How to navigate a wine festival

How to navigate a wine festival

If you haven’t been to a wine festival, it’s quite hard to understand the value of them or how to navigate your way around the room. In this blog I would like to share with you some tips and tricks 


1. You don’t need any knowledge about wine to attend a wine festival. But having an understanding of what type of wines you like will help you discover more wines of a similar style.

2. These events are fantastic to do on your own

3. If you invite friends, have a meeting point for the end of the day as you may decide you have different taste or speeds of tasting

3. You need to make sure you eat well before attending and have a plan to eat afterward.

4. Buy your own spittoon, such as a flower vase if you know that you become tipsy after a few glasses. Yes I may look silly to you, but it’s less silly than not being able to stand up! or worse, using the communal spittoons and spraying on someone’s white trousers!

Okay so bring your own spittoon may not be a tip you use, hopefully some of the other info below will help you enjoy your next festival more!

How to navigate a wine festival

At the event

1. The tasting book – Plan your day

Each festival will have between 200-600 wines to try. At reception there is a book with all the wines listed per table. Depending on the festival the may be organised by region or style. At the festivals that Tastour promotes, such as Decanter or Wines of Chile, there is usually a host that will guide you around the tasting based on a theme.

Many people like to plan their day by marking which tables they would like to visit, other people prefer to wonder around the room and choose by looking at the labels. Either way, please do not feel that you need to write poetic notes in your book. A star or circle if you really like a wine is more than enough to jog your memory should you want to google it to find out where you can buy it.

One of my top tips is to make a note in your book as to what number table has sparkling wines (as that’s where most people choose to start) and the table numbers of the sweet wines (as that’s where most people finish)

Think about what your goals are. Would you like to try something new? Or perhaps understand how a grape you already know you love taste different depending on the region? or maybe you have no educational goal and you just want to try your favourites.

Maybe you see this as an opportunity to try wines you could never afford. Some of the wines retail at over £200 and you could easily try 10 wines that cost over £50 without even trying.  Most tasting booklets do not list the price of the wine. This is to deter people from only choosing the expensive wines, but you can often tell this by looking at the vintage or perhaps you may recognise some of the producers.

How to navigate a wine festival

2. Glassware

Outside of each tasting room is a glass station. Most tastings will have a rule that you are not allowed to walk between rooms with your glass. There is usually a staff member to remind you. You are welcomed to change your glass as many times as you like during the festival. I recommend changing your glass if you try a red wine or sweet wine, then would like to try a white or dry wine. There is also water on each of the tasting tables for you to rinse your glass.

How to navigate a wine festival

3. Bottomless wine for 3-6 hours

Yes, Bottomless Wine is probably the best way to describe a wine festival, although I’m sure the producers would like to feel that their is more artistic appreciation for whats on offer.

Each table will be hosted by the producer, wine maker, importer or the marketing agent. Some table host will pour very generous samples. I tend to ask for smaller samples as I prefer to try more wines. Never be embarrassed to pour out any wine that you do not want to drink. Or to share that you didn’t like that style. It may that your table host can recommend something you like even more.

Most table host have excellent wine knowledge and will speak good English and welcome any questions you may have. Don’t be afraid to ask, which grape is this? Do you age it in wood? What is the altitude? How much does it retail for? Do you sell this wine in the UK?

The tables may be busy, so don’t be afraid to push yourself into any open gaps at the front of the table, politely of course! You can ask the table host to recommend a wine in the style you like, ask him to only pour you wines over a certain age, or just try the whites. They may have a recommended order that your try the wines, but please don’t feel obliged to try the whole table. What wines you try is completely up to you!

If you can, try to It is best to try wines in the following order: Sparkling, White – Dry, White, Semi – Dry, Red, Sweet – White, Sweet – Red (and within each category, from light body to full body)

How to navigate a wine festival

4. Pace yourself and socialise. One of the best parts of a wine festival is that everyone there shares a common interest. If you ask anyone which wine they enjoyed the most you will be able to start a conversation with them. This not only makes it more fun, but it also helps slow down your alcohol consumption. Remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day and if you feel heavily intoxicated, it’s okay not to stay to the finish.

 How to navigate a wine festival

5. The value

For me, the main value is the opportunity to try so many different wine styles under one roof. I love being able to compare different grapes and trying ones that I have never heard of. But that is super wine geeky! To put a monetary value on the tasting, if I was paying using a top up card for each sample poured from a restaurants enomatic wine dispenser, I estimate that I would spend between £300-500.


How to navigate a wine festival

So how do you sign up/book your next wine festival?

Tastourians who do not pay a membership fee are usually offered a discount code. Our paid members are eligible to apply for free tickets to wine festivals.

If you upgrade your membership for only £70 per year and enjoy up to 10 socialTASTING’s, and tickets to various tastings hosted by our partners such as Decanter for free. We also organise private dinner parties, discounted Michelin Starred dining, BYOB restaurants, theatre, secret super clubs and many more exclusive events, just for our Bon Vivant Members. For more information & and upgrade your membership visit:

We have two fabulous wine festivals coming up, Wines of Chile on 25th September and Decanter’s flagship event on 4th November. You don’t need to be a paid member to attend and we would love for you to join us. If you did want to join as a member and would like a free ticket, please join through the link above and email me on to be added to the list.

What our members say:

“A terrifc way to try wines you haven’t heard of of were too afraid to buy.  As the day progresses everyone gets (or seems) so much more friendly (especially those without a spitoon!): I am yet to leave a wine festival without new friends I have seen again – some inside the bottle and some out.  Top tip: don’t book an evening activity afterwards.” – Gary, a Bon Vivant member

The Decanter Fine Wine Encounter
Sunday 3 November 2019 – save 25%
11am – 5pm, Grand Tasting Tickets only £60 (instead of £80) use code TASTOUR at checkout 

(please note the Flagship event is typically the first weekend of November – please mark your calendar for the next one. Our code will be valid for the Sunday only)