Q&A Thurs: How to leave A tasting room politely without buying?


Is there a good way to leave a tasting room without buying any wine so the person who spent all that time pouring and talking to you doesn’t feel insulted?

Not really. However, this has worked for my wife and I: First, she tugs on my ear to let me know we are going to put the "Wallet Get-Away". Then, she says to me, "honey, I left my wallet in the car." She leaves. I wait five minutes. Then I say, "Where is she? Excuse me." I go to the car to "look for her". Then we drive like a bat out of hell.

Does that help?

12 Responses

  1. Lenn - March 2, 2006

    Hey Tom…I’m surprised to hear this! I don’t think anyone should ever feel the need to buy anything…or to go to ellaborate lengths to ‘escape’. It’s a funny way to do it though.
    I don’t think tasting room people are that sensitive…do you? They deal with a lot of jerks every day after all.

  2. weekendwino - March 2, 2006

    Especially if you are paying for tastings, there is no need to feel bad about not buying. I know a lot of people that just do tastings on one day and then return at a later date to buy the wines they liked best. And I think the wineries realize that every taster is a potential buyer at some point in time.

  3. tom - March 2, 2006

    The reason it’s not likely there is anything one can do is because this question is really about the person behind the bar, not the people tasting. It’s possible the server might be offended. It’s possible they don’t care. It’s not the responsibility of the sipper to make the server feel ok.

  4. Rick - March 2, 2006

    If it’s someone who is an employee working there, I don’t have as much of a problem doing it as when the owner (or more likely, the spouse of the owner) is pouring. Then I feel much more compelled to purchase.

  5. Jathan MacKenzie - March 2, 2006

    I’ve done the same thing as you Tom. It almost feels like a jail break or something.
    Now, I just thank them kindly for their time and walk out if I don’t feel like buying.

  6. Murray - March 2, 2006

    If I actually liked any of the wines, but perhaps thought they were not priced appropriately or I am not in a position to transport fine wine, I will generally ask to signup for their mailing list.
    If the wines were average, I will ask for a mail order form before heading out the door 🙂

  7. James Bateman - March 2, 2006

    As a winery owner my comment is unless you have a sign over the door stating “wine buyers only” then visitors should be free to taste wine without feeling obligated to buy, just as the winery is free to charge a tasting fee to capture the non-purchasing element of a tasting room traffic and make it profitable. To many winery visitors it is an excursion out, not a mission to buy wine. For us we charge $7.95 to taste up to 6 wines, and if 2 bottles are purchased, the fee is waivered, and if 1 bottle is purchased, the fee is reduced to $2.95

  8. Terry Hughes - March 2, 2006

    James’s answer seems very reasonable to me. In fact, I think paying for a tasting may be the most honest and guilt-free way to go about it. If you don’t purchase wine, you still haven’t been a freeloader and you can depart without subterfuges. And perhaps you feel like you’re getting more if you pay (which I’d like to think you ARE getting!)

  9. Mike - March 2, 2006

    I feel no obligation at all to buy. If I’m impressed with the wines I’ll do as Murray and sign up for their mailing list.
    I am interested in what James has said also. I’m a firm believer that winery tasting can be a mini-wine school for the amateur wine drinker. I applaud wineries like Torbreck in the Barossa that charge a small fee and then allow anyone to taste through most of their line including some of the expensive wines, like RunRig ($200USD). Most of the general winery traffic won’t buy a $200 wine but if they appreciate the difference between it and the $15 wine they usually drink they may put down $20-40 for something that they think is worth the money. They may even get carried away and buy a few bottles and put a couple away for a year of two. They will almost certainly bring their friends back to drink the $200 wine for $5!

  10. eric - March 6, 2006

    As a small business owner, I would never attach strings or hidden obligations on any of the services I offer. Every offering I make is available with no strings to anyone who walks in the door and everyone is treated graciously whether I think they’re going to buy a lot, a little or nothing. It’s a simple thing called integrity.
    I have done several wine country “tours” with friends and we always visit multiple wineries and I never have a problem simply smiling, saying, “thank you” and “good bye” when none of their wines appeal to me. I do try to buy when I find something I like that is in my reach but I’m never going to buy a bottle simply out of sense of obligation.
    Don’t forget that the wine pourer has some sway and is in fact a sales person whether they see themselves as such or not. If I’m enjoying myself, tasting some interesting wines, learning a little about the winery and it’s people then I’m much more likely to buy something. This may explain why I sometimes open I bottle I bought in a tasting room and wonder what I was thinking.
    As important as the taste of wine is, I also am always looking for wineries who I want to support. Reputation and relationships, creating a sense of community, these things are important to me.
    Ultimately, I think of a tasting room as a part of a wineries marketing program and not just a retail outlet for the winery.

  11. James Bateman - March 6, 2006

    All wineries should rip off the “tasting room” sign and replace it with “tasting bar” Everyone knows a bar is going to charge you for a drink, some social interaction with the person behind the bar (at our winery anyway!) and not many bars throw in big glass windows with a view of vineyards. I would imagine that 10 years from now this is where wineries will be and the whole nonsense of tasting fees etc. will have been resolved. After all why do we go to wineries on a Saturday afternoon anyway – you may end up buying wine but it isn`t a mission to buy. It`s a fabulous (hopefully) experience that may lead to a case in the boot of your car (sorry trunk)

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