What began some one hundred and sixty years ago, has now flourished into a glorious wine wonderland. With rolling hills spanning multiple altitudes and varied soil types across all elevations, our cool climate is a winemaker’s dream.
Canberra’s wine growing region is home to more vineyards than one can count. With over forty cellar doors and more than two million bottles per annum there is much to see – and taste. Indeed, Canberra’s wine region has been producing distinctive drops for years.
Known for its Riesling, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Shiraz varieties, the region has become a force to be reckoned with. Many connoisseurs across Australia and the world over have recognised the distinct characteristics inherent in the regions wine.
But, with so many vineyards – and so little time – what is the best way to savour it all? Well, Canberra is also home to some first-class wine tours. For the uninitiated, wine tours provide a convenient way to sample a region’s finest wine in comfort and style. As local area experts, their itineraries showcase the best of the best with unique experiences aplenty.
A great wine tour is the perfect way to spend a leisurely weekend in Canberra. The only problem is, which are the best ones? Surely anyone who has purchased a tour will know that there are good ones, and then there are the rest. To ensure you land a premium experience we’ve selected our pick of the bunch below.
What makes a great wine tour?
The best wine tours provide memorable cultural experiences entrenched in fabulous food and wine. Their expertise and passion for a good drop is contagious, making you want to return time and time again. Here is what we think makes a great wine tour:
- Passion. A smile, positive attitude, and boundless enthusiasm creates warmth on the dullest of days. Look for wine tour companies full of passionate people. From the moment you call to enquire, through to the farewell, look for passion. Passion in the way they address wine; passion in their relationships with winemakers; and passion for your overall experience. After all, you always remember the people, and tours are in the business of people. Check reviews online and tourism guides to help assess this aspect.
- Insider knowledge. What really sets any tour experience apart from the rest is the level of knowledge expressed by the hosts. This insider know-how should include winery history, the winemaking process itself, and regional wine culture. Let’s not forget the wine itself! Guided wine tastings make all the difference when it comes to wine tours. In many cases the vineyard owners will lead the charge; however, having a wine aficionado guide is a blessing in disguise.
- Authentic experiences. One of the biggest draw cards when taking a wine tour is the access it provides to authentic wine experiences. Anyone can go to a cellar door and purchase a bottle – but they’ll miss out on the story behind it. And by story, we mean everything. From tasting grapes off the vine, to walking through production, and dusting off in the cellar. A great wine tour allows you to savour every moment, as a unique experience to be remembered.
- An intimate affair. While there is certainly a place for large group tours-when it comes to wine, intimate is best. Great wine tour companies know this well, offering tour options to suit a handful of guests at any one time. Whether it be a special occasion for two, or an all-day outing for six, they have it covered. An intimate size allows guests to really get involved in a way that a large group just can’t provide. Make sure your guide to guest ratio is high for the best tour experience.
- Creature comforts. Wine drinkers of today are more discerning than ever. As accessibility to the commoditisation of wine grows, so too do our expectations in experiencing it. That is why the best wine tour companies provide all the creature comforts that guest will ever need. From luxury transport through to delectable regional treats, full meals, and even an umbrella or shawl if needed.
The best wine tours in Canberra
Riotact’s editorial team has combed through 20 years of on-site comments to compile a list of the most recommended businesses according to you.
To be listed in our Best of Canberra series, each business needs to have consistently received positive feedback on Riotact and Facebook as well as maintaining a minimum average of 4/5 stars on Google.
Run by a dynamic husband and wife duo, Vines & Wines are more than just a wine tour operator. They are wine enthusiasts, passionate about our regions finest drops and produce too. Offering group wine tours and private group experiences, their tours include a mixture of both wine tasting and great dining.
Vines & Wines are equipped to handle groups of any size. From intimate groups of two through to groups of eight to thirty they have it covered. Each tour includes transportation, a minimum of three winery visits and lunch. For an experience that lets you live like a local look to Vines & Wines.
As Sarah McDougall writes on Riotact, "Can highly recommend Vines to Wines!"
If you are looking for that rockstar wine tour experience, Canberra Limo Wine Tours are the ones for you. Specialising in limousine winery tours, they boast of fleet of some of the most comfortable transport in town. Each tour allows guests to travel in style with a choice of a Chrysler 300, Hummer, and Ford limousine.
Tours include an experienced driver and host, a private full day winery tour visiting three to four vineyards, wine tastings, and lunch. Canberra Wine Limo Tours can also accommodate larger group sizes from twelve to seventeen accordingly. For a suave wine tasting experience look to Canberra Wine Limo Tours.
Susan Sleigh shared her experience with the team on Google, “Just wanted to say we had a great time on Sunday. Clonakilla was a personal favourite, and everyone really enjoyed the lunch. We will definitely recommend you to others.”
More than simply a private chauffer service, Let's Go Places Canberra also offers exclusive luxury wine tours of the Murrumbateman cool climate wine district. Perfect for wine enthusiasts, couples, and small groups, each Grape Escape Tour is tailored to the individual needs of clients.
Their bespoke chauffeur driven tours can be created to suit both half and full day experiences. Activities include visiting numerous cellar doors, tasting of wines themselves, and sampling local produce. Afterwards, Let’s Go Places Canberra will whisk you away homeward bound.
Tina Taseska shared her tour experience on Google, “Perfect way to spend the day. Rodney was very professional, knowledgeable, and kind. He made sure we were well taken care of and was happy to work around our schedule. Would recommend to anyone who wants to have a relaxing day in the surrounding wine country region.”
To expand your foodie experience be sure to check out our article on the best fine dining in Canberra. For other tour experiences perhaps our articles on the best tours and the best day trips from Canberra may be of interest.
Your experience with wine tours in Canberra
Thanks to our commenters who have provided insightful feedback. If you believe we have got it wrong, please let us know.
Have you had experience with any of the wine tour operators listed above? If so, share your feedback in the comments below.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does a wine tour generally include?
Although each tour operator will run things a little differently, most wine tours include a walk-through of various vineyards and an opportunity to sample their wares. You host will often explain the various stages of wine making and what sets each batch apart from the rest. Depending on the time of year, you may be invited to pluck grapes and try them straight from the vine. Many tours also include transport to and from the vineyards, along with lunch. For further details, contact your local wine tour operator.
How long do wine tours usually go for?
Most Canberra wine tours are structured into half or full day tour options. Under this premise you can expect to allocate about four hours for a half day tour, and between seven to eight hours for a full day tour. That said, each operator has their own spin on things so best to check on timeframes before booking.
What should I wear to a winery?
Generally, a smart and refined approach is best for attending wineries on tour. Think sophisticated and elegant rather than loud and flashy. While this will naturally be dictated by the weather and season, do remember that tasting rooms or vaults within wineries may be a few degrees colder inside. So, bring something to layer like a scarf, knit or jacket, to ensure your comfort as you move through each area of the winery. And don’t forget to wear comfortable footwear – there may be a bit of walking involved. If in doubt, ask your wine tour operator ahead of time.
What etiquette should be observed at a wine tasting?
While wine tasting in Australia is generally a more relaxed affair there are a few things to keep in mind as far as etiquette goes. First, allow the host to serve the wine. Then when holding a glass, do so by the stem or the base only. Finally, it’s as simple as look, swirl, smell, and then taste. For some extra pointers be sure to ask your friendly wine tour guide.
Should you sip or spit wine at a tasting?
Whether you sip or spit a wine at a tasting is generally a personal preference. For those who need to limit alcohol absorption, drive, or sample a series of wines, spitting may be a useful option. That said, good wine should never be wasted, so consider your circumstance and always remember to sip responsibly.