Attending a wine festival can be a wonderful way to spend a relaxing day or weekend. You get to sample a number of different wines in one convenient location, and the festivals are usually outdoors, with live music and food.
Also, some wineries only sell their wine at festivals or through the internet, so this may be the only way to try them out.
But there are a lot of wine festivals, and they vary in terms of experience and quality. How do you choose which to attend? And how do you get the most out of one once you’re there?
Here are eight tips we’ve learned to maximize your experience at a wine festival – or beer, cider, or other spirits festival.
Before you go:
Vet the festival itself before buying tickets. Some wine festivals have been around for years and are well organized with high-quality wines. Others sound good but don’t deliver. Check the website to see what the festival offers; if it’s vague, that could be a red flag. A quick Google or Facebook search of reviews can also help determine the reputation of the wine festival and its operator so that you can maximize your experience at a wine festival.
Consider springing for a VIP pass. It can come in very handy. For instance, the VIP section at a recent wine and food festival we attended operated by drink.eat.relax. provided a lot more amenities than the general admission section, including additional wines to taste, all-you-can-eat food, table seating, sparkling wine, even better porta-potties. It was also less crowded, and open longer than the general admission area. However, not all festivals provide a VIP section that’s worth the extra cost. Check before purchasing.
Consider the venue. It can be nice to attend a festival in pretty surroundings, but sometimes a rural location can backfire if it’s hard to get to or there are other problems, such as parking issues, lack of ride services, or inadequate food options. A wine festival in a city or with other nearby amenities can be useful, since if you’re not enjoying the festival there are other things to do. This is another reason to vet the wine festival beforehand.
When you go:
Get there early. Wine festivals get crowded, and the lines for a wine tasting can be pretty long. If you want to learn about the wines being poured without being rushed, be among the first to get there. If you want to buy bottles to take home, the wineries will hold your purchase or ship it to you.
Consider bringing something to sit on. Even the VIP areas can have insufficient seating. If you don’t want to sit on the grass or stand all day, having a chair or blanket may be a good option to maximize your experience at a wine festival.
Sample a variety of wines. It’s an opportunity to experiment, and you may be introduced to something new you love. It’s also a chance to try wines from wineries you’re unfamiliar with. I only learned about Eastwood Farm and Winery in Charlottesville, VA by attending a recent wine festival, and liked the wine so much that I bought two bottles to take home.
Go at your own pace. It’s not a race, and you don’t want to overdo it. If you drink too quickly, the wines also tend to blur, making it harder to remember which ones you liked the most.