- The €100m World of Wine project is due to open this July in Portugal – alongside the Douro River in Vila Nova de Gaia. The Fladgate Partnership – which owns Port brands Taylor, Fonseca, Croft, and Krohn as well as Portugal’s first luxury wine hotel, The Yeatman – is transforming 300-year-old warehouses into a complex of five museums/experiences, ten restaurants, a wine academy, a cooking school and shops. The museums include one dedicated to cork’s journey from tree to end product, and another which focuses on drinking vessels through the ages. Adrian Bridge, CEO of the Fladgate Partnership, says: “The tourism genie is out of the bottle, and nobody is going to put it back. People travel. So, let’s work with it.”
- Ahead of the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s Global Conference on Wine Tourism (October 15-18 in Alentejo, Portugal) and the 43rd World Congress of Vine and Wine (November 23-27 in Santiago, Chile), the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) and UNWTO have joined forces to promote wine tourism as a tool for rural development and job creation. The director general of the OIV, Pau Roca (above), points out that, through wine tourism, “citizens and tourism consumers gain knowledge, as well as an experience that legitimises wine as a product, positioning it as a cultural asset”. He believes wine tourism places value on the link with the earth, raises awareness of the difficulties and climate conditions involved in production, and generates respect for the end product. These experiences, he says, will form “the basis for intelligent, moderate consumption”.
- In Burgundy, work has started on the Cités des Vins et des Climats de Bourgogne (below), which will tell the story of the region, its wines and heritage when it opens at the end of 2021. The centrepiece will be a 3,500sq m building, shaped like a vine, in Beaune. It will house a luxury hotel, two restaurants, a shopping gallery for premium products, a large hall for receptions and concerts, and the Cité des Vins et des Climats de Bourgogne. Sister sites in Chablis and Mâcon will also offer wine-related experiences.
- In the Fangshan District of Beijing, China, work is due to begin on its own Cité du Vin (above). The $66.5m (€60m) complex – a wine museum plus two hotels, holiday cottages, a farm, shops, restaurants and bars – will be located in the Zhong Pu Hui Wine Village, which already has several acres of vines. Chinese businessman Weixang Tang, owner of Chateau BoLongBao in Beijing, aims to open it in 2021.
- In Bordeaux, Château Lafite Rothschild plans to open a new hospitality centre and wine school at Château Duhart-Milon in time for the 2020 harvest.
- World’s Best Vineyards, now in its second year, is heading to Sonoma County, California, in July to launch its 2020 list. Following the success of the inaugural World’s Best Vineyards event in London last year, Sonoma County Winegrowers have agreed to host the event at the Kendall-Jackson estate on July 13. The top 50 list is voted on by more than 500 leading wine experts, sommeliers, and travel correspondents from across the globe. Andrew Reed, managing director of events and exhibitions at parent company William Reed, says: “Wine tourism is growing all around the world and we are happy to recognise these destinations and the experiences they can offer.”
Inspirational ideasFor those wineries that want to raise their game, I’ve been looking at some of the exciting initiatives highlighted in the 2020 Best Of Wine Tourism awards from the Great Wine Capitals Global Network.
- At Château la Dauphine, visitors can immerse themselves in the French way of life by climbing aboard a Citroën 2 CV. The Heritage Tour starts in the park of the property, with a guide who explains the history of the château and Fronsac. The tour explores the vineyards, followed by a visit to the fishing hut ‘carrelet’ on the Dordogne River and the truffle orchard of La Dauphine. The 2 CV then motors up the slopes of the vineyard for a hilltop wine tasting, accompanied by local gourmet specialities and magnificent views of the valley.
- Cooperative winery Tutiac offers a tour of ‘Bordeaux’s vineyard in 2030’. The experimental vineyard gives visitors the chance to understand the challenges of sustainable viticulture in Bordeaux while explaining the research and trials being carried out by Tutiac for the wellbeing of tomorrow’s vineyard, and its work towards producing a wine with zero pesticide residue.
- A year after opening, Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey’s restaurant won its first Michelin star. The restaurant, in a modern extension at the fortress-like chateau, has a ceiling decorated with gold crystal Semillon leaves and a menu that explores different ways of using Sauternes in both preparing the food and serving it.
- At Chateau de Reignac, a feature called ‘Once Upon A Time On The Planet’ enables children and parents to discover the world of winemaking together. The visit explains the importance of protecting the natural environment and looks at the animals and insects that live in the vineyard. Encouraged to use all their senses – closing their eyes to ‘hear’ nature in a tepee in the garden, using their sense of smell in the aroma garden, their sense of touch with feathers and tree bark in the Gustave Eiffel greenhouse – children also get to taste in the dovecote, but not wine! Wine will be served to the adults while children experiment with identifying the differences between sweet, salt, acid and bitter.
- Château de Seguin offers a collection of old winemaking and vine-working tools, while the ‘son et lumiere’ experience takes visitors back to the 1920s, with sounds and images of the workers at the chateau, from the field to bottling.
- Château Larrivet Haut-Brion’s Euphoria Garden is a colourful and fragrant display of 7,500 plants, illustrating the aromatic profile of the white wines of the property and 15,000 perennials and grasses profiling the red wines.
Quinta da Pacheca has 10 giant barrels in which guests can sleep. A circular glass door leads to the outside deck, where visitors can admire the stunning landscape of the Douro Valley.
Bodegas Valdemar (above) not only offers accessibility but also inclusiveness, allowing people with disabilities to learn about wine, its history and the winemaking process without physical, visual or auditory limitations. Anyone, with or without disabilities, can visit the property in Oyón without making an appointment or booking special assistance.
It has unrestricted access for wheelchair users, text in Braille, sign language and subtitles, panels and posters with high contrast, and QR codes on the bottles tasted that give access to videos with subtitles. Pictograms and diagrams describe the tapas served during the three wine tastings that take place during the tour, where the sense of touch is used throughout, including touching the grapes as they pass along the selection table during the harvest and feeling the temperature of a fermentation tank.
‘We’re taking wine tourism seriously’
Gemtree Wines (above), a boutique biodynamic winery in McLaren Vale, believes a wine tourism experience should complement the wine. Co-owner and chief winemaker Mike Brown says: “We’ve taken the step of fully resourcing the tourism side. It’s not just an adjunct to winemaking; we’re taking wine tourism seriously and it co-exists with our wine brand. An important part of being a custodian of the land is that we continue to educate the generations with us at the moment. At our cellar door we can share one-on-one why we farm biodynamically, and people leave us enriched with that information. They can take it away and enhance their own sustainable practices – that’s a core philosophy for our business.”
- ‘Bouche à Oreille’ (word of mouth) is an ‘oeno-literary’ tasting in Lausanne. Twelve authors from France, Belgium, Canada, Cameroon and Switzerland have let their imaginations effervesce to tell the story of the personality of 12 grape varieties. These literary creations are presented by an actor while guests taste wines from the region and around the world.
- Sion & Wine Tour is one of the most unusual guided wine tours I’ve been on. It tells the history of the beautiful city of Sion, while tasting Valais wines in three unusual settings in the old town – including the Roman baths under the church and the Sorcerers’ Tower. It finishes in one of the best wine bars/shops in the city with two additional wines and a Valaisan platter. It was the idea of six local wineries.