This past month we were invited to speak at the annual wine marketing conference in the wine capital of Logroño, in the gorgeous Rioja wine region. The conference lasted for 2 days and the majority of the 300 and odd guests were local wineries looking for unique ideas for wine tourism and innovative strategies to face the global wine crisis. We gave a presentation on Wine Tourism and addressed topics such a: new wine tourism experiences (both in Rioja and abroad, such as our tours in Italy and Portugal); the profile of the winery visitor (demographics); what wine tourists are looking for when they visit; examples of top class wineries offering exclusive wine tourism experiences (we chose Badia Passignano in Tuscany and Esporão in Alentejo); what wineries need to do in order to cooperate with agencies specialized in wine tours; innovative ideas for small wineries to develop wine tourism initiatives (wine picnics,4X4 tours of the vines, tastings set amid the vineyards, etc) and trends in the wine tourism sector. The audience was enthusiastic and full of young professionals working in Rioja wineries. Amazingly everyone stayed awake throughout the presentation as by the time we spoke it was about 6PM on a Friday evening with a mid day wine tasting
Wine Tourism in Rioja
The concept of wine tours and wine tourism in Spain overall is still in the infant stages. Far from established wine country tourist destinations like Napa Valley, Tuscany, Australia or Mendoza, many Spanish wine regions still can´t get their head around wine tourism -if they want it or not, if it will be mass tourism (big coaches) or exclusive tourism and the level of cooperation between wine estates to promote their regions and sub regions as a whole has not been strategic. The buzz word these days is- potential! We have been offering wine tours in Spain since 2003 and have overcome many barriers to getting wineries interested in receiving visitors and things are improving all the time. There is still a lot of work to be done to establish Rioja as a wine destination in the minds of international travelers. However the wineries we work with in Spain and Rioja are true professionals, making great wines and creative with the style of visits they offer.
Fellow Speakers at the Wine Marketing Conference in Logroño
What an amazing panel of speakers this conference had over the course of the 2 days! These included Alice Feiring (An American wine journalist with a huge following on her blog, who talked about the influence of the press and the wine gurus. Her book “The Battle for Wine and Love: or How I Saved the World from Parkerization” is a NY Times bestseller), Anna Riera (a bubbly Catalan journalist specialized in food and wine), the mega dynamic and supremely entertaining Saúl Mallols (one of the business managers of Lavinia), Stephen Rannekleiv (the Vice President of Rabobank International who talked about the American fine wine consumption market and how the economic crisis is affecting it) and Paolo Battegazzore (one of the heads at Folio Fine Wine Partners in Napa who gave a fascinating and straightforward presentation about the complex and intricate world of wine importing in the USA and his recommendations for Rioja wine producers.
We also had some interesting, live video conferences with professionals around the world such as Miguel Ángel Rivas (Director of Marinter S.A., the most prestigious wine company in México), and Federico Vázquez de Novoa (Tourism Manager in Mendoza, Argentina- the most successful wine tourism destination in South America). The caliber of speakers was extremely high and we were honored to be included on the panel.
Half way through the day, a sensorial wine tasting was organized for us, consisting of some gorgeous wines such as Numanthia (!!!). My my my, were we ever pampered, have a look at the hard day´s work:
Logroño- this small working wine town hosts a series of interesting wine events throughout the year. The “Catarsis” music and wine festival has just concluded, but you can catch it again next year (various wineries like Marqués de Vargas, Juan Alcorta, Franco Españolas, Darien, Ontañon and Ijalba host classic music evenings, fabulous! Another reason to come to Logroño are the tapas on the mythical calle Laurel. The idea is you have a pincho (small dish on a plate or brochette) and a glass of wine and wander down the street popping into bars as a way of having lunch or dinner. It´s fun and while here you could visit La Casita (get the brocheta de calamares y gambas), Bar El Cid (flagship pintxo is the grilled wild mushroom), Bar Donosti (get the Boletus con jamón de reserva), Bar Entremuros (stuffed red pepper), Taberna del Laurel (patatas bravas), and La Tasca del Pato (Atlantic crab). Other lovely places to wander around here include the Iglesia de Santiago, Plaza del Mercado, Calle Portales, and El Espolón.
Read about our site inspection of Rioja wineries here.