Jan 11, 2012

Big or Small, does size matter?

We have had this discussion a number of times while consuming copious amounts of wine (not all at once, the conversation that is). Where are the best tastings to be experienced. Is it from major corporate wineries or husband and wife wineries, millions of cases to hundreds of case?. What makes for the best wine tasting experience? Do you go to a large winery or a small winery? Wineries come in all shapes and sizes, and while many feel its all about the small wineries, we recon you can't fully experience wine tasting without stopping in at some of the big name wineries as well. Now not all big name wineries are owned by international corporations, some are just successful multi generational family wineries that have earned their size.

Take a tour through one of the big production wineries, try a wine and food pairing, maybe even indulge in a little caviar to go with your tasting. This is one of the areas that a large outfit can better cater to the lavish over the top kind of tasting because of their size. They have the resources to provide the Caviar and Champagne deam type of experience more readily than a small Mum and Dad size shop.You can of course take the time to uncover a small tasting room and meet the owner/winemaker and hear the stories of their struggles and celebrate their success. Both offer unique experiences and neither should be excluded. At least that's our belief! Although we both tend towards the more personalized experience that a smaller winery offers, we also appreciate the wonderful pampering and grandiose experience of the larger more opulent wineries as well.

We have visited both by choice and have a relatively even balance as it turns out. One thing to be aware of is that some of the cellar doors that look like small producers are actually producing tens of thousands of cases. Again this is not a condemnation or criticism, just a point that sometimes its often hard to tell the difference. Who knew?

Actually meeting and talking with the people who day in and day out have their hands on all aspects of a winery, offers some very in depth up close and often times humorous insights, into what goes into getting their wine to your glass. This is also a nice way to put some faces to your wine purchase and often then allows for the repeating of some of those insider stories with those you share your wine with, and appear more poncey, er we mean knowledgeable! It is also a way to connect at a more personal level that can become a long term place to get your wine from.

The flip side of the small winery is the grandiose palace that offers a luxury experience and makes one feel part of the 1%. Let's face it, its not that bad being catered to with fine wines and food with all the trappings of the rich and famous. As a bonus some of these places are visually stunning and offer beautiful buildings and landscapes to enjoy. Often times they have good or even great wine. Some of the best wine we have ever had come from this type of winery. The facility tours can be awe inspiring when you look at the amount invested in infrastructure and equipment, let alone the costs of all that new oak and then the value of the maturing wine.
The prices for all this decadence varies as much as the qualities of the experiences and it is all about what you feel is worth it. Also these adventures vary based on the day. Having had a magical experience at one ostentatious tasting room one New Years day a couple of years ago Koala took Kiwi and some friends back a few months later and was a bit disappointed. Paid for the more expensive experience and receiving something less enjoyable. Just goes to show that even those with elevated social status such as us, swing and miss occasionally and why recommendations are just that. No guaranties!

So whether you want a large winery experience or a small intimate one is up to you. Mostly the experience comes down to the people you interact with, so whether it's big or small may not matter. We are going to try to balance the places we go and experience all the wine world has to offer and to give everyone something to follow.

Happy Tasting Adventures,


Kiwi & Koala


  1. Maybe you guys could do a couple comparisons from a particular area.

  2. Comparisons would be really cool to read about. I like this article because I've been to both kinds of wineries as well and I always chalk it up to what kind experience I had which can depend solely on the people serving that say sometimes.


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