In New World wine regions – in Australia, New Zealand or California – wine tourism has played a significant role for a long time. Wineries offer professionally developed programmes catering to visitors, with guided tours of the vineyards and the cellar, various comprehensive tastings, seminars and workshops on the pairing of wine and food, hikes with picnic lunches featuring appropriate culinary accompaniments – even ‘wine and wellness’ programmes – these are all facets of the wide-ranging world of the wine experience.

In Europe, by comparison, one too often finds that the concept ‘wine tourism’ has a bit of a bitter flavour, frequently associated with jam-packed tour groups, flat-rate busloads at bargain prices; visitors who – having little time to spend and even less money – are given a quickie tasting of a perfunctory wine selection, then shepherded into an overcrowded local joint to be fed on fare of middling quality.

We’ve got to ask: will the younger consumers’ desire for a more individualistic experience improve this situation in the future? How should centrally located wine producers anticipate development? And what about wineries located further off the beaten path? How should regional tourism authorities plan for the future? Do professionally designed tour packages only polish up the image of a wine estate, or might they contribute to a viable business model? Can the ‘new’ wine tourism compensate for many years of diminishing cellar-door sales?

 

Three speakers for wine tourism

One can easily infer the importance of these questions for the future of the wine sector from the fact that there are no fewer than three expert presentations on themes concerning wine tourism being offered at the wine conference MUST – Fermenting Ideas: Felicity Carter, Mariette du Toit-Helmbold and Natalia Velikova.