Wine Tasting Room Inspirations

By: Kathy Kelley

Even when on vacation, I’m sure that you make it a point to visit tasting rooms to get an idea of the local “winescape.” I do this as well and I thought I would share some images from a few wineries I’ve been lucky to visit, as well as a few things that attracted my attention. Some of the images and ideas might appeal to you and be applicable for your tasting room. For now, I’ve focused on four different wineries, with more images and examples to come in future blog posts.

Schlumberger, Vienna, Austria

I just returned from a trip to Austria. While in Vienna I made it a point to visit the Schlumberger tasting room (http://www.schlumberger.at/en/home/) where I was able to sample a variety of sparkling wines (at 3 euro for each three ounce pour) produced using the “traditional method” since 1842. The tasting room provides a true educational experience by offering formal cellar tours as well as a free smartphone app (if the visitor doesn’t have a smartphone they can obtain a “player” that they can listen to) that leads visitors through several stations where they learn about the history of the winery, what is involved in making a sparkling wine, how the brand has evolved, etc., followed by a tasting.

Blog_Kathy_Image 1There was a true theme throughout the tasting room. Though the space of the sales area (where bottles and gift items, a small tasting bar, and the cash register were located) was rather “cozy,” the décor was well coordinated with the overall “fairy” theme. Why a fairy? Because, as I was told, sparkling wine has bubbles that are light and airy – and there lies the connection.

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From the color of the flooring/walls/ceiling as well as the furniture, lighting, music, wine label design, accessories (lots and lots of wine bottle gift packaging options, jellies made from their wine, and fairy shaped cookie cutters), etc., they all supported the concept of opulence and luxury with a hint of whimsy.

The Brotte Wine Museum, Chateauneuf du Pape, France

This entire museum is devoted to helping consumers learn about viticulture and enology. After the 45-minute audio guided tour, which leads visitors through 30+ stations, visitors can sample three wines. But, before reaching the tasting room, there is quite a lot to learn: 1) which grapes are grown in the region; 2) the history of the Valley of the Rhone appellation; 3) terroir (including a discussion of the rocks and pebbles that contribute to this phenomenon); 4) harvest and bottling processes; and much, much more (http://bit.ly/1DUpvD4).

Blog_Kathy_Image 3Instead of just providing text that explains that Grenache is the primary grape grown in the region, that Mourvedre is the second most commonly grown grape, followed by Syrah and Counoise, a visual illustrates this point, with the size of the “grape cluster” correlating with the amount of acreage devoted to growing the variety.

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An entire history is presented, including how the industry in the region has developed overtime and how bottles and labels have evolved. At first glance one display gives the impression that the bottle is quite old – due to the “dusty” appearance and the misshaped glass bottle – but the shape and appearance were purposely developed by Charles Brotte in 1952 for a local contest. Whether it is the perceived “age” of the bottle or the actual story, most likely all who see the display (and, hopefully, taste the wine) will remember it well after they return home. A bonus for the winery as the bottle can be easily picked out from the massive lineup that crowd liquor store shelves.

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Scarborough Wine Co., Hunter Valley, Australia

From the time arrived at the property, until I departed, I noticed a great bit of attention to detail and thought given to guest comfort at Scarborough. Well before guests step into the tasting room they are surrounded by well planned gardens and entryways – pretty much setting the stage for the experience that awaits in the tasting room. With individual seats placed around several tables in the (rather large) tasting room, we were able to have our own space, taste at a leisurely pace, and discuss the wines privately. While they do have the advantage of a fair amount of square footage to place tables and chairs, a smaller space could include a few “two top” or “four top” tables (seating for two and four visitors, respectively) and a more “space efficient” tasting bar (without chairs in order to maximize the number of visitors that can be served).

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During my tasting at Scarborough Wine Co., I was provided with five wine samples at once (three Chardonnays, 2007, 2008, and 2010 vintage, and two different Semillons). This system could very well be cumbersome for the tasting room staff; however, it was well managed. After they seated us they provided the schematic (in the image below), a written description of the wines, all five samples, and a complementary tray of cheese, meats, crackers, and dried fruits. The tasting room staff stopped by frequently to answer questions and assist us in selecting the wine that we subsequently purchased. While some tasting room visitors might like each sample to arrive individually and have a continuous conversation with the tasting room staff, others might prefer the pace and “freedom” of this tasting.

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Gibbston Valley Winery, Queenstown, New Zealand

With three different tour options (wine cave tour, $15.00 per person; cave tour select, $30.00 per person: and prestige wine tour, $175.00 per person), two different wine making experiences ($225 per person and the other based on participant experience), a full service restaurant, chees shop, wine shop with a variety of accessories, and more (http://www.gibbstonvalley.com/), there are quite a few things to encourage consumers to visit Gibbston Valley Winery and keep them on the property for more than a quick tasting.

The basic wine cave tour took place mostly in the vineyard (with a three sample tasting in the wine cave afterwards) and focused quite a bit on how and what grapes are gown in the region, the use of yards and yards of netting to minimize bird damage, a bit of history about phytophthora in the region, and the importance of terroir.

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Though the discussion included a description of what to expect from each glass and appropriate food pairings, a great deal of effort was made to educate visitors about the actual production process in order to convey that what we were tasting was truly unique. Even between samples we were reminded that what we were tasting was influenced by the “200 million year old landscape,” as noted on the plaque on one of the walls.

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While each of these tasting rooms are unique and may have some advantages that your tasting room might not have (e.g. ample space for several individual tables, authentic wine cave) it is possible to enhance your visitors’ experiences by implementing some of these ideas.

While you may not have the budget to purchase museum quality displays, you probably know an artist who could take text that explains a process or wine component (e.g. residual sugar) and create an engaging and informative image to hang on the wall (e.g. a drawing of a scale that helps explain residual sugar and how the concentration differs between dry, off-dry, and dessert wines). You may not have an overall theme for your winery, but if developed could this enhance the overall “sensation” that a visitor gets when at your tasting room? Perhaps fairies are not appropriate for your winery and tasting room, but another object, destination, or feeling might serve as the basis for your planning and tie all the tasting room components together. The possibilities are endless.

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