Before we moved to Italy we were certain that with an 18 month old and 3.5 year old we would likely be missing out on wine tours unless we had a babysitter or the kids got older. Luckily this isn’t the case at all and we’ve been to a handful of wineries in the year and a half we’ve lived in Italy. If you have never done a wine tour before, this is basically what happens. The tour typically starts out at the vines (weather permitting) then into the various rooms used to make the wine, following the process from start to finish, and ending with a tasting. It’s been the same at nearly ever winery we’ve been to but though the organization of the tour follows the same pattern, we’ve found unique aspects to each winery we’ve seen so far. We aren’t wine experts but we’ve done enough tours with our little kids that I feel I can offer some good tips to help you have a great wine tour experience with your own little ones.
Book ahead when possible: I don’t mean you need to have your winery picked out weeks in advance, but you might save yourself some trouble if you call ahead a day or so prior, or at a minimum that morning, to see if they have open spots in a tour. Some wineries prepare a light lunch or dinner following their tasting so they need to know ahead of time who is coming. Just last weekend we decided at 1:00pm we wanted to go to a winery so my husband called a few (using google maps to see which ones were around our farmstay) and eventually found one with an open private tour later that day at 4:00pm. This was after calling some that had spots open a week from then… so if you’re not set on a specific venue, just keep trying. Also, don't be afriad of the "off-season". There is always something happening at a winery year round, so even if the vines are bare, they will still be eager to talk about their wine production.
Let them know you’re bringing kids: Even though Italians love children and I doubt a group of kids showing up unannounced would phase them much, we always tell them we have kids in tow. Sometimes they have suggested a different tour time with less people or in the case when we traveled with friends and had 4 adults and 4 kids, we had a private tour. One place even brought out blocks and crayons while we did our tasting! My friends told me that they made cookies and had juice for their children at another place.
Be prepared to miss some of the tour: With the exception of our private tours, our other tours have required either my husband or myself to sometimes take one or both of the kids aside to give a snack, or just take them to a quieter room (the wine cellars are very echoey and the kids love that!) as to not completely disturb the whole tour. This usually happens in the last half of a 45 minute tour when we are sitting in a cellar talking about the wines aging in barrels and whatnot. Of course, you may luck out with a private tour if nobody else is signed up or if you are traveling in a large enough group. But considering that we’ve never paid more than 20 euros for a tour and tasting, missing a few minutes to make sure the kids are happy wasn’t too big of a deal.
Take advantage of the outdoor time: if you bring snacks or an ipad for the kids, don’t use it until you’re inside a cellar or tasting room, and not while your out at the vines. Our kids have picked flowers, made rock collections, been fascinated by the grapes, dug in the dirt, and overall had a blast playing outdoor while we learned about the vines. Just don’t encourage them to pick and eat the grapes…
Take advantage of tasting rooms if you want to visit more than one winery in a day: if you plan to visit more than one winery in a day, I’d suggest taking advantage of a tasting room and skipping a formal tour at each one. This allows you to still try the wine but in a shorter amount of time. Some tasting rooms I’ve been to in Bolgheri had large outdoor areas nearby where the kids can entertain themselves. Don’t be surprised if they are greeted by some cats or dogs that roam the farm too. Tasting rooms are also great if you can’t book a formal tour and still want to try some wines. Not all wineries have them though, so do some research on google or even just read the signs as you enter their property.
We loved wine tasting in the Bolgheri region of Tuscany. There are a lot of good wineries close together and many have tasting rooms. It’s easy to reach from the main coastal highway and you can go into the town of Bolgheri for lunch or dinner. If there’s a winery you miss, you can also try and buy most of the wines in the region at the enotecas in town, but at a slightly higher cost. Check out my post about Bolgheri here.
Fattoria San Vito - Calci Matteo has a very small operation, producing young wines and serving delicious vegetarian fare if you book a light lunch. Located in the Montepisano hills about 20 minutes from central Pisa (and about 5 minutes from our house!), Fattoria San Vito is a lovely and family friendly place
Terre del Marchesato - Bolgheri our tour guide was very patient with our girls and their wines were delicious too.
Roccapesta - Scansano We had a private tour with Genevra, one of the winemakers, and she was so fantastic with the children. We went to the Maremma region for a weekend with another family this day and had 4 kids (5, 4, almost 3, and just turned 2!) and Genevra just went with the flow of our little group of chaos. Read about that Little Trip here.
Fattoria Fibbiano - Terricciola We’ve been to this winery twice, once for a tour (led by their awesome winemaker, Nicola) and once to enjoy their new wine bar. Their wine bar is relaxing with a green space the kids can play in, and you’ll be greeted by their friendly golden retrievers. I’m also slightly obsessed with their Ciliegiolo wine.