Wine tourism has become a big business that the New World in particular is taking real advantage of. You go to Australia’s Hunter Valley (pictured – that’s me), California’s Napa Valley or Marlborough in New Zealand and each winery will welcome you with open arms. You can’t help leaving with bags of love for their product, passion and way of life.
Wine tourism is viewed quite differently in the Old World. I had a great trip to Loire Valley in 2009 but the philosophy there is different. In my visits to Australia, New Zealand and California, producers were very keen to get you to the cellar door, to tell their story and let you sample some wines. That turned out to be less so in France.
The New World approach is obviously paying dividends to the respective regions. They seem to fly the flag together, not only putting a spin on their own wines, but educating people on what their country or region as a whole has to offer. Every single person who passes through their cellar door represents another opportunity to spread the word and I’m convinced it has played a big role in making the wines of these countries so successful in foreign markets in the last twenty years or so.
I came back from New Zealand telling my friends and family all about New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and actively trying to find those wines at home so I could try them again. I had become a walking, talking advertisement for New Zealand wines without even knowing it because I’d had such an amazing experience, I was happy to have the region and its superb product sold to me.
From recent evidence, Spain is making big efforts to bring more visitors to her wine regions. Junta de Castilla y León, in partnership with Wines from Spain, is promoting its eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites alongside gastronomy and wine. Ribera del Duero has an excellent looking wine route with an abundance of wineries, restaurants, bars, accommodation and leisure facilities. The French Way of the Pilgrims’ Route to Santiago, a 400km hike over breathtaking landscape, has caught my eye – maybe next year though. High speed trains take you to Castilla y León from Madrid. Inexpensive flights are available from Dublin to Madrid.
While on the topic of wine tourism, Mendoza is becoming one of the top choices for gay tourists according to a recent article published on winesur.com. Wine, wineries and landscape are deemed to be the most important attractions.