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Friday 3 July 2020

The wine times they are a changing

Remember the days when headed to your local wine region, ready to hit as many wineries as you could in a day and do some serious wine tasting/drinking?

Covid-19 has put the hand-brake on much of that, and while many wine regions are reopening you will need to plan ahead, and understanding the new post-pandemic tasting etiquette.

Regional travel restrictions in New South Wales lifted in June and with that came a flurry of winemakers and marketers working out how to best navigate the tricky but necessary legalities of serving and selling wine. 

The Hunter Valley, on Sydney’s doorstep, is the oldest and most-visited wine region in Australia. Several of its leading winemakers have got together to help you navigate what the new normal looks like.

For a start, you can now book ahead (and its absolutely recommended that you do) for most of the cellar door offerings, and with each brand having to reinvent the way they run their cellar doors.

With the 4 square metre rule applying just as it does to restaurants, and the requirement that all guests must be seated, comes the need to offer finite spaces for tastings at cellar doors.

Paid tastings have slowly crept into the wine tourism experience over recent years, but now it’s a genuine need. With limited spots available to taste, and the huge increase in resources required to manage the hygiene and social distancing measures in place, there is no other way for these winemakers to exist. 

In addition to the need to be seated, the law requires that wineries gather contact details from a person within your group attending a tasting be that by pre-registration or signing in on arrival. 

Operators are empowered to refuse entry to anyone who presents unwell, with cold or flu like symptoms or with a fever or temperature. They’re required to provide floor markings and designated order, pay, collect areas as well as single entry and exit points if feasible. 

There’s sanitiser on hand, disposable utensils, single-use spittoons, laminated or single-use tasting lists, and no communal water on offer.  It’s a whole new world.

Our are the tips for visiting the Hunter Valley this winter from Andrew Thomas, David Hook, Andrew Margan and other leading producers. 

  1. Book ahead, do your research on which kind of wine experiences you’re after.
  2. If you’re travelling with a group, check with cellar doors can accommodate your group size.
  3. If you’ve got kids in tow, check if children are allowed, or if there’s any activities for them to do while you taste.
  4. Please understand that these aren’t “our” rules, but they are state government restrictions placed upon us, designed to keep us all safe.
  5. Arrive on time for your pre-booked tasting experience.
  6. Allow the time recommended to best enjoy your tasting experience.
  7. Adhere to NSW social distancing laws.
  8. Stay home if you’re at all unwell.

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