SA wine tourism ‘revolution’ praised by leading wine writer Robert Joseph!

South Africa’s wine industry was praised for ‘amongst the most exciting wine countries in the world’ last week by top UK wine writer Robert Joseph, who also praised it for ‘the complete revolution in wine and wine tourism’ in the past 25 years, says the media release of Great Wine Capitals Global Network. The organisation hosted an awards lunch at La Motte, to celebrate the South African winners in the annual Great Wine Capitals Wine Tourism Awards, with Joseph as the guest speaker.

Despite praising the progress made in the R5 billion South African wine tourism industry, with about 300 local wine estates according to Business Report, Joseph said that wine tourism should be developed more aggressively around the world.  ‘There is a common misconception that wine tourism is about tasting and buying wine. It is not. It is about entertainment and building profitable relationships. Wine tourism needs to attract more visitors, get them to spend money, get them to become regular visitors and encourage them to become ambassadors. It is also about learning from your visitors and addressing their needs‘, he told the wine industry representatives.  He shared that 9% of the American wine purchases for home drinking is bought at the cellar door.

Joseph urged wine estates to not offer free cellar-door tastings. ‘If you charge, you have to think about what you are giving them and you have to give them fair value. Charging means your visitor knows where he or she stands. Paying implies a clear-cut and transactional relationship.  When you don’t charge, the parameters are not clear and often the interaction between producer and visitor can feel more like a bad blind date. It’s far better to subsequently give a complimentary offering and to be thanked than to be expected to give something for nothing at the outset’, he said.

Addressing customer feedback, Joseph urged wine estates to pay close attention to what visitors were saying about them, by monitoring tourism feedback sites and responding to both praise and criticism, to develop relationships with their wine customers.  He urged wine estates to pay attention to the search engine optimisation of their websites, to ensure that they are mobile-friendly, and that the labels and tasting rooms have QR codes to allow customers to seek further information about the wines.

He also urged a focus on designated drivers, given the stricter drink-drive legislation in most countries.  More should be done to make designated drivers feel welcome, he encouraged.  ‘The same goes for any non-wine drinkers who are part of a group, and also children. They also need to be entertained.  Offer more than just wine.  Offer activities that will also appeal to those not drinking wine. If you don’t provide food, allow people to use your facilities so they can barbeque or picnic at your venue. Let them bring their pets.

He recommended that wine buying by international tourists should be made simpler and cheaper. ‘Instead of shipping from your winery, arrange for distributors in the home countries of your visitors to deliver to them directly. This model is being used by some producers in Europe and is working successfully’.

At the Great Wine Capitals Global Network event, La Motte was announced the 2013 South African Best of Wine Tourism Awards winner, the second year running, and was a Global winner in the Sustainable Wine Tourism Practices category this year.  Although announced six months ago already, the awards per category were presented to the winners at the event last week:

*   Creation: Innovative Wine Tourism Experience

*   Grand Dedale Country House at Doolhof:  Accommodation

*   Grand Provence: Art and Culture

*   Tokara:  Wine Tourism Restaurant

*   Waterkloof:  Wine Tourism Services, and Architecture and Landscapes.

Cape Town/Winelands, Mainz-Rheinhessen in Germany, Bilbao-Rioja in Spain, Bordeaux in France, Florence in Italy, Mendoza in Argentina, Porto in Portugal, San Francisco/Napa Valley in the USA, Christchurch in New Zealand and Valparaiso/Casablanca in Chile are members of the Great Wine Capitals Global Network.

Joseph is editor at large of ‘Meininger’s Wine Business International ‘ and author of the ‘Wine Travel Guide to the World’. He is also the founder of the UK-based International Wine Challenge and of multiple Wine Challenges throughout Asia and eastern Europe. Joseph’s thejosephreport.com is one of the most respected and controversial international wine industry blogs.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

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