IWINETC 2014 winds up with a visit to Tbilisi. Madloba Georgia!

IWINETC 2014  officially came to a close on 2 April 2014 after eight busy days of business, insights, touring, networking and a buzzing 2 day conference & exhibition. With many delegates back in Tbilisi it was appropriate to tour Georgia’s capital and discover some of it’s highlights.

Bodbe Monastery iwinetc Fam TripBodbe Monastery Complex

The Bodbe Monastery is a large Georgian Orthodox complex located about five minutes from the historic town of Sighnaghi. The many features of the complex include a Russian built tower and perhaps more importantly a monastery with the coffin of St. Nino. St. Nino is noted for bringing Christianity to the forefront in the 4th century. She spent much time living at Bodbe and requested that her remains be buried in Bodbe. At one point, King Mirian wanted to honor St. Nino by moving her coffin to the Cathedral of Svetitskhoveli at Mtskheta. Two hundred people tried to lift the coffin from its location and failed to do so. Then King Mirian declared that St. Nino’s coffin should remain at Bodbe and had the church built at Bodbe.

Bodbe complex also has St. Nino’s Spring, where healings have occurred. To reach the spring, it is a long walk up and down a series of steps. For those with the time and energy, this may be a wonderful opportunity. A small church has been erected in honor of St. Nino’s parents at the spring.

Today the Bodbe Monastery complex is home to a number of nuns who are dedicated to preserving the site. While we were visiting we saw a large building under construction. This will be the new monastery. In addition massive and well cared for terrace gardens are visible.

Kathy Sullivan

georgianationalmuseum1Georgian National Museum

A visit to the Georgian National Museum (GNM) was an important conclusion of the study & research tour of IWINETC. In terms of the development of wine tourism in Georgia the museums and galleries are an integral strategic part of the overall stories about the heritage and culture of wine. It is impossible to speak about Georgia as the cradle of wine without preserved objects and documents in museums and galleries, whether it be national, regional, local or specialized.

georgianationalmuseum2The special cultural and developmental role and mission is assigned to Georgian National Museum, established at the end of 2004 for preserving, researching and communicating the nation’s rich, authentic content of cultural heritage provides learning experiences for everyone. It supports the care and management of the nation’s collections, both material and intangible (living) heritage, to expand and sustain access for current and future generations. The GNM unifies five museums in Tbilisi (Museum of Georgia, Museum of Soviet Occupation, Museum of fine Arts, Open air museum, Tbilisi history museum) and many others museums in regions of Georgia. On the museum tour we can get to know the oldest preserved archaeological objects, bearing witness to several thousand years of culture of wine in Georgia.

One of the developmental priorities of the cultural and tourism policy should be the creation of a specialized, interactive and responsible museum about the culture of wine in Georgia.

Aleš Gačnik

caravanserai1Caravanserai, The Old Caravan Road

The last day of the International Wine Tourism Conference 2014 has been quieter than usual, with more than half of the delegates gone on their homebound flights to different parts of the world.  The last ones who remained for another day returned to Tbilisi and were able to see more of the capital with a walking tour of the 5th-century Old Town. The buildings were eclectic, having Byzantine, European/Russian and Middle Eastern architectural influences.

The walk ended at the Caravanserai of Tbilisi.  A Caravanserai is a big uninhabited building built for trading and shelter for travelers. Merchants and travelers met there for trade and exchange of goods thus these activities were important to the flow of commerce and information in the city.

The caravanserai in Tbilisi has the typical rectangular walled exterior and outfitted with identical chambers to accommodate the merchants, animals and servants. The first floor housed stalls and workshops while the second floor was used for trading Asian and European goods.

The 17th century big caravanserai that was built by King Rostom faces Sioni Street. This was then given to the Bishop of Tbilisi as a present. It had undergone an extreme refurbishing in 1912. It houses exhibits that reflect the history of Tbilisi from the end of the 4th millennium to the present date. On the ground floor, you can indulge in shops selling different kinds of local artisanal products from talented artists.

Maria Rowena Dumlao-Giardina

Madloba Georgia!

IWINETC 2014 Farewell at Signaghi and Pheasant’s Tears Winery

The 6th International Wine Tourism Conference is not only about the 2 day programme of education, business and networking but also about discovering the grape escape destinations of the host region or country.

Our final official event was a trip up the a corkscrew road to Signaghi, a charming village surrounded by 17 towers as part of a fortress, each tower coming from one of the surrounding towns.

From the Turkish, the name means “place to hide”, but it is also known as the city of love, and as we entered we drove past the 24-hour “wedding place”. The streets are narrow, the view spectacular, and we were greeted by the locals as we made our way to dinner at Pheasant’s Tears – one part winery, one part art gallery, one part antique and handmade carpet shop.

After tasting ten wines thanks to our gracious host, a feast of sustainable and foraged dishes followed, along with the traditional tamada…plenty of toasts to Georgia, to love, and to friendship.

Entertained by young dancers performing traditional Georgian steps with immense pride and energy, alongside polyphonic singing, goodbyes were said as we all started planning the journey home. But surely we’ve all left a part of our souls in Georgia.

Allison Markin

Discovering the Kakheti Wine Region after #IWINETC

The 2 day International Wine Tourism Conference (IWINETC)  in Tbilisi saw wine and culinary tourism professionals meet for the best education, the best business and the best networking event for the industry. After welcoming the 2015 host in with a glass of Champagne, media, tour operators and delegates departed Tbilisi to start a winery visit programme. 3 group made the long journey to Western Georgia and 3 groups traveled to the Kakheti wine region.

Day 1 Kakheti highlights were:

ikalto Monastery iwinetc 2014Ikalto Monastery 

Our day began with a visit to the 6th century Ikalto Monastery that included an academy. This academy was one of the original academies in Europe and Asia. The academy was a center for learning including winemaking and viticulture. The monastery has several maranis on the property including within the academy ruins and next to the church. There are also several stone presses. Ikalto Monastery was known for being a large winemaking enterprise with numerous qvevris discovered.  

Terry Sullivan 

Alavardi Monastery iwinetc 2014Alaverdi Monastery 

We visited the Alaverdi Monastery that was founded in the 7th century and has hosted monastic culture and holds the graves of a number of Georgian kings. Due to foreign invasions over the centuries it has been destroyed and rebuilt many times. The monks have been producing traditional Qvevri wines since 1011 and we were able to taste three different wines including two from their thousandth vintage, 2011. They currently have funding from the Bagadoni winery and have both traditional qvevri wine making and new modern European wine making. One thing we have learned is that the amber or “orange” colored wines are extremely food friendly. They are so unique it is almost as if we need to learn a new wine vocabulary. Our host was very gracious to answer our many questions over the two-hour visit. The monastery also has a vineyard that has 102 different endemic Georgian vines that are heart shaped trained. 

Sarah May

Chateau Mere, Telavi Georgia

Housed in a stone castle, this hotel/winery/restaurant features free Wi-Fi, an outdoor swimming pool with majestic mountain views and onsite qvevri and traditional winery. Located in Telavi, it is set in Georgia’s wine-producing area amidst the Caucasus Mountains and Alazani Valley, which offers a perfect setting for weddings, group meetings, or romantic getaways. In addition to wine tasting, guests can arrange horse riding excursions to the 8th-century Sios Marani Monastery or 6th-century Ikalto Monastery.

Sitting in a rocking chair in front of a wood burning stone fireplace graced by hanging animal skins and carpets with southwest style design, it felt like home in Texas.  The public area offers a comfortable living room encompassing many cultures and decorated with personal collections, photos, and Winiveria wines.  Gracious owner George Piradashvili shared his Kisi, Rkatsiteli, and Saperavi wines as well as Chacha. A traditional Georgian feast was served at the onsite restaurant with some new unexpected dishes including wild cherry sweet tea, kabobi made with an Asian style sauce and green garlic relish.

Merrill Bonarrigo

Kindzmarauli Marani iwinetc 2014Kindzmarauli Marani

Named for the famous Georgian semi-sweet red wine, Kindzmarauli, this commercial winery is one of the largest we have visited in the Kakheti region of Georgia.  As we arrived, we were impressed with the prominent “library” vineyard that boasts 400 of the 525 grape varieties grown in Georgia.   The groin vaulted brick ceiling in the oak aging area created a graceful bridge from old world winemaking to the very modern immaculately clean production area.  Winemaker Temur shared five of his wines:  Rkatsiteli-Mtsvane, Kakhetian Royal White, Kakhetian Royal Red, Saperavi Barrel Reserve, and their name sake Kindzmarauli semi-sweet red.  All of the wines were well made, varietally correct, and easy to drink.  Kindzmarauli Marani produces twenty-two types of wines.

Merrill Bonarrigo

winery Khareba iwinetc visit programmeWinery Khareba

“Don’t forget the way you came from, it’s a labyrinth!”was told to me by a Georgian guy before I entered the 7.7 km long Khareba tunnel in Kvareli. Well, the labyrinth is an obvious exaggeration, but the tunnel with the wines inside was really impressive. Khareba winery is not a small family estate, they have 1000 hectares vineyards and they produce six million bottles every year, 4 million for export. They have modern, European style wines, classical or traditional Georgian style wines, and they produce sparkling wines also. After the tasting, they invited us over for dinner to the winery’s restaurant. It was amazing. If you can, don’t miss the Saperavi Premium 2010, that wine won great gold medal on the CMB (Comcours Mondial de Bruxelles) last year in Bratislaval!

Daniel Ercsey

Sarajishvili Brandy Made in Georgia.

Sarajishvili was founded in 1884 by David Sarajishvili, who had studied Philosophy in Germany. At that time, even though Georgia was part of Russia, he wanted to develop the Georgian economy. While his specialty had been wine and cheese, he was influenced by all the spirits he had seen in Germany, and he decided to study Cognac production, and to go to France to do it.

Since he didn’t have traditional Cognac grapes, he substituted the Georgian grapes closest to the desired French grapes: Chinuri, Goruli Mtsvane, Kakhuri Mtsvane and Tsitska, looking for high acidity and resistance to humidity.

iwinetc Georgia SarajishviliHe purchased casks of Georgian oak (‘Iberica’), Limousin oak, and some Bulgarian Oak.
Then he built distilleries in 3 different regions of Georgia, all with copper pot stills.
With a majority of 400L. casks, he also ordered casks of over 2,000 L, and a few at 6,000 L, which today are the oldest casks in Georgia.

The aging cellars in Tbilisi hold filled casks of varying ages, with the minimum age being 3 years. The Chief Technologist and Director of Science, David Abzianidze, keeps the cellars at 85 to 90% humidity. When asked why there was no visible black mold on the walls and ceilings of the cellars, he said “we take care of that.”

Sarajishvili iwinetc GeorgiaWhen he is ready to create the final blends, he mixes water, glucose, fructose and caramel (for color conformity), which is stirred for 4-6 hours.  This is added to the blends before a final aging for an additional year.

We tasted a 7-Year Old V.S. and a 10-Year Old V.S.O.P. which tasted a lot like Cognac. Sarajishvili also produces an X.O. and other special bottlings. At the tasting, David Abzianidze cradled his snifter to warm it slightly, and stated his recommendations for things to go with fine brandies. He described the ‘French Ideas for Serving Cognac’ or ‘The 4 C’s’: Cognac, Chocolate, Cigars and Coffee.

Harriet Lembeck, CSS (Certified Specialist of Spirits)
Photos: Tom Plant

International Wine Tourism Conference Georgia

Authentic Terroir

Speakers, John Wurdeman & Ia Tabagari expose the concept of the authenticity as a strategic platform for the development and visibility of the wine regions and wine tourism in the penultimate talk at the 6th International Wine Tourism Conference 2014 held in Georgia.

Living Roots at IWINETC 2014Unique spirit and authentic terroir represent cuisine, wine and folk songs of a distinct region. Visual and audio journey through different wine regions of Georgia help us to understand the unique harmony between cuisines, wine and music, as well as the programs of the agency Living Roots, which offers a unique and authentic experience of heritage and culture of Georgia.

polyphonic songs at IWINETCGreat creative concept and perfect presentation brings us back to essence of wine tourism. With a perfect performance of polyphonic singing of folk ensemble Diodgori, we could understand clearer and better the concept of authentic terroir.

Aleš Gačnik

#IWINETC Sees World’s First and Most Comprehensive Qvevri Museum

The Georgian Kakheti Wine Trails offer many surprises.  Each winery has its own wine customs.  Twins Wine Cellars is a sort of living museum of Georgian wine history and qvevri production.  From their family’s pre-soviet prosperity to Russian domination poverty and imprisonment, they provide a snapshot of how blessing comes through suffering and perseverance.  The twin brothers Gia and Gela Gamtkisulashvilis resurrected their family’s ancestral wine producing cellar that had been confiscated by the Russians and turned into a communal farm for the area.  It had been destroyed over time and only the pressing trough and roof beams survived.  From ashes they built the largest qvevri cellar in Georgia with 107 actively used qvevri out of many more.   Their mission: to make qvevri wines popular internationally.  Their wines are currently sold in Georgia, Japan, Germany, Britain, Russia, and China.

IWINETC Media group visits Twins Wine CellarTwin Wine Cellars offers twelve hotel rooms, four western styles and eight hostel styles, for visitors.  The more modern western style rooms come complete with a qvevri built into the wall with a glass viewing panel, which was developed and patented by the twins. During the harvest and fermentation season guests will be able to watch the wines in their room qvevri.  In addition, Twins has developed guest packages that offer harvest participation, local bread making, and Chacha making enjoyed with regional BBQ, spicy grape sauce, and fresh bread.

IWINETC Media group visits Twins Wine CellarInnovation and creativity is natural for this family.  You cannot miss the fifty-ton qvevri monument standing in front of the winery.  In fact, you can go inside of it as though you are inside a qvevri.  The door closes, a visual and audio explanation of winemaking in the qvevri begins.  We were happily surprised to learn that the twins were in the finishing IWINETC Media group visits Twins Wine Cellartouches of opening the first qvevri museum.  This introduction led us into a museum of the entire world of qvevri winemaking brilliantly depicted with visuals as well as written documentation of the process in English and Georgian.  From the all stages of qvevri production to the harvest and winemaking processes, the museum is fascinating, complete and easy to follow.

For more information about qvevri production and the wines of Georgia look for Georgia, Sakartvelo: the Birthplace of Wine by Terry and Kathy Sullivan.

Our tour had the treat of witnessing the opening of the qvevri of Rkatsiteli wine that the Sullivans had made 6 months before with the Twins family. It was like witnessing a birth.  Everyone shared the joy and toasted the delicious result.  Twins invites the public to come and make their own wine.

Merrill Bonarrgio

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Amber wines & Georgian cuisine. Match that!

We’ve been in Georgia for the International Wine Tourism Conference 2014 and every meal we’ve sat down to has been a feast.

Restaurant Kopala is no different, serving a succession of traditional dishes from East and West Georgia. Every time we think that the meal has come to a end the starched white-clad waiters bring something new. Of course there is Khachapuri, one of the forty different varieties of cheese pie – the one we eat is the most popular recipe from West Georgia, a bit like a fluffy, salty, cheese pizza.  Pomegranates and herbs unite every dish – from little rounds of chopped, fresh herbs bound with a walnut paste, to the pomegranate sauce bathing the fresh, grilled trout, to the ground walnut sauce with a hint of red chilli pepper which adds a marigold-hued layer to some meltingly sweet, soft aubergine.  Even the chips (fries), which come with pork kebabs cooked over charcoal, are crisp, sweet and moreish.

Amber wines are poured generously, cherry-hued luscious reds perfect partners with the grilled meats. But there is an added magical, secret ingredient; the view from the terrace overloooking the whole, twinkling gleaming city of Tbilisi.

The river Mtkvari reflects the glowing, organic curves of the Peace bridge, the castellations of the Narikala fortress and the orange glow from the illuminated Sioni cathedral. A violinist serenades us all evening; all our senses are satiated as we meander back to our hotel through the cobbled streets.

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Sally Prosser

2014 IWINETC Ends with Announcement of 2015 IWINETC Location: Champagne!

IWINETC Day 2 Conference round up

Wine Tourism in British Columbia: Small Wine Region-Big Visitor Impact

Erin Korpisto, Okanagan College/BC Wine Info Centre and Allison M. Markin, All She Wrote Consulting shared the story of the wines of the Okanagan Valley and how it was impacted by social media.  People think that in Canada they are cold but are a very warm climate.  They are a very small region and have used online tools to get people to build awareness.  They are too small to export.  Due to lots of online chatter they were the #1 wine region to visit on Facebook by Viator, and Penticton was the most talked about wine destination on Facebook.

There are 9800 acres, 217 wineries and the top three reds are Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon.  The top three whites are Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, and Gewurztraminer.  There are 5 viticulture areas plus a general BC viticulture area.

Social Media gave them the opportunity to create partnerships, gain online exposure, share the benefits of visiting the area and expose a new audience to the wines, food, and experiences the wine regions of British Columbia have to offer.

Written by Merrill Bonarrigo

IWINETC 2014 Round upWine Tourism Boom: The Phenomenon of Wine Queens in Slovenia

Building a successful wine tourism phenomenon in a country can take many forms one of which is wine queens.  Wine queen in Slovenia is a campaign in which women (mostly from families who produce wine) apply to be a national queen.  After being accepted through the first stage, the women participate in a pageant to prove their worthiness.  After a queen is elected she becomes the wine ambassador garnering many media and sponsorship opportunities.  This allows not only the country, but the woman’s winery to build their global brand, reach new customers and generate more revenue. Presented by Dr. Ales Gacnik and Marijan Močivnik

Written by Christina Portz

IWINETC 2014 Round upA Lasting Impression

How to keep people engaged with the (wine growing) region after they are back home from there?
Few cases show that focus on trading is very important. All community of the region has to be involved and participate, all can benefit. Tourism can benefit from wine events and vice versa. What could be a good opportunity for emerging regions such as Georgia? Possible answer: focus on qvevri and/or long skin contact produced (aka orange or amber) wines. Ashika suggests that leading role in communication between winemakers to raise the quality of such wines, to reach their full potential and to avoid production of bad wines among then, should belong to Georgia.

Written by Marijan Močivnik

IWINETC 2014 Round upA Rest Day on a Wine Tour-Wine Wellness/Wine Therapy in Spas by Jochen Erler, Circle of Wine Writers 

Jochen mentioned his two loves: nature and wine. He has been a wine tour leader and a wine writer for 20 years. In addition to an interest in wine, Jochen has an interest in spas. He explained that wine therapy and wine wellness are not the same. A glass of wine during a bath is an example of wine wellness. Placing a pomace cake into the bath water then taking a bath is an example of wine therapy.

Jochen described different types of spas for example thermal, mineral or sea water. He then singled in wine therapy, a skin treatment based on grape seed oil or other grape products. Powder is milled from grape seeds and used at spas. Wine therapy is over 100 years old when it was discovered that wine pomace is good for the skin. Today some spas offer messages with grape seed oil. Jochen mentioned some of the spas in Europe when one can travel for wine therapy.

2014 IWINETC Ends with Announcement of 2015 IWINETC Location: Champagne!Written by Terry Sullivan

Round Table: Wineries can hold Twitter Wine Tasting Events. What can Tour Operators & other Wine Tourism Experience Provides do that may be similar?

Terry Sullivan moderated a panel of professionals in the discussion of how to use social media to promote and engage customers in any industry.  Melba Allen, Paul Bonarrigo, Tom Plant, and Sarah May Grunwald participated.

What are the benefits for having a blog for your business?

Sarah:  A blog creates content that is connected to website and brings people with other keywords into her website.

Tom:  Immediacy – update constantly.  Blog is living and breathing; his blog is his website.

Paul:  Exchange of information – you share and it opens the opportunity for communication, medium for expression

Melba:  Is a good way to update info or if you do not have a website it is a mechanism to share info; blogs provide a library of references to see older content.

How can we use social media to collaborate with competitors?

Paul:  Must convince competitors that together you can do more good than competing against each other.  1+1=3    In Texas, Texas wine sales are 3% in state = our competitor is California with 83%.  Working together will yield better results.

Sarah:  Collaborate with competitors that have as high a product quality as you have which sets you apart and can draw their customers to you.  Competitors can refer to each other.

Tom:  Definitely a win-win situation.  Get to know your competitors – Give them the overflow business and encourage reciprocation.

Is an event present on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn helpful?

john&iaTom:  It is immediate, a mechanism to update, generate feedback, and engage; Maintains your presence – update, update, update

Sarah: Provides place to have conversation and draw people in.  Events require social media.  People are not even opening emails anymore.  You can share and then other people can share – which yields more followers and other people can become part of the conversation.

Paul:  Started his own YouTube show; Twitter is dynamic.  Eighty percent of all event business is generated by social media; he uses hoot suite to post multiple social media simultaneously.

Melba: Twitter, Facebook and CoverItLive tools are good for spontaneous results.  Uses LinkedIn as professor and in business.  It puts you in contact with those people in your profession, provides way to find interns, to hire, targets exactly the persons you seek.

Sarah:  Important to share content of other people to build friendships and create conversations.  Creates even broader audience.

In what ways can tour operators and wine tourism experience providers use Facebook?

Sarah:  Great way for people to visual and see what you say.  Twitter impact is shorter, Facebook has longer visual connection.  Problem is people using Facebook as a website.  It is not professional.  What are some of the limits that Facebook puts on you:  a person would have to type the name of company to see page; only 10% followers can see content unless you pay.

Tom:  Uses Facebook as the launch of his blogs, which gets quicker response

Should businesses create a newsletter?

Paul:  Suggests weekly; tells customer what, when, where events are taking place, has photos, testimonials & updates on vineyard and wine.  Feature key employees.  Example:  On a staff member that is outstanding, we did a personal story and customers loved it.

Sarah:  Her collaborative has quarterly newsletter that includes information on tours, event releases.

Tom:  Maintain touch with clients; if a new winery is opening – provides a stimulus to book a tour.

Do I really need to use different social media platforms or is website enough?

Sarah:  Global market – need it.  Cannot survive without. Trends are constantly changing and you need to be real-time.  Creates more content for your website.

Melba:  She has 2-3 websites linked together that are fairly static targeting professional market.  The only things that change are prices.  Social media can give it that freshness or new look.  She gets new visitors to her site through the social media component.

Paul:  Whenever you do a press release the best days to do them is on government holidays.  Seventy percent of media traffic is generated by government.  #1 people are home #2 government is not flooding the newswire.  When you look at social media we have 175 radio stations and on cable 1000 stations.  It is cost prohibitive and reaches a smaller audience than social media.

Tom:  Clients at beginning of his tours will go to his Facebook page and like it which in turn their friends see and creates more buzz.

Written by Merrill Bonarrigo

IWINETC 2014 Round upRepublic of Moldova, an Emerging Wine Tourism Destination by Veronika Raetchi-Tomescu

Veronika Raetchi-Tomescu provided a wonderful and enthusiastic presentation on the wines and wineries of the Republic of Moldova. The colorful slides made it delightful addition to the presentation making it easy to follow along. In the beginning she also noted that Moldova’s shape is similar to a grape cluster.

According to Veronika, the Republic of Moldova is a live legend. Moldova has a long wine history. Grapevines date back thousands of years.

Today they have 112,000 hectares of vineyards. Grape variety names include Feseascra Alba, Feteasca Neagra and Rara Neagra. Seventy three percent are European grapes; seventeen percent are Caucasians grapes and ten percent local grapes.

Eighty percent of the Moldovan grapes are export to other countries including Belarus, Ukraine, Kazahstan and the Russian Federation.

Followers of the Guinness Book of records will be interested that a wine collection has added a wine collection from Moldova.

Research has been done that shows on a satisfaction scale from 1 to 5, that visitors to wineries have rated the satisfaction as a 4.2

Another aspect for visitors to consider is the wonderful and enticing cuisine of Moldova.

Judging by the number of people who hurried forward to get more information about Moldova this was a very successful presentation. Moldova should be considered as a wine and cuisine destination.

IWINETC 2014 Round upClosing Plenary Session 

Well, it’s the successful wrap up of another International Wine Tourism Conference. Anthony Swift began by giving great thanks to all the speakers, the media group, the Georgian National Tourism Administration. He also thanked the Georgian National Wine Agency, with particular thanks to Irakli Cholobargia, Ia Tabagari, and Tamta Kvelaidze for all their help in the organization of the programme. Thanks were also due to both Kindzmarauli Marani and Winery Khareba for their wines during the conference lunches. Big thanks to all exhibitors as well, and to the Tbilisi Marriott Hotel & Staff (who were absolutely wonderful).

Two announcements included the fact that the hashtag #iwinetc actually trended over #obama on Twitter, and that the 2015 IWINETC conference and workshop will be hosted by the Champagne/La Marne region of France!

IWINETC 2014 Round upA Sparkling Tale

The podium was handed over to Elisabet Vidal, the Sales Manager of the Champagne-Marne Tourist Board, to give a presentation on her region. This was accompanied by the hotel staff distributing flutes of Mumm Cordon Rouge Champagne! Elisabet proceeded to talk about the various cities and landmarks within the Champagne region, including Reims, Chalons-en-Champagne, and Epernay, which are rich with Champagne houses, vineyards, the arts & architecture, and several monuments that are in UNESCO World Heritage lists.

La Marne houses 75% of Champagne’s vineyards and they have 500km of roads in their tourist routes, all marked with common signage of “Route Touristique de Champagne”. There are many options for tourists wishing to visit the area, whether they are focused more on the wine, gastronomy, history & culture, or eco-tourism.

Written by Erin Korpisto

See you in La Champagne 2015! A bientôt!

IWINETC 2014 Round up

 

The Excitement Continues at the International Wine Tourism Conference

This morning, the 6th Annual International Wine Tourism Conference was opened by Anthony Swift, IWINETC Director and Shalva Pipia, Minister of Agriculture of Georgia to welcome everyone attending the 2-day conference in the packed ballroom of Tbilisi Marriott Hotel.

The first icebreaker session was delivered by Giorgi Sigua of Georgian National Tourism Administration and Levan Davitashvili of the National Wine Agency as they discussed Georgia being the Cradle of Wine in their enjoyable and informative speeches.

Opening plenary sesson iwinetc 2014 GeorgiaBoth speakers spoke highly of the importance of wine which is deeply embedded in their culture through religion, arts, poetry, polyphonic songs, architecture, alphabet, script and even in their money. Georgia has the oldest history in wine making that dates back 8,000 years ago. The method of which is through fermentation and storage of wine underground in egg-shaped earthenware vessels called qvevri, which has been declared by UNESCO as a significant intangible cultural heritage.

Because of this historical importance and the big amount of unearthed clay vessels for wine making , the country is planning to put up its first wine museum to house all the artifacts that had been collected and to share this to the world. Wine tourism has been steadily growing in Georgia over the years and with this, there are a lot of concrete plans to underline its importance by developing wine tourism sites with good quality, wine routes and diverse promotional campaigns.

This two-day conference promises to be full of discovery into the world of Georgian wines as producers showcase their products and different international speakers discuss diverse and interesting topics about wines.

Written by Rowena Dumlao-Giardina

Chicken Soup for the Wine Tourist’s Soul

Georgia cradle of wine IWINETC 14After visiting over a thousand wineries in the last eight years, Kathy and Terry Sullivan realized that they didn’t remember all of them. The wineries they remember the most were those they visited at the beginning of their wine journey some eight years ago, while the wineries they were having trouble remembering were visited only two years ago. So they asked themselves, why is it that they could remember the older visits, but not the more recent ones? The answer was found in a series of books called “Chicken soup for the….”

All these books tell stories that touch the heart. As chicken soup for centuries was given to comfort and making you feel better, the books are comfort food for the heart that tells heart warming stories that you will remember until your dying days. So why do they remember certain visits over others? it is because they have heard heart warming stories that left long-lasting sentimental memories.

Terry’s presentation of some of the tear jerking, heart-felt stories from Italy, France, and Georgia were the highlights given. Comically funny if not hilarious in some cases, these stories were not only entertaining told the second, third or even thousandth time around, but left you feeling as if you had taken the same journey yourself!

Written by Melba Allen

Opening plenary sesson iwinetc 2014 GeorgiaReinventing Tradition: Qvevris, Amphorae, Concrete Eggs and The Natural Wine Movement

Deborah Heath and Jeff Vejr have been studying cultures surrounding food since 2007 starting in Oregon and then in France, Italy, Sicily and beyond. Wine makers, especially those interested in making wines with minimal intervention have been looking back to local traditions to find an alternative approach to modern winemaking. While some traditions have been rekindled, such as with qvevri in Georgia, Spanish amphorae have been exported to wine makers in Italy, Sicily and others, such as Andrew Beckham in Oregon, have made their own from clay. Many producers report that the shape (for example the Nomblot concrete egg) contributed to the taste and viscosity of the wines.

Written by Sally Prosser

Wine as Value in Tourism

Opening plenary sesson iwinetc 2014 GeorgiaShalva Khetsuriani spoke eloquently about the economics of wine. From vine to winery, from the sommelier to the final experience of the consumer there is an intrinsic value to consider. This must be translated to any visitor by showcasing the unique aspects of the country, visiting the producers and having a united message. He spoke of the 4 ‘e’s: entertainment; education; (a)esthetic; engagement. The message should be – what is Georgia/ Georgian wine/ the national traditions.

Written by Ashika Mathews

Using Sensory Analysis as Games for a Memorable Visit – Workshop

Melba Allen, of the Wine Profilers, explained the steps of sensory evaluation of a wine in this morning’s session and how to incorporate games in order to spark interest, particularly with newer wine consumer markets such as the Millenials, Americans and Asians. She walked us through the Visual, Olfactory, Gustatory and Post-Gustatory Examinations in a very simple and easy-to-understand way. Sensory analysis such as this can really help a winery in describing their wines to all sorts of different potential user groups and can help build sales. Some categories of games that can be incorporated can include role-playing, simulation, card games or puzzles. Getting your customers to be interactive, perhaps with a grape stomping opportunity, can be highly beneficial.

Written by Rowena Dumlao-Giardina

What I told Georgia and What I learned from Georgia

In the “What I told Georgia and What I Learned from Georgia” session this afternoon, Tim Clarke of Arblaster & Clarke Wine Tours shared the story how he came to Georgia to develop a wine tourism strategy. He got the call in 2011, three years after Georgia’s war with Russia, the latter having boycotted Georgian wine. This left a hole in Georgia’s economy so it was time to kickstart the wine industry and look for ways to support rural Georgia.

His big question when he began, does wine tourism start with the wine, or the history of it in this country? Tim suggested approaching wine tourism from the historical angle, remembering that wine tourism is comprised of everybody who visits a vineyard, and it should marry culture and food together. Focusing on Georgia as the oldest wine culture in the world did just that, and is key to attracting primary wine tourists who have a true passion for everything about the wine making process and its ancient history.

Overcoming weaknesses, such as poor service culture from the Soviet era, Tim’s strategy looked at specialized training options focused on Georgian traditions, examining competitors, and ultimately recognizing that what is here in Georgia is very special, from the wines, to the people and beyond.

Written by Allison Markin

Wine Tourism – The Essence of Community Tourism Development

Max Johnson, of the Great Canadian Travel Company, gave a very informative and well-spoken presentation on how a community at large benefits greatly from increased tourism. When wine tourism is incorporated into other unique special-interest attractions in a region, be it cycling, agriculture, local hobbies/industry, the overall package is more enticing to consumers and they will be more likely to visit the region, therefore supporting more local businesses. The more variety of activities that are available, the longer people will stay in the area, and the more money they will spend. Ultimately we want to achieve the happy tourist, spending money in smaller local communities.

Written by Erin Korpisto

In a World of Many Brands, How Do You Create a Life Long Customer?

Opening plenary sesson iwinetc 2014 GeorgiaPaul and Merrill Bonarrigo founded Messina Hof Winery 38 years ago in Bryan, Texas. Paul’s family is from Messina, Sicily and Merrill’s is from Hof, Germany. Their firm belief is that maintaining customers is crucial. You need to nurture the relationship and make them feel as if they’re part of the family and part of what you do. By putting your goal in writing, you’re 99% more likely to succeed. Finding out what makes your customer tick and learning how to make them happy is essential. Their retail room is called the family room, and their motto is “join the family.” Another key element is a mission statement. Their’s incorporates three cornerstones; be the best in hospitality, food and customer service and every employee needs to learn the importance of that. Last year 2000 people paid $70 each to help pick grapes. It makes them feel like they’re a part of it. Their VIP customers become ambassadors. 50% of the guests VIPs bring become VIPs, reducing the need for advertising. Multigenerational ownership increases brand loyalty, employee retention and creates a happy guest environment. Learn how you can be the one to best fill your guests’ needs. What can you do better than anyone else? Listen and respond to every criticism or complaint. Urge guests to share their experience, positive of negative on Trip Advisor. Every touch you give your customer is a moment of truth. Your website needs to be up to date, easy to navigate and effective. Your staff must be well-trained and guests must be greeted within 15 seconds of walking in. Be passionate and use your gifts, Listening is far more important than talking. Make both a good first and last impression and pay attention to your body language. Be in the moment with your guests, not your tasks. Offer fun things, like murder mystery dinners and cooking parties. People who get married at your winery become customers for life. Use social media, learn how if you don’t know.   

Written by Tom Plant

Wine as Culture. Case Study: Lazio

iwinetc 2014 GeorgiaSarah May Grunwald runs wine tours from Rome to the Lazio region which is not well-known (like Tuscany for instance) by general tourists for wine and culture. She advises that integrating wine tasting with local food and culture creates context for the wine. Create a content rich experience so that tourists get to experience wine and food, the same way that local people do, with stories about the history and the environment. It’s important to remember that people are on vacation and want to have fun and be entertained. Service providers must be knowledgeable about wine but know much more about the region and food too and deliver full immersion, authentic experiences of local culture.

Written by Sally Prosser

Wines of Georgia Grand Tasting

 sesson iwinetc 2014 GeorgiaTo conclude Day 1 of the IWINETC 2014, the Wines of Georgia Grand Tasting was led by Master of Wine Sarah Abbott and Shalva Khetsuriani, the President of Georgian Sommelier Association.

Georgia is a very old wine nation but still new in production from the 1990’s with a current small production compared to that of New Zealand. Wine is such an integral part of their culture and daily lives that it is intertwined with rich traditions of feasts of songs and poetry. With the expertise of both speakers, we were guided to an explicit discussion of each important wine that represents how unique and special Georgian wines are especially the natural ones produced in 8,000 year-old qvevri method.

During the session, Irakli Cholobargia of National Wine Agency showed us the oldest bottle of Chateau Mukhrani that won a gold medal in the 18th century in Paris, France.

Written by Rowena Dumlao-Giardina

Coming Up Tomorrow!

iwinetc 2014 GeorgiaTomorrow, Sunday, March 30 Upcoming IWINETC sessions include:

  • Wine Tourism in British Columbia: Small Wine Region-Big Visitor Impact
  • Wine Tourism Boom: The Phenomenon of Wine Queens in Slovenia
  • A Lasting Impression
    A Rest Day on a Wine Tour-Wine Wellness/Wine Therapy in Spas
  • Wine Tourism in Beaujolais, a Potential to Exploit
  • Round Table: Wineries can hold Twitter Wine Tasting Events. What can Tour Operators & other Wine Tourism Experience Provides do that may be similar?
  • Wine Tourism in Beaujolais, A Potential to Exploit
  • Republic of Moldova, an emerging wine tourism destination
  • Authentic Terroir

IWINETC Day 2 round up. Conference opens Saturday

This morning we began our tour with a trip to Bagrationi 1882, Georgia’s first sparkling wine producer. They were established in 1937, but their first vintage was not until after World War II, in 1945. They have wines made both by the Traditional method, with the 2nd fermentation occurring in the bottle, and the Charmat Method, with the 2nd fermentation occurring in large pressurized tanks. The primary grapes used in these bagrationi bagrationi IWINETC pre conference programe Georgiasparkling wines are Chinuri, Tsitska and Mtsvane. We were able to sample three wines: Bagrationi Finest Brut, Bagrationi Rosé Brut (both Traditional Method) and Bagrationi Rosé (Charmat Method).

Next up was a visit to brandy producer Sarajishvili the oldest leading wine brandy producer in Georgia. The company was established in 1884 being the pioneer of introducing wine brandy production using classical French cognac technology in the entire Russian Empire of those days. Wide range of liquids, starting from 3 years-old and ending at 100 years-old brandies, are produced to satisfy brandy lovers.

Play chess at Sarajishvili IWINETC Make sure you have a game of chess in the garden when and if you visit

High up on a hilltop, overlooking the confluence of two rivers and the holy town of Mtskheta, is the Jvari church, one of the holiest sites in Georgia. gujari iwinetcThe existing church was built in the 7th century and sits on ruin of a 6th century church. Its location is where King Mirian erected a sacred wooden cross after his conversion by St Nino in the 4th century. The church is very simple monastic architecture, sitting demurely among the stunning landscapes.

Make sure you don’t try to photograph the monk on duty as he is likely to ball at you.

Lunch at Gujari in Mtskheta

gujari2 iwinetcGujari is a gem not to be missed while enjoying Georgian wine and culture.  You enter through a small shop that includes a tasting area.  As you ascend the spiral staircase you are greeted by panoramic views of the mountains and landscape.  Once seated, the extensive menu features many traditional Georgian dishes well prepared and simply delicious.  Dill appears to be a common component of most dishes adding to the aromatics and making it all the more appealing.  Beef tongue in adika sauce is not to be missed as the texture melts in your mouth.

chateau muchraniChâteau Mukhrani began in 1878 with the passion of one man and has survived power changes and revolutions to a rebirth in 2002.  Through hard work and love, the Château has been rebuilt with updated equipment while still maintaining the historical feel of the space.  There are 100 hectares adjacent to the Château planted with Saperavi, Shavkapito, Tavkveri, Cabernet Sauvignon, Goruli Mtsvane, Rkatsiteli, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc. Each wine has its own story to share with Georgian terroir and history being critical to the experience.

iwinetc 2014_Conference-Program_v2_previewComing Up Tomorrow!

Twelve Wine and Tourism Presentations to Choose From

Tomorrow, Saturday March 29, is Day 1 of the International Wine Tourism Conference

Exploring Wine Tourism Sessions include:

  • Georgia-Cradle of Wine
  • Chicken Soup for the Wine Tourist’s Soul
  • Re-inventing Tradition: Qveris, Amphorae, Concrete Eggs, & The Natural Wine Movement
  • Wine as Value in Tourism
  • Using Sensory Analysis as Games for a Memorable Visit – Workshop
  • Kindzmarauli Marani
  • What I told Georgia and what I learned from Georgia
  • Wine Tourism-The Essence of Community Tourism Development
  • In a World of Many Bands, How Do You Create a Life Long Customer
  • Wine as Culture. Case Study: Lazio
  • Wines of Georgia Grand Tasting

Erin Korpisto & Christina Portz with a bit of Swift