Time to take winery staff training seriously

Felicity Carter, editor-in-chief of Meininger’s Wine Business International, the world’s only global, English language wine business magazine tells us about the importance of staff training in the wine tourism industry. She also gives a few pointers on press trip organisation and management.

Better staff training…can you clarify this for us?

One thing that successful wineries have in common is they train staff thoroughly. This isn’t just a matter of teaching staff to serve better, but also to be able to understand who the customer is who is standing in front of them. Far too many tour operators and cellar door staff have a script they adhere to, that either treats everyone as a complete beginner – which can be insulting for some customers – or which relies on stereotypes, such as automatically offering women sweeter, cheaper wines, when they might be serious connoisseurs.

Staff also need to understand the wine they’re working with – even the back end and administrative staff. There needs to be a culture of wine and hospitality inside the whole organisation. Staff not only need to know about their particular product, but also how the wine fits into a regional and international context.

For example, if an Australian winery is serving Shiraz to international tourists, it’s important they understand what other styles of Syrah/Shiraz that tourist has been exposed to, so they can explain how their local style differs from that of the Rhone Valley, for example.

The reason it’s important that all staff learn about wine, is because it can turn them into advocates for the brand or region. If they have a good understanding of wine, and it becomes part of their own life, they will talk about it in their own time, to their own friends and relatives. They will have even more pride in the place where they work, and that also communicates itself.

Who trains? It may be the case that the winery management are not very good pedagogically speaking and therefore poor at training themselves. That being the case should the winery employ an external trainer?

Not investing in staff training and professional development is a key weakness of many European and some New World wine businesses. Any staff who are involved in any type of sales, including at the cellar door, should absolutely have professional sales training; customer and hospitality staff need professional training as well.

It may seem like an unnecessary expense, but proper training will pay off again and again. Sometimes people worry that sales training will turn staff into aggressive salespeople, but it’s not the case – good training will help staff understand when to continue the conversation and when to back off.

As for wine training, there is no better place to start than the WSET.

At IWINETC 2029 in Spain’s Basque country you talked about media in wine tourism and highlighted Google as the big player. Would you say Google Travel is having or will have any impact on wine tourism businesses worldwide?

Any business, whether wine or travel, needs to understand Google search, because this is how tourists will find them. Every website needs to be SEO and search optimised, so it rises as high as possible on Google rankings.

We often hear about a wine region’s tourist board organising a press trip for journalists, writers, bloggers….Can you give a few tips from a journalist point of view about what to do and what not to do for tourist boards organising and running a press trip?

The most important thing is not to overfill the day. There are some press trips that start early in the morning and go to late at night, and then do it all again the next day. Professional communicators need time to go over their notes and start composing stories. If the pace is relentless, everything just blurs together.

The other thing to watch is over-feeding. Nobody needs to have a gourmet lunch and then a five-course dinner. Days of over-feeding leads to everyone feeling sick and sluggish, particularly if there is long bus travel involved.

You talk of TikTok as the next big thing in media. Can you expand on this statement?

TikTok is mostly used by a very young audience, meaning it’s not a suitable platform for companies involved in alcohol. However, TikTok has been a game changer for online communications, pushing people to do clever, funny things in just 15 seconds. People love the format – if you can make a quick film highlighting one funny, warm or cute moment, do it. It’s much more likely to get traction than the usual expensive, glossy tourist video where the drone zooms across the beautiful landscape and… well, you know what happens next. We’ve all seen those productions and they’re boring. Fifteen seconds of fun beats them all hands down.

Meet Felicity at IWINETC 2020. Felicity will be delivering a talk titled Turn your staff into your best advocates.

Inspiration from IWINETC speakers

These are unprecedented times in the wine and culinary tourism industry, and the world as a whole. More than ever, it’s important to keep busy and get ready for brighter times, so we’d like to point you to a few of the IWINETC speakers from past events and their speaker notes which we believe will be useful for people and businesses in the wine and food travel industry.

Access our selection of speaker notes from industry speakers and professionals to find information and inspiration:

The importance of Media in Wine Tourism or How to be Famous in Travel Media delivered by Felicity Carter IWINETC Basque Country, Spain 2019

Leveraging Facebook, Twitter & Instagram for Wine Tourism delivered by Judith Lewis IWINETC Basque Country, Spain 2019

Getting Seriously Social delivered by Judith Lewis IWINETC Hungary 2018

Integrate or Die delivered by Judith Lewis IWINETC Hungary 2018

Branding in the 21st Century: A Legal Perspective>> delivered by Evon Spangler and Perry M. de Stefano IWINETC Hungary 2018

SEO Master Class for the Wine Tourism Industry Part 1 delivered by Judith Lewis IWINETC Barcelona, Spain 2016

SEO Master Class for the Wine Tourism Industry Part 2 delivered by Judith Lewis Barcelona, Spain 2016

Bringing Visitors Back: Lessons Learned From Natural Disasters by Paul Wilke IWINETC Champagne, France 2015

IWINETC 2020 will take place 27 & 28 October 2020.

Due to the rapid spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) and the increase in air travel restriction to and from Italy, Lucio Gomiero Legale Rappresentante e Direttore General and on behalf of the PromoTurismoFVG has stated that PromoTurismoFVG are not able to maintain the scheduled dates for IWINETC 2020 and have also stated that in their opinion IWINETC be postponed. The IWINETC Management had for weeks made it known that a decision on holding or cancelling IWINETC would only be taken based on the recommendations or instructions of PromoturismoFVG. Only they possess the necessary information and specialist knowledge in order to draw the right conclusions.

New dates for IWINETC 2020 are 27 and 28 October.

3-2-1…Go! It’s early bird time for IWINETC 2020

IWINETC 2020 early bird registration is now open!

That’s right…you can now register online to attend the International Wine Tourism Conference (IWINETC 2020), the leading global event for the wine and culinary tourism industry, taking place from the 24th  – 25th March in Trieste, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy.


But hurry early bird rate ends 30 June!

We have so much to offer this year and there are some exciting new enhancements too… all to be revealed soon! As well as networking face-to-face with over 300 wine & culinary tourism professionals from across the world, the IWINETC conference programme will be bursting with inspiration and ideas to help you enhance your career and transform your business.

Call For Speakers

If you would like to submit a talk proposal for the International Wine Tourism Conference. This should include a title and short abstract outlining the main aspects of your presentation and its relevance to the field of wine and/or culinary tourism.

Submit your talk proposal

Exhibit at IWINETC & Show your grape escape destination to the World

For IWINETC 2020 there will an exhibition area for conference delegates to discover grape escape destination and wines from around the world. Participating as an exhibitor will ensure you reach the 300+ delegates expected to attend as well as connecting with wine tourism professionals from around the world.


Participate in the B2B Wine Tourism Workshop as a Trade Provider

Connect, Sell and Grow at the IWINETC B2B Workshop. The 12th annual IWINETC B2B Workshop is the leading B2B and networking event focused on wine and culinary tourism, and a must-attend for all wine tourism experience providers wishing to grow their business. There is no comparable event in terms of focus, size and opportunity anywhere in the world.

The IWINETC one day B2B Workshop is the most comprehensive and cost-effective way to extend existing networks through meeting international outgoing agents specialised in wine tourism face-to-face in one convenient location.

Find out more

Sponsorship opportunities now available to consider 

Whether you’re looking to gain a prominent branding position before, during and after the event or you want to promote your brand through our digital channels or publications, IWINETC can offer you a multitude of opportunities that will put your brand front and centre.

Peruse the sponsorship opportunities

Invited Agent applications are open

The tailored programmes offered to agents earlier this year in Spain received high praise for their focus on buyer’s needs and encouraged quality appointments with exhibitors and Workshop participants. For 2020, these programmes will offer buyers even more flexibility on their attendance and key education and networking opportunities relevant to their role and business.

Find out more

As the team work hard to make next year’s IWINETC the best yet, make sure you keep up to date with the latest news and important information on LinkedIn, Twitter & Facebook.
I hope to see you at IWINETC 2020 in Friuli Venezia Giulia for another successful year.

Need more information?

Get in touch with the IWINETC team who are on hand to answer your enquiries about the many ways of participating.

It’s been just great – see you all next year in Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy! 

Here are a few highlights from the IWINETC 2019….

We had some fantastic sessions taking place in the Palacio de Congresos Europa, giving delegates plenty of food for thought not only for professional development but also valuable business ideas and tips. Keynote speakers Judith Lewis, Alicia Estrada, Felicity Carter, Paul Richer, Andre Morgenthal, Robin Shaw, Sarah Jane Evans MW together with 18 more world class speakers gave sessions to inspire us to get to grips with wine and culinary tourism issues under 5 key content themes (Research, Professional Development, Branding and Marketing, Grape Escape Destinations and Networking

The Grape Escape themed talks provided tour operators and agents with several diverse grape escape destinations to consider such as Croatia, Italy, Greece, Hungary and of course hosts Basque Country.

The exhibition area proved once again a popular spot to discover grape escape options while simultaneously networking with fellow professionals over wines from Armenia, France, Hungary, Priorat, Rias Baixas, Rueda and of course Rioja Alavesa and Txakolí.

The closing plenary session saw Lucio Gomiero reveal Friuli Venezia Giulia as the 2020 destination for IWINETC and this was immediately applauded by the audience.

And finally…

We wanted to say a personal thank you for attending IWINETC this year, and to key sponsors: The Basque Government, The Diputación Foral de Alava, the Ayuntamiento de Vitoria-Gasteiz and the Ruta del Vino Rioja Alavesa and to the numerous supporters for supporting the IWINETC winery visit programmes and the Sarah Jane Evans Grand Tasting Wines of the Basque Country.

Before you get busy with the wine tourism season, have a look at our pick of the highlights from this year’s IWINETC. Check out our photo gallery – you might spot yourself feeling the Basque and embracing the #iwinetc

See you in Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy in 2020!

Sessions & Speakers Announced for IWINETC 2018

The International Wine Tourism Conference, Exhibition and Workshop (IWINETC) each year is one of the main events in the Wine and Culinary Tourism industry calendar. Attended by approximately 300 wine tourism professionals from more than 50 countries, it involves a 2-day programme of around 30 talks, workshops and symposiums as well as a vibrant social programme. This offers delegates a unique opportunity to meet leading theorists and well travelled experts, and exchange ideas with fellow professionals from all sectors of wine tourism.

View the Conference Sessions

In addition, an exhibition area involving around 20 wine tourism related exhibitors is a one-stop shop to discover grape escape destinations and taste wines from diverse wine regions such as Armenia, Greece, Italy, Serbia, Spain and of course, hosts Hungary. Plus, the IWINETC 1-day Wine Tourism Workshop continues to grow in popularity with more and more trade providers and agents using the Workshop as an opportunity to do business.

Register to attend IWINETC here!

From 1 – 31 January 2018 delegates can benefit from a 50 Euro discount on the current ticket price. Only 50 discounted tickets available. Interested attendees should request a discount code at [email protected]  before purchasing their conference ticket.

Eger: a Heady Blend of Bikavér & Baroque Beauty

The Eger wine region, located in the relatively cool climes of north eastern Hungary, has it all for the curious wine traveller. Winemaking wise, Eger is very well endowed and can swing both ways with equally exciting results in terms of producing both white and red wine. Furthermore, not only is the city of Eger a genuine baroque beauty, it also has an imposing castle that is the stuff of wine legend – it is from here that brave Hungarians are said to have held the fort and repelled invading Ottoman forces. The marauding Turks apparently declared that the mighty Magyars were fuelled for the big fight by drinking the blood of bull’s – hence the name of the region’s signature wine! Incidentally, the southern Hungarian region of Szekszárd also claims to have been the first to make Bikavér (Bull’s Blood).

Nevertheless, Eger is famous, or perhaps even infamous, for its Bikavér but it is slowly taking the bull by the horns and succeeding in distancing itself from the bottom-shelf Bikavérs associated mainly, but unfortunately not exclusively, with the mass production philosophy of the past. The region’s vintners are putting increasingly sophisticated and complex Bikavérs on the table from lower yields that reflect the attributes of its relatively cool northern climate – based on vibrant acidity, as well as restrained alcohol and tannins.

The backbone for Bikavér comes from the local Kékfrankos grape, which is the most planted red wine variety in Hungary and is the same grape as Austria’s Blaufränkish. The Bikavér blend is fleshed out with and beefed up by other grape varieties, including the Bordeaux varietals, with a minimum of three grapes required for the entry-level Classic category and a minimum of five for the more yield-restricted Superior category – with no one grape supposed to dominate. Grand Superior is a single vineyard Bikavér from low yields. A recent development is that the spicy but hard to cultivate Kadarka grape, which was grubbed up during the former system, is making a comeback in Eger and many winemakers have started to use a few per cent of the grape to liven up the Bikavér blend.

In 2010, Egri Csillag (Star of Eger) became the white equivalent of Bikavér. Local flavour is guaranteed by the requirement that Egri Csillag must be composed of at least 50% of the Carpathian basin grape varieties, such as Olaszrizling, Hárslevelű, Leányka, Királyleányka, Zengő and Zenit. The aromatic varieties like Cserszegi Fűszeres, Zefír, Irsai Olivér, Tramini and Muscat Ottonel are limited to a maximum of 30% in the Egri Csillag blend. The same categories apply to Egri Csillag as to Bikavér.

While in Eger, look out for the impressive Nagy Eged Hill, which has the highest vineyards in Hungary and is a pure limestone outcrop in an otherwise sea of volcanic rhyolitic tuff topped off by brown forest soils.

Eger will be one of excursions that will be part of the 10th International Wine Tourism Conference (IWINETC), which will be held April 10-11 in Budapest.

Robert Smyth

Robert Smyth is a Budapest-based wine journalist, writer and communicator. He is the author of Hungarian Wine: A Tasting Trip to the New Old World (Blue Guides, 2015). He has been been covering wine for more than 15 years and writes on Hungarian and international wine for the Budapest Business Journal (BBJ), Winesofa.eu, VinCE Magazin and Wine Connoisseur,  among others. He’s also served as deputy editor of the Circle of Wine Writer’s Update and edited David Copp’s Wines of Hungary and contributed to the same author’s Tokaj: a companion for the bibulous traveller. He holds the WSET Diploma and Advanced certificates from London’s Wine and Spirit Education Trust, run tastings for Tasting Table and also guide tours for Taste Hungary. He regularly judges at Hungarian and international competitions and also translates wine text from Hungarian to English.

Sexy Kadarka, Kékfrankos and Bikavér trio served up by Szekszárd

Once considered a cheap and cheerful but less polished alternative to its more coveted southern neighbour of Villány, Szekszárd has confidently set sail off on its own course with its increasingly sophisticated and complex reds. Long loved by consumers for its excellent value for money, Szekszárd’s vintners are now also succeeding in making more varietally pure Kékfrankos and Kadarka, which also play a key role in the region’s flagship Bikavér blend.

Szekszárd is wisely focussing on a three-pronged approach of single varietal Kadarka (including exploring different clones) and Kékfrankos, and the Bikavér blend, which come in their own Burgundy style bottles. The way the word Szekszárd is embossed under the neck of the bottle a la Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a nice reference to the spice of the Rhône, which is also a feature of Szekszárd reds.

Szekszárd is the Hungarian epicentre of the Kadarka grape (the same grape as Bulgaria’s Gamza) which came to Hungary from the Balkans, supposedly brought by Serbs fleeing Ottoman invaders. However, for so long its wine has all too often either been watery and insipid on the one hand, or overdone and covered in an oaky, overripe and tannic cloak and trying to be something it’s not, on the other. Now plenty deliciously spicy and playfully light Kadarkas are coming through, typically exuding a distinctive rose hip note.

Bikavér is typically based on a Kékfrankos backbone and is fleshed out with international varieties, especially the Bordeaux grapes, and enables such grapes to play an important role without hogging the local limelight. The finishing touch is the spice and aromatics added by a few percent of Kadarka. A few percent is all that’s needed or else its pronounced aromas can start to take over, something not desired in a wine in which the aim is for no grape to dominate.

Incidentally, Bikavér is not often referred to by its English form of Bull’s Blood any more, due to the wine’s not entirely former association with the bottom shelf of supermarkets. Szekszárd and Eger lock horns over which region coined the term Bikavér first but while the northern Hungarian region of Eger battles with different levels of quality, Szekszárdi tends to be a higher end wine. In Eger, where the Kadarka grape was grubbed up during communism in favour of higher yielding varieties as opposed to Szekszárd where it survived, winemakers are increasingly planting Kadarka to add it to their Bikavér blends.

Szekszárd is strongly associated with its loess soils and as such is sometimes wrongly dismissed as incapable of making truly great wine. It should not be forgotten that some excellent wines come from loess. These include Wagram and parts of Wachau and Kremstal in Austria, where it is prized for its ability to make fuller Grüner Veltliner; many top German vineyards; and eastern Washington, USA. Indeed, some of Tokaj’s and Hungary most elegant wine comes from loess-dominated vineyards. However, there’s other soil and rock types lurking under the loess in Szekszárd with lots of red clay and chunks of limestone in the Szekszárdian mix, with the red clay (terra rossa) clearly visible and poking through as you drive around this undulating region.

Szekszárd will be one of excursions that will be part of the 10th International Wine Tourism Conference (IWINETC), which will be held April 10-11 in Budapest in collaboration with Premium Sponsor, The Hungarian Tourism Agency.

Robert Smyth

Robert Smyth is a Budapest-based wine journalist, writer and communicator. He is the author of Hungarian Wine: A Tasting Trip to the New Old World (Blue Guides, 2015). He has been been covering wine for more than 15 years and writes on Hungarian and international wine for the Budapest Business Journal (BBJ), Winesofa.eu, VinCE Magazin and Wine Connoisseur,  among others. He’s also served as deputy editor of the Circle of Wine Writer’s Update and edited David Copp’s Wines of Hungary and contributed to the same author’s Tokaj: a companion for the bibulous traveller. He holds the WSET Diploma and Advanced certificates from London’s Wine and Spirit Education Trust, run tastings for Tasting Table and also guide tours for Taste Hungary. He regularly judges at Hungarian and international competitions and also translates wine text from Hungarian to English.

Photos: Zsófia Pályi, Balázs Szabó and Krisztina Kovács

Top 6 Reasons to Come to Budapest, Hungary for IWINETC

2018 sees the 10th edition of the International Wine Tourism Conference (IWINETC) travel to Budapest, Hungary where around 400 conference delegates are expected. With so many good reasons to attend, it’s hard to narrow down the long list of reasons to come to Hungary. Below are our top 6.

  • Be wowed by around 25 talks and round tables including sessions with Felicity Carter, Chief editor of Meininger’s Wine Business International, Paul Richer, Senior Partner at Genesys – application of technology to the travel, tourism and hospitality industries & back by popular demand, Judith Lewis, Search & Online Marketing Authority.
  • Discover new grape escape destinations from around the world at the exhibition area.
  • Taste great wines not only from Hungary but also from diverse wine producing countries such as Armenia, Bulgaria, Italy, Greece and Spain.
  • Make business connections at the B2B Wine Tourism Workshop.
  • Join the party at the IWINETC networking evening events, where Hungary showcases their wines, culture, music and cuisine.
  • Finally, discover Hungary as a grape escape destination by participating in one or all of the pre and post conference tours to Etyek, Eger and Tokaj.

The 2018 and 10th edition of the International Wine Tourism Conference will take place in Budapest at the 5* Budapest Marriott Hotel on  the 10th and 11th April 2018 working closely with our premium sponsor, the Hungarian Tourism Agency (Directorate for Gastronomy and Wine Marketing) . It’s the perfect setting to gain knowledge, improve business connections, network and discover Hungarian wines and Hungary as a grape escape destination.

Early bird registration here>>


IWINETC Updates Logo & Brand Identity

The International Wine Tourism Conference (IWINETC), the world’s most recognizable brand for wine tourism professionals unveiled the evolution of its brand identity, a modernized and simplified update to its iconic red grape coloured logo and new look and feel for branded communications and experiences. It was announced today.

“IWINETC is one of those unique brands that is instantly recognizable around the wine and culinary tourism world,” said Anthony Swift, IWINETC Director. “In order to stand out in the new digital world, we want to modernize and elevate the brand in a design that is simple and elegant, yet unquestionably IWINETC.”

The 2018 edition and 10th anniversary of IWINETC will be held in Budapest and we are working closely with our premium sponsor, the Hungarian Tourism Agency (Directorate for Gastronomy and Wine Marketing) and local partners Wine a’ More Travel and Premium Incoming Hungary to bring conference delegates the best education, the best business opportunities, the best networking events and show the very best of Hungary as a grape escape destination.¨

The evolved brand identity will be rolled out to all IWINETC communications and conference related matters by the end of August 2017.