“Lynsey’s Hen Do” by Alexa_waugh
5 of 5 stars. Reviewed May 21, 2014 NEW
I booked this wine tour for my sister’s Hen Party and I cannot recommend it enough. We arrived to a beautiful welcome, followed by a brilliant tour of the vine yard and the winery. It was very informative and Joe was excellent with the group of women asking lots of questions… and drinking quicker than he could fill the glasses! After sitting outside with a glass of wine, we went in for lunch and the food was incredible. the wine was free flowing and the dining experience was relaxed. Joe and Liz joined us for drinks and we couldn’t have had a better time. the only disappointment was having to leave the few bottles of wine we purchased because we couldn’t carry them in hand luggage. I cannot express how highly i recommend the tour. If you are looking for info on wine, to drink lots of wine, to see the workings of a small business, taste amazing food and drink more wine… then i throughly recommend you book this tour. Plus you can stay there too so no excuse for having to drive!
note: This post is written as advice for winemakers offering tours. If you are looking to participate in a wine tour, you can learn about our winery visits and wine tastings.
By looking at feedback we receive from our clients through social media and review sites like TripAdvisor, we’ve learned a surprising lesson about the top priorities for travelers visiting a winery. Almost all reviews highlight a casual, relaxed and welcoming atmosphere.
TripAdvisor reviews about hospitality and atmosphere
“Joe, Liz and Ryan are excellent hosts, and we all immediately felt relaxed in their company.”
“The O’Connell family is warm, friendly, and kind.”
“Ryan: some guy JUST LIKE ME, yet with an encyclopediac knowledge and passionate interest in grapes (and all that goes one with them!). There is no pretension or snobbery here – just big smiles and AMAZING wine.”
“Ryan, Joe and Liz made us truly welcome”
“As well as the gorgeous wine the other outstanding thing at O’Vineyards is the great hospitality and wonderful food.”
“Instantly I felt at home.”
“Then we relaxed in the cellar”
“Not to worry”
“The owners Liz and Joe were so friendly and inviting. From the moment we arrived we were greeted with smiles and friendliness.”
“C’était une très agréable visite pour nous, surtout parce que nous n’étions pas les seuls à nous amuser–eux aussi!”
A recurring theme that leaps out of our reviews is a focus on feeling relaxed, welcomed, and unpretentious. Some reviews include detailed accounts of visiting the winery, tasting from barrels, looking at vines, and other more technical aspects of the tour. But virtually all the reviews talk about atmosphere, hospitality, friendliness, relaxing, and so on.
This was an exceptionally important realization. We were very focused on providing good information, great wine, good tasting conditions, and so on. Of course, these things are important, but we now learn that putting your guests at ease is even more crucial. The wine doesn’t have to be at exactly 17 degrees centigrade and served in finest crystal. But you do have to be smiling, welcoming, and fun to be around.
Quality of food and wine
All that said, it is really important that the wine tastes great. The quality of the wine is mentioned in virtually every review. And literally everybody who ate my mom’s cooking at the end of the tour has mentioned how good she is in the kitchen. So food is exceptionally important.
Don’t be pretentious
The point of this post is to share surprising lessons from TripAdvisor reviews. We’re not surprised that people want good food and wine.
We were sort of surprised at how much of the reviews are devoted to explaining that we are nice people. Being friendly and unpretentious is super-important!
Since I know a lot of really friendly people in the wine trade, and because I’m pretty confident about my wine knowledge, I had forgotten how intimidating this world is. And a lot of our visitors share horror stories about visiting wineries and wine shops where the wine tasted great but the service was awful. Usually these stories focus around a person who clearly knows a lot about wine and serves delicious wine, but treats the visitors like dirt just because they’re not as knowledagable or rolls their eyes at simple questions. And even if these stories constitute a minority of wine experiences, they scare people to death!
A quick look at our reviews reveals that people are really worried that the atmosphere won’t be relaxed or welcoming. And so they are very pleased to discover it is!
So don’t be a jerk! Smile a lot. Remember that nobody is born knowing a lot about wine. And even very well educated people don’t know everything. And smile again. Your guests will appreciate it!
More practical advice
Aside from smiling, there are a few things we’ve started doing differently because of this discovery.
Communicate on the fact that our wine tour isn’t for snobs.
Feature customer testimonial from people who say “this was my first winery tour and…”
Feature customer testimonial with words like “welcoming” and “relaxed”
When guests arrive, put them at ease
Tell them to interrupt you
Insist that they can ask questions
Look at everybody in the group while you talk, even (especially?) children
Don’t get too distracted by technical elements of the tour – if serving the wine at just the right temperature in a specific type of glass is impossible, don’t worry. Never neglect your guests to attend to some detail they don’t even care about.
Small doses of self-effacing humor help, but don’t get too morose
If you’re too busy to give a good tour, let your guests know beforehand. Explain what’s going on and ask if they’ll put up with these circumstances. Offer them a free glass of wine if they’re unhappy. Small groups are generally willing to wait fifteen minutes if it’s with free wine. 🙂
We were already doing simple stuff like smiling and being nice. But taking these extra steps has resulted in even better feedback and even happier visitors. And I assume this is how we got so well ranked on TripAdvisor!
On the 4th of July, I returned from the UK (a daring reenactment of American Independence Day ;D). I had just completed a massive UK wine tour with my UK importerNaked Wines. Looking back, I can’t believe how much fun it was.
Fun, laid back tastings
One important element of the fun is that Naked Wines doesn’t take itself too seriously. Customers could pour their own glasses of wine. This might seem like a small thing, but it’s really important. All too often, tastings get this artificial feeling where winemakers or professionals stand on one side of the table and tasters stand on the other side. This artificial divide really dampens the mood. Plus I always feel like I’m in a zoo, being stared at. And tasters often feel that they are asking permission for the wine.
I much prefer the free and open tasting where everybody’s equal. Anybody can pour a bottle. And winemakers can switch to the other side of the table if we so desire!
Innovative Formats & Weird locations
We also had fun doing weird tastings. I’ve talked about our guerilla pop up wine tastings before. The general idea is to play with the wine tasting format and spice it up. We try to make wine less scary and more fun while bringing the delicious fruits of our labor to as many new markets as possible.
And we also had some wacky locations like the Royal Arms Museum. I still think it’s a miracle nobody tried to get on a horse or swing a halberd at a winemaker.
Meeting Angels & Vineshare Owners
Another crucial part of the tour was meeting Angels. O’Vineyards couldn’t exist if it weren’t for all the support of the Naked Wines Angels. And we only know a few of them (the more talkative ones). This tour was an opportunity to meet several hundred angels whose contributions allow me to continue making wine!
Some of the angel encounters were especially exciting since we just launched our new vineyard share program. 100 Angels have rented vines near mine and are paying me to take care of the parcel and make their wines. I got to meet about a dozen of these angels in person for the first time. 🙂
There was always this terrifying moment when the investor first tasted my wine. Thankfully, they all loved it! And here’s a video commentary from one of the angels/investors who had just met me for the first time.
Meeting other winemakers
I got to meet a lot of other winemakers during the tour too. I honestly expected more violence and argument between the winemakers. But they’re all really great people to hang out with. It’s clear that Naked Wines hires based on personality as well as quality of wine. And that makes sense because ultimately, we all have to be able to interface with their clients on the website’s social network as well as in tastings like these!
It’s also cool to taste so many of the most popular wines on the site. It gives me real perspective into what angels love. And that helps inform my winemaking decisions at the vineyard.
Being Part of a Movement
Whenever I see something like this photo of some of the dadaists and constructivists in the early twentieth century all meeting together to take goofy photos… I think it must have been crazy to live at that time. To be surrounded by all that talent and energy.
Toward the end of tour, as all the winemakers and naked staff sat around the dinner table, I felt like I was living in one of those special moments. Like I’m part of a really important movement. All I’m doing is making wine, but I belong to this big group of people who might be changing the way the wine and food world work. I don’t know how important it really is, but it sure feels important.
It feels great.
How to find us
Domaine O’Vineyards, located in the North Arrondissement of Carcassonne, is just minutes from the Carcassonne train station, the Medieval City, and the Carcassonne Airport.
GPS coordinates: 43.259622, 2.340387
Wine, Dine, Relax at our Boutique Vineyard
Unique thing to do in Carcassonne
Wine Cellar. Winery Visits. Wine Tasting.
Wine & Food Pairing
North Arrondissement of Carcassonne
885 Avenue de la Montagne Noire
11620 Villemoustaussou, France
Tel: +33(0) 630 189 910
Best by GPS.
Follow the signs to Mazamet/ Villemoustaussou using the D118. At the end of the last straight part of D118, you will come to a roundabout with the Dyneff gas station.
Take the exit towards Pennautier. Continue 500m to a small roundabout and go straight over.
Look out for the second road on your right, Avenue des Cévennes which curves up hill (about 1km) to Avenue de la Montagne Noire on the left.
At the last juction, bear left. the road sign “Ave de la Montagne Noire” (confusing as it seems to show a right turn)
After another 500m you will see our red brick color building in the middle of the vines.