining and pizzas – it’s always popular.

Dirty Three Wines (Inverloch)
With a cellar door and winery in town, Marcus Satchell showcases their three vineyards that are spread across the nearby rolling hills. [Pictured]

The Gurdies Winery
Terrific views and lovely wines.

West & South Gippsland

Cannibal Creek Winery (Tynong)
You drive past their turn-off every time you’re on the way back from Melbourne. They do fantastic wines, with a vibrant cellar door and restaurant.

Baw Baw Cellar Door (Warragul)
Located at the Wild Dog Winery, this venue is the home to some great Gippsland boutique wines, representing smaller wineries without their own cellar doors.

Central & East Gippsland

Narkoojee Winery (Glengarry)
This is one of my personal favourites with killer chardonnay. Narkoojee has a restaurant and cellar door tastings too.

Blue Gables Vineyard (near Maffra)
A cellar door with wine tastings and wood-fired pizzas.

Lightfoot Wines (Bairnsdale)
Their location provides stunning views and yummy local platters. Alastair Butt and Tom Lightfoot are producing award-winning wines worth checking out.

Gippslandia - Issue No. 25

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