There are many differences between participating in a group wine tour and organising your own private wine tour whether you are a professional in the wine business or simply a wine lover. Recently I’ve had a few occasions to ponder on the pros and cons of the group wine tour versus your own private wine tour (by which I mean a tour for just yourself and partner/friends, say, up to 4 people without any professional guide for the trip) so here are some thoughts to share with you.
Note that the points below apply mainly to the choice for wine lovers rather than professionals though many apply to the latter too. I have presumed that this concerns a wine trip with a reputable wine tour specialist. Also, I should say that my thoughts apply particularly to trips in Europe and are not necessarily geared to buying wine. Please do add comments to this debate.
Group Tours – The Pluses
• No advanced planning – just book and go.
• Someone to drive you around.
• Someone who speaks the local language and can interpret.
• Possibility of visiting certain difficult-to-visit wine producers who only accept visitors on a strict appointment and limited basis.
• Possibility of tasting older vintages or special wines that aren’t opened for individual visitors.
• The price is fixed in advance, often an all-in price.
Group Tours – The Minuses
• An enforced group situation possibly with strangers!
• Usually impossible to adapt or change the itinerary.
• Often slower visits, meals etc as there is a need to cater for everyone.
• Bus travel – not everyone enjoys this.
• Difficult to have access to speak directly with winery owners/winemakers.
• Often impossible to choose where and what you eat.
• Expense of the tour due to organisation/guide/transport.
Private Tours – The Pluses
• Free to plan your own itinerary, often at the last minute.
• Complete freedom to adapt part way through.
• Travel at your own pace in your chosen form of transport.
• Travel with the people you know and like!
• Visit small wine producers that can’t accept groups.
• Can often chat directly with winery owners and winemakers.
• Eat in small restaurants that don’t take groups.
• Work to your own budget – choose whether to spend more on food or accommodation.
Private Tours – The Minuses
• Usually requires a lot of planning (but many enjoy this part!)
• One person nearly always has to drive a car.
• Can’t necessarily get access to visit very famous wine producers.
• Possible language issues if you don’t know a word of the language concerned and are not very confident.
• Budget is not so easy to control.
A few weeks ago I was a guest on the weekly wine podcast the New Wine Consumer where we debated this very subject – you might want to listen. The consensus was that private wine tours win in most cases providing that you have a willing driver (someone prepared to be rigorous at spitting out the tasting wines or abstain) and that you are confident enough to tackle just a few words of the local language of your chosen destination, however basic. With reference to the wine regions of France, we also talked about whether or not you need appointments to visit, something we note for all the wine producers recommended in Wine Travel Guides.
I look forward to your thoughts in the comments. Happy wine travels!