If you want to learn more about wine, or simply just enjoy lots of different wines, go to a wine festival. Wine festivals are great experiences. You get to taste many different wines from wineries all over your area. Here are some tips on what to do and not do when going to a wine festival. Enjoy!
Stay hydrated in between tastings.
You will be walking and standing out in the weather for a long time with lots of alcohol in your system. Getting sick at the festival will ruin your fun. Many festivals have free water tanks, and some wineries will give you a cheap or even free bottle of water if you need it.
Be cooperative and patient.
Wine festivals have a lot of rules to follow, which means visitors have a lot of rules to follow as well. Servers or other staff may:
- Ask to see your ID multiple times throughout the day.
- Ask you to remove your sunglasses so they can look at your eyes.
- Spend some time talking to you to see how sober you are.
- Refuse to serve you if you look drunk.
If we ask you for your ID, just take it as a compliment! You look great! Also, if we refuse to serve you, wait it out a little while. Get some food, and seriously, make sure you’re hydrated! The winery I work for offers people free water for people who’ve had too much because we don’t want you to get sick.
Dress up a little for the wine festival — and prepare for weather!
You don’t HAVE to dress up, but people do have fun if they dress a little cute. Have some fun with your outfit! Additionally, most festivals are outdoors. If it’s hot and sunny, bring sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses with you. Furthermore, dress in a way that will keep your body cool. You will be out in the sun and the humidity (or lack thereof). In my region, if wind or rain picks up, the organizers cancel the festival for that day. They likely will let you in the next day if this happens.
Tip your wine festival servers a dollar or two.
Given that wineries have tip jars split tips among all the servers, it means the world to your server if you tip even just a dollar. In short, if you think about the economics of this, you’re probably getting four or five pours at each booth. That’s a glass of wine. A whole glass for one or two dollars is an awesome deal!
Pace yourself as the day goes on.
Many tastings and glasses add up quickly over the course of several hours. There are also likely going to be many more wineries there than you can reasonably visit. Treat the long lines as a bit of a blessing because it gives you a little bit of time in between tastings to pace yourself.
Buy a glass or bottle of wine you like.
Many wineries, especially smaller and newer wineries, depend on wine festivals for a lot of their sales. If you therefore discover a wine that you really like, buy a glass or a bottle of it! You’ll undoubtedly be supporting a local business and that’s really the point of wine festivals–to showcase your region’s local wineries.
Wine festival season is coming up soon! Wine festivals are a great opportunity to learn more about wine and discover up-and-coming wineries. If you’re in New Mexico, and you want to visit a wine festival visit NM Wine’s Events Page.
Eat at the wine festival or beforehand.
Basically, between walking around, being out in the elements, and drinking lots of alcohol, you could harm yourself if you don’t eat. Wine festivals generally have food trucks and other food vendors come. Make sure you eat something, preferably healthy!
Take a Lyft or an Uber to the wine festival.
This is obvious. You’ll have a lot more fun overall without the worry that you could be too tipsy to drive home hanging in the back of your mind.
Try something new at the wine festival.
Every winery has its own story and specialty. Ask the server if they have any suggestions or what their favorite wine is. Learn if the winery makes anything unique that other wineries in the area don’t. For example, the winery I work for, Jaramillo Vineyards, in the only winery in New Mexico that makes Norton, which is a variety native to Virginia and has a lot of tasty spice notes!
Without doubt, pretty much anything you’re curious about in regard to wine is fair game to ask! What food does this wine pair well with? What should you know about this wine that makes it unique? How can you learn more about this wine? Servers love talking about their winery’s wines and a large part of wine festivals is educating people about wine.
If you want some tips about pairing wine with food, check out my other article on Wine Pairing Pro Tips. You may even impress people with your new wine pairing knowledge at the next festival you attend!
Worry if you’re not an expert.
If a server describes a wine with words you don’t understand, ask what they mean. Learning is a large part of what makes wine festivals fun! Above all, if you’re looking for advice on wine, wine festivals are the places to be. Additionally, if you don’t know what else to try, ask a server for some suggestions. It’s okay if you’re a wine beginner. Wineries bring several different wines to give options to a wide variety of people’s tastes. For me, the people who ask the most questions are the most fun!
Be afraid to spit out a wine you don’t like.
This is totally okay! No one here expects you to like every wine. Indeed, you most likely won’t. Wineries don’t judge you for not liking a wine, and may even look at you suspiciously if you enjoy every tasting. Therefore, it’s okay to spit out your wine, and if there’s no spit bucket, you can even spit wine on the ground.
Ask to try all the wines.
Wineries may have upwards of 10 wines (or even more) that they’re serving that day. But drinking more than four or five is considered kind of rude for a couple of reasons. Firstly, we need to keep the line moving, and secondly, wanting to try as many as you can is a dead giveaway that you’re trying to get drunk. Generally, you can just get back in line and wait again if you want to try more wines.
Get wasted at a wine festival.
Even though we’re at a wine festival, and most everyone drinking is a little tipsy, servers and wineries still have laws to follow. we could get in trouble if we over-serve someone, and even be held liable if someone drives drunk. We’re trained to spot drunkenness. We will cut you off if you’re acting inappropriately, and if you get to a point where you’re belligerent, we will call security. It’s a serious issue.
In fact, it can actually be pretty dangerous for you to get drunk at a wine festival. The weather is hot, you’re getting more exercise than you think by walking around so much, and you’re likely dehydrated. It’s really not fun to get sick at a wine festival that you’ve paid good money to attend.
Say you took a Lyft/Uber and expect to be treated leniently.
A lot of people tell us: “Oh, we’re totally okay, we took an Uber.” Good on you for being responsible! But we still can’t give you wine if you’re drunk. Therefore, if you say you took an Uber, we still will not over-serve you and you’ll have to follow the same rules as everyone else.
All you really need to do to have an unforgettable wine festival experience is keep a balance between being yourself and being responsible. Wine festivals are a great way to have fun, drink wine, and learn more about wine culture. Also, step out of your comfort zone and try something new. Cheers!