It has always been a dream of mine to visit Europe in the fall, moving from country to country while the grapes around me begin to reach their final ripeness. Europe is an incredible place, full of history and rituals that are only fully understood once you arrive. This all became apparent during my quest for rare bottles—where I found myself in situations I wish I’d been better prepared for. Should you want to arrange a fall visit sometime in the future, here is a list of everything I wish I had known before I began my adventure. Most importantly, plan ahead.
- Be patient, just about everyone is on vacation in the month of August. If you’re looking for a quick response to an email for a winery reservation, it may take a while to hear back from someone.
- Confirm your winery reservation at least six weeks in advance. A lot of wineries will only allow a small number of people past their doors; these spots usually get filled fast.
- Tasting at your favorite winery during harvest time may not happen, especially if it’s a tiny producer.
- When finally getting inside, watch what the winemaker or guide is doing with his or her wine. Asking for seconds on a tasting, or spitting out all of the contents may be offensive to the host.
- If you choose an airline like RYANAIR, where the cost of a flight to a different country within Europe can cost as little as $30, make sure you print out your boarding passes and register for your flight before you arrive at the airport. If you forget, they will add on a rather large fee. This is just one of many small hidden penalties you may pay.
- Besides hitchhiking, buses are the most cost-effective way of getting from city to city. If you plan to make a pilgrimage to one of the more obscure wine regions, you’ll most likely have to rent a car
Bringing Back The Goods
- Bringing home a special treasured bottle doesn’t have to be difficult. Try to negotiate with a third party to ship your wines home, but first make sure they ship to California. You can ask various wine shops that have an online presence if they will ship your bottles for a small fee. Wine-Searcher is a great website to find regional wine shops.
- If you plan to take bottles on your flight home, most airlines will allow you 44 pounds per checked-in baggage. This is roughly a dozen 750-milliliter size bottles, or a case of wine. There may be financial penalties if you go over this amount. It’s always better to check with your specific airline before you find yourself guzzling a bottle of Burgundy just before your flight.