I fell into guiding by chance.
Back in 1997, I was running wine education classes and was approached by a travel company to manage a group going to Champagne – and that was the start. I enjoyed conveying my knowledge of wine to people, and the tours were full of genuine enthusiasts, so it’s easy to get on the right wavelength. Plus, the joy of travelling around the world – what’s not to like? After four years of working for other people, I set up my own travel company that specialised in wine tours.
You have to love what you do.
Clients feed off your enthusiasm, so be knowledgeable about it and enjoy communicating it. Thankfully, the wine world is filled with creative, passionate winemakers who love what they do, as well as very picturesque scenery. The joy is that you can be driving along a flat motorway for miles, and a couple of turns later you are in gorgeous rolling vineyards. Tuscany has beautiful natural amphitheatres of vines, as does Brda in Slovenia, Piedmont and many other places.
The best guiding experiences...
are the ones where people come away excited by the whole experience. For me, that was the Marenco estate in Strevi in Piemonte. A delightful family, generous hosts with wine, food and time…
Double check arrangements.
And then triple-check them. I once arrived at a winery to discover that the agent I used had double-booked so we couldn’t visit. Reconnaissance is important too, to avoid poor experiences.
Be tolerant and patient.
Some people like to ask lots of questions and others want to keep a pace going. In Spain, one client seemed to have a mental ticklist to ask in every winery – ad nauseam. I managed to diplomatically intervene without upsetting them while also keeping the rest of the group onside.