Wine tourism (also called enotourism or vinotourism) has changed the face of tourism. Where other types of tourism are passive in nature, wine tourism usually involves guests who visit wineries, engage in wine tastings, and walk in the vineyards. Tourists are even encouraged to take part in the harvest and stomp on wine grapes. Not only wine tourism is enjoyable, but it’s also educational and enlightening, especially for wine enthusiasts.
While wine tourism is a relatively new type of tourism, it has already attracted millions of people from many parts of the globe. Whether they love wines or not, tourists are going to enjoy the wide variety of attractions that wine tourism has to offer. The picturesque scenery of the wine country is just the tip of the iceberg! If you have never been to a winery country, you will enjoy wine tourism’s unique and fantastic experience.
How did wine tourism develop?
The history of wine tourism may vary from region to region. However, it began to flourish after the California vintages unexpectedly won over the big French wine names at the 1976 Judgment of Paris. That victory elevated California wines to world-class status and further boosted wine production and tourism across the California wine landscape. California’s North Coast is home to some of the world’s most famous wine-producing regions, Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley.
Other wine countries are slow to follow suit, but they’re getting there. Catalonia in Spain, for instance, launched wine tourism only recently as an ideal alternative form of tourism to the beaches.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, wine tourism across the globe has grown exponentially. In the United States alone, about 27 million tourists actively take part in wine-related or culinary activities. Italy is also a famous wine tourist destination, enjoying about five million travelers annually.
Local wineries are eager to take advantage of the encouraging success of wine tourism. They even offer other activities that are not wine-related to lure non-wine drinkers as well. Some of the wineries function as art galleries, while others provide picnic lunches. Many wineries are housed in old castles or newer buildings that faithfully mimic ancient castles, such as Castello di Amorosa in Napa Valley, which was inspired by Italian Medieval architecture.
It is not surprising to see the increase in the number of companies that organize wine tours for guests. They offer competitive packages that include wine tastings with full meals, tours to wine productions, and free transportation. They even offer additional gimmicks such as wine train travels and even hot air balloon rides in some wine regions.
Curious and unique wineries
Apart from the imposing French chateaux and the chic Californian wineries, there are also wineries that step away from the conventional to make a truly unique and unforgettable wine experience for the visitor. There is a winery situated in a gas station, another winery that was built on a former prison, and a winery inside a submarine. You can even find wineries located on the volcano slopes and even under the sea!
Unexpected wine destinations
France, California in the USA, Spain, and Italy are probably the most famous wine-growing areas in the world. You may be surprised to find other countries that you least expect to have a healthy wine production. In tropical Thailand? In a temperate region like Canada? And even in a place as far as Ethiopia? In a Tahitian atoll? On high altitudes in Hawaii? Yes, all of them have their own wine regions! You can check them out in this article “Unexpected Wine Destinations in the World.” If you are through going to the usual wine countries and you want to go somewhere else, you may include these places to your wine tourism bucket list.
What kind of a wine tourist are you?
If you tell what kind of a wine drinker you are, you will know what type of wine travel will suit you best:
The Wine Freak –
You are an “all-around” when it comes to wines. You are a wine savvy, wine connoisseur, wine expert, wine specialist, a wine authority, and anything in between. You may be a wine sommelier, who boasts a professional background when it comes to wines. You are a walking wine dictionary who knows all the technical wine terminology, which is deemed necessary for you to stand out amongst the casual wine drinkers.
You may have traveled to every nearly all wine-growing regions in the world – both the famous ones and the hidden gems. You are the type of wine tourist who seeks for true wine knowledge and wine experiences. You’d love to read books and find information about wines – the history, the culture, its economic impact, and even the most famous wine personalities. Everything in your travels revolves around wine.
The Wine Freak is a traveler who prefers private wine tours and enjoys deep one-on-one conversations with the wine owners and the farmers. Your selection of wines must be premium, have a character and taste that are bold and distinct. You know what are the best wines to take home and what are the wines best left in the dump.
A one-day wine tour would never satisfy someone with an encompassing and almost-professional-level knowledge about wine. How about a seven-day wine tour? If you have not been to Douro Valley in Portugal, then you had to have this to your wine tours bucket list. Wine-making is one of the oldest traditions and industries in Portugal – it started way back during the ancient Roman era. The grape varieties grown and cultivated there are still endogenous. These grapes make some Portuguese wines like nothing you have tasted before.
The Gastronomic Adventurer – For you, the idea of a perfect holiday revolves around food and wine – particularly high-quality food and wine. You do not want to end your holiday without conducting pairings of food and wine, no matter where you are in the world, no matter if it is a wine holiday or a regular holiday. Your taste buds practically guide you to your next traveling location.
The quintessential items in a food-and-wine pairing include cheese, fresh seasonal fruits, freshly baked breads, and of course, wines. Even some of the finest Michelin-starred restaurants have their own backyard vegetable garden from where they source some of their freshest ingredients.
Needless to say, the Gastronomic Adventurer prefers the most excellent and the most premium experiences in food and wine, whether it’s a Michelin-starred experience or the usual traditional fare. You would also want to enroll in a cooking workshop with a world-famous chef as your master. Then, you share your wine and culinary knowledge with your family and friends while having dinner at your own dining room back home.
A three-day wine tour with a cooking workshop, or a week-long private cruise, will excite any Gastronomic Adventurer.
The Casual Wine Traveler –
You are just contented with sipping wines wherever the travel may take you to. You may not have the professional knowledge of The Wine Freak, or have the gourmet virtues of the Gastronomic Adventurer, but you are someone who just loves good food and wine.
You are someone who likes to have (often unplanned) wine tours, visit restaurants, attend food and wine festivals, and look for restful and comfortable accommodations as part of your journey. You also love the scenery and tranquility of the wine country, which you see as a perfect escape from the stressful urban hubbub.
You might or might not take a vintage home, as happiness is to be where it is now – enjoying and savoring the moment.
Want to know more about wines and wine tours?
When you’re at it, you might be interested to read more about wines – the business, tourism and the wine tradition and industry in general. If you have not been to a wine tour before but are planning to, you can find great books that will serve you as handy wine tour guides: