Updated: Dec 19, 2019
Signing up for a wine tour is an investment of time and money. We’ve learned – sometimes the hard way – that just a few simple steps can enhance our wine tour experience or prevent a mishap. Here are some insider wine tour tips you might want to consider trying.
1) Consider booking directly with the tour operator.
We’re big fans of using third-party wine tour aggregators, such as Viator, to find and book wine tours. But if you can figure out which tour company is on a third-party aggregator website before booking, consider booking the tour directly with the tour company. We can often uncover who the tour company is by taking a few distinctive phrases from the tour’s description on the aggregator’s website and running a Google search to see if the same phrases show up elsewhere. When you book directly, the tour operator won’t have to pay the aggregator a percentage for the booking.
You may even be able to save money by booking directly. For example, I once tried to book three tours in Italy through a third-party aggregator. Unfortunately, I ran into difficulties with the aggregator’s website. We were able to glean who the tour operator was by using a key phrase search. It turned out that all three tours were offered by the same company – and that the operator offered a discount if we booked three or more tours at the same time. So that’s what we did. Sweet!
2) Ask the tour operator which wineries you’re scheduled to visit.
If the description of a wine tour doesn’t specify which wineries are on the itinerary, ask before you book. While it can be fun to be surprised, and sometimes a last-minute substitution can’t be helped, if you know in advance which wineries you’ll be visiting you can learn more about them ahead of time. Knowing which wineries you’ll visit is particularly important when taking more than one wine tour in the same region. That way, you can ask to swap out a winery if you’ll have already toured it.
3) Reconfirm the tour.
One of our other wine tour tips is to contact the tour guide/company about a week or two before the actual tour. By touching base with the operator, you can make sure you don’t end up with any unpleasant surprises. We’ve had tours that had to change the pickup location or the start time at the last minute. Double checking proactively also helps avoid the risk of miscommunication.
Before we started using this insider wine tour tip we almost missed one tour in Portugal.
We had signed up for the afternoon tour, but the tour company mistakenly had us down for the morning tour. The tour guide tried to reach us when we didn’t show but could not contact us since we were still en route to the city. Luckily, we were able to contact our tour guide when we arrived that afternoon. She was available and hurried right over. Disaster averted, but only due to good luck.
4) Speak up if you have a bad experience.
Sometimes a wine tour goes awry through no one’s fault, such as bad traffic. But if you suffer a truly unpleasant situation, you should say something. If a tour is vastly different (or worse) than what you signed up for, it’s okay to contact the tour company and tell the operators about your experience. For instance, we took one tour in Tuscany that was significantly different from its advertised description. It was supposed to include three tastings (one at an olive oil factory and two at wineries) that did not occur. Granted, this wine tour was on Christmas Day, so I can understand that there could be last-minute cancellations.
However, the tour company should have been up front that it could not provide the three tastings when we either booked or confirmed the tour - or at least as soon as it knew - so that we’d have the option to cancel it. Alternatively, the tour company could have been creative and made other arrangements, such as substituting different tasting locations or even purchasing the products to be tasted ahead of time and creating an impromptu picnic (it was, after all, beautiful Tuscany). After explaining how the tour we were taken on did not match what we signed up for, I asked for and obtained a partial refund.