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What to expect at a cellar door tasting

Want to do a cellar door tasting, but not sure what to expect or how they work? Let us break it down for you.
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If you’re looking for a way to discover new wines while getting closer to the craft of winemaking, you should definitely try a cellar-door tasting! It’s a great way to start your wine adventure, learn more about locally produced wines, and a great excuse to surround yourself with the history, process and fun of producing wine.

But if you’ve never done one before, it’s totally understandable if you feel a little intimidated. Don’t worry – at RedHeads, we’re here to guide you through the entire process so you can enjoy the experience.

What is a cellar door?

A cellar door wine tasting is a wine tasting held at a winery’s cellar door, which is the entrance to the winery’s wine cellar. Cellar door wine tastings are usually held for small groups of people, and they offer a chance to try a variety of wines from the winery. These tastings can be a great way to learn about a winery’s wine – and, most importantly, they can also be a lot of fun.

The term is believed to have come from the traditional methods of wine production, where wine is made, kept and aged in underground cellars and basements, where it is cooler, and temperatures are more stable. Visitors would knock on the doors to let the winemakers know they were around. As more advancing cooling systems were installed, space was freed up in these cellars and basements, with many since repurposed into tasting rooms.

Today, many “cellar doors” aren’t usually actual cellars.

Instead, they’re purpose-built spaces away from the main winemaking areas that may include product displays or food options. At the RedHeads’ winery, our Studio Bar tasting rooms are in the 1888 Cottage, next to our heritage vineyard.

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How do cellar door tastings work?

Cellar door tastings are a great way to learn about wine and taste some of the best wines that a vineyard has to offer. Typically, you can choose a set number of wines to taste, and winemaking staff will pour small amounts for you to try. This is an excellent opportunity to ask questions about the wine, the vineyard, and the winemaking process.

Most importantly, it’s a chance to sample some delicious wines and find new favourites!

Depending on the size and operation of the winery, you may need to book your cellar door tasting in advance, or you can rock up at a particular time of day. You may need to pay a small fee, although some wineries do tastings for free.

You’ll then be able to explore the tasting room and hear about the cellar door tasting process.

A wine expert typically hosts each session, introducing the wines you can try in your cellar door tasting, working through them individually. They’ll expand your understanding with insights about the region the wine is from, how it was made, the flavour of the wine and its origins.

You’ll be poured a small amount of each wine into your glass to taste, with a spittoon or bucket nearby for you to spit the wine out if you don’t want to swallow it or – in very rare cases – the taste isn’t for you. You can also empty your glass, ready to try the next wine.

Some wineries may provide snacks during cellar door tastings designed to pair specifically with the wines you’re tasting.

At the RedHeads’ Studio Bar, cheeses from the Barossa Valley Cheese Company and crackers are available for guests to enjoy as they overlook our heritage vineyard.

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How to get the most out of your cellar door tasting

Approachable and friendly, cellar door tastings let you discover more about wine and winemaking. And while you can usually rock up and start sampling, there are some helpful tips to get the most from your cellar door tasting experience.

Don’t wear perfume

Before heading off to your cellar door tasting and before you enter, it’s a good idea to avoid wearing or spritzing yourself with any perfume. The lingering scents can interfere with the aromas of the wine and distract the other guests with your fragrant allure.

Pace yourself

Several wines will be available to taste at a cellar door tasting. Although you’ll only taste a small amount of each, those sips add up over time. To get the most out of your cellar door tasting, pace yourself throughout the tasting and drink water when needed.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Cellar door tastings aren’t just about the wine. There’s so much you can learn about wine from the experts at hand, so don’t be afraid to put your hand up or approach them with what you want to know – they’d love to tell you more.

At RedHeads, our cellar door team are some of the friendliest, most approachable you’ll meet – and all questions are welcome (yep, even the quirky ones)!

Don’t rinse your glass with water

It can be tempting to e out your glass between wines to enjoy their unique blend of flavours. However, if not done correctly, you can dilute the wine. If you need water between tastings, ensure your glass is completely dry before moving on to the next wine.

Experiment and try something new

Cellar door tastings can be free or relatively cheap experiences, so they are great opportunities to try something new. With so many varieties and flavours available, take advantage of what’s on offer and maybe try that Chardonnay you weren’t so sure about – you never know, it might become your new favourite!

Don’t be intimidated by other guests

Whether you’re a wine pro or a complete novice, it doesn’t matter; everyone’s welcome to our cellar door tastings. It can be easy to feel intimidated by other guests who might appear to know more than you do but don’t let them influence you. If you want to know how to taste your wine correctly or are unsure what flavours you can taste, ask away.

Find out more about our friendly RedHeads Village.