Melba Allen one of the wine industry’s premier ExPats. She fell in love with wine and food culture in France and obtained degrees from some of the most prestigious wine schools in France and London. Since living in France, she has owned her own wine company, which provides such services as wine consultation, education, and wine events organization. Melba continues to enjoy buying and selling wines Internationally, judging wines in tasting competitions, providing wine industry training, and writing on-line articles, blogs and stories.
You are an expert in understanding wine travelers’ expectations. How has the wine traveler changed in the last 5-10 years?
Ten years ago, to go into the vineyards to see where grapes grow and how wines are made was new and adventurous. Each winery had a secret to be told and the curious wine drinker would travel the world over in order to know that secret. It didn’t matter if one had to get up in the wee hours of the morning just to catch the sunrise over the sleepy bunches of grapes hidden under the foliage or not. What mattered was to find that special wine that one could share with friends. Today, wine travelers are better educated, more mobile and more scrutinizing than before, which makes them more demanding. Not only do they want to know about the wines that were made for generations in the same family, but they also are eager to learn about the environment and the culture that nurtured them. Wine travelers tend to want an engulfing experience that brings together culture, tradition, gastronomy and knowledge.
What is the most common misperception of wine travelers?
A man in his mid fifties, upper middle class that travel a lot or retired persons who have nothing better to do with their time. Many of today’s wine travelers are women, between the ages of 35 -55, and who have a challenging professional life. Of course, men too still buy in quantities, yet women are more particular with details.
How has the winery expectations changed in the last 5 years?
Most wine travelers know how a wine is made. Unless there is something that is really special or particular to the region, going through the winemaking area has become less interesting to many. They want to know more about the person who makes the wine and his philosophy behind his decisions. They want to be able to feel a part of action and not be a spectator. They want to be able to give their opinion about a wine and not be ridiculed. Above all, if the wine experience was a positive one, the wine travelers are usually the ultimate ambassadors for other wine drinkers.
What role does the fact that a region is an ‘emerging wine region’ play into the decision for wine travelers to schedule a visit?
Wine travelers are a curious lot. So when there are new regions to be discovered, the wine traveler is the first to go and see what is happening. If the traveler is well received he or she will recommend the trip to others or even come back with a group of friends who will in turn do the same. First impressions means a lot, so be careful on how you receive the wine traveler. Because, believe it or not, word of mouth is still the best advertizing in the world!
Croatia is an emerging wine market. What advice do you have for Croatian or other emerging market wineries who want to attract more wine traveler traffic?
Don’t copy another country’s success story. Go and see what is going on elsewhere, learn from the success and failures of those stories, and eventually build your own.
Melba Allen will be speaking from 11:30 to 12:20 in the Istanbul Suite on Friday March 15th with a talk titled The Growing Demands of Wine Tourism. Is it really worth it?