Wine tasting and American hospitality are gaining ground globally.
By Barbara Barrielle
Memorable experiences, or lack thereof, are the key to wine tasting room tours in California, Oregon and Washington. Being able to taste wines and chat with winery representatives is something we take for granted in these parts. The better the experience, the better the sales for the winery. But how do other regions and countries approach wine hospitality? Increasingly, wineries around the world are reaching out to visitors to increase sales.
Augusta, Missouri, became the first designated American wine zone (AVA) in 1980 and, while probably not the most well-known wine region, the region continues to grow and prosper. Its popularity has exploded recently thanks to the infusion of cash from billionaires such as Florida developer, David Hoffmann, who discovered the benefits of producing their own wines for their large distribution networks, including restaurants and convention centers. Hoffman is investing $100 million to make Augusta a national destination.
Saint-James wine estate, one of the region’s originals, is now in its third generation of family ownership. Not only does it have a large tasting room showcasing native and hybrid grape varieties that grow well in the AVA, but it also built a brewery to attract beer drinkers. Brandon Hofherr, currently the company’s marketing director, says: “Our founders, Jim and Pat Hofherr We believe “Leave the world better than you found it,” and that encompasses our approach to every person who walks through our doors…. as well as sustainability and community.
There is something for everyone in the south of France
Across the Atlantic, in the traditional wine regions of France and Italy, hospitality has never been at the forefront of wine operations. Distribution to restaurants and directly to collectors was the way to go. But then mass production cooperatives began to massively export cheap wines and wineries began to open their doors. However, there remain historic wineries that do not feel the need to host visitors or charge high visitor fees.
In the Luberon region of the southern Rhône valley in France, new owners have purchased Mille Castle, a 13th century medieval castle and the oldest wine estate in the Luberon, and decided to make it an ideal venue for guests, young, old, adventurous or cerebral. Exploring the castle and grounds or enjoying the on-site art galleries and live music only adds to the wine experience.
“Hospitality is indeed at the heart of our approach at Mille Castle,“, explains winemaker Constance Slaughter, of French origin, who owns the winery with her American husband, Larry. “We offer private tours of the estate, including the vineyard, castle, medieval chapel, landscaped gardens, viticulture museum and private archive collection. » The visits end with a private tasting in the renovated 1907 cellar or at the castle.
She continues: “After a huge renovation project carried out by local artisans, we are delighted to share this incredible estate with the wider public. THE aptesians (locals) are happy to finally access this part of their local heritage and share personal stories. Guest villas invite visitors to stay a while for a Southern Rhône immersion.
Welcoming guests the Italian way
Another winery offering premium hospitality to the general public can be found in the Chianti region in Italy.
The Mill of Grace is a spectacular property that welcomed over 12,000 visitors last year and sold 20% of its production through the tasting room. Staffed by experienced guides speaking English, German, French and Spanish, the tasting is not intimidating and everyone leaves with more wine knowledge than before they arrived. After all, Italians are all about style.
“For us, the approach to hospitality is very important. Over the past five years, we have invested money to create the best conditions for welcoming people especially for wine tastings and visits to the vineyards,” says the winery director. Iacopo Morganti. “Our customers are happy to walk through the vineyards, taste the wines outside and also eat something.”
Il Molino di Grace breathes history in its hospitality and art, which is very important to the The Grace family, can be breathtaking but accessible. A farm is available as an AirBnB in the vineyards dotted with outdoor sculptures among the rolling hills of Chianti. Book this stunning property via the link on the Vineyard Stay website.
In another region of Tuscany, Montalcinomost Brunello producers do not have tasting rooms. Tasting wine bars are scattered around this charming town. Longtime producer Tommaso Cortonesi, of Cortonesi Montalcino Wineswill take a visitor to the industry to tour and taste, but draws on the very well stocked Enoteca la Fortezza di Montalcinowith its highly qualified staff, to present its 5,000 case production wine to the public.
The cellar doors are open
Down in Australia, the tasting rooms are known by the charming name “cellar doors”. At DeBortoli Wines, a leading producer of fine wines and major export labels, hospitality is key at its cellar doors in the Yarra ValleyBilboul, Hunter Valley and the last) Rutherglen. The cellar doors open for wine tasting and often have a restaurant. The wine is the star and the restaurant the supporting actor.
Leeann De Bortoli explains: “All of our cellar doors are very different as they are located in very different regions… we pride ourselves on offering warm, friendly hospitality to all visitors, reflecting our Italian heritage.
“Bilbul cellar door is the oldest cellar door – the mothership – where it all began in 1928, when De Bortoli was founded by my grandfather. It is also the home of Nobleone of Australia’s most iconic and award-winning dessert wines,” says DeBortoli.
“Before Covid, 50% of our visitors came from abroad and international travel has been a little slow to return, but this East The country is coming back, led by Singapore and India, but we are now seeing American visitors arriving,” she says. “Experiential tours are on the rise: our guests want to see the grapes on the vine, understand the process – take a trip. Gone are the days when visitors would show up at a winery door and stand at the bar to taste (free) wine.
French atmosphere Sonoma County
With wine tasting experiences starting at $80, Jordan doesn’t come cheap. As experiences become more complex and include sit-down food pairings, tours and hikes, the price can climb up to $350 per guest for something like Jordan’s famous Parisian pop-up dinner. The winery has a loyal fan base and considers its audience well-rounded “with a little something for everyone, from Gen Z and millennial guests new to wine country to longtime wine collectors in their 50s and 60s “.
Hospitality becomes the key
Wine hospitality can take many forms, but on an international scale, wine experiences are becoming important everywhere. Wine sold personally by a winery gains many things, from an intimate connection with the brand and longtime customers to an improved bottom line.