Gastrodiplomacy in Wine Tourism

Historically, food has connected people across cultural and geographical distances and boundaries, going back to the ancient trade routes based on commodities such as nuts, grapes, spices, coffee and sugar. Tourism also links peoples and nations, playing a role in the building of national identity. IWINETC 2019 speaker Irina Gusinskaya takes us on an informative tour of Gastrodiplomacy.

Gastrodiplomacy – what’s that?

There are few aspects as deeply or uniquely tied to culture, history, or geography as cuisine. Food is a tangible tie to our respective histories, and serves as a medium to share our unique cultures. The subject of gastrodiplomacy is exactly that: how to use food to communicate culture in any context.

The concept is ancient, but the terminology is relatively new. The term gastrodiplomacy was first used in an Economist article on Thailand’s public diplomacy campaign to promote its food and culinary art to the world. Since then, gastrodiplomacy’s popularity has spread rapidly. In gastrodiplomacy, nations use food as a part of their efforts to promote their cultures, build their images, globalize their food industries, attract foreign tourists, and build relations with foreign publics — at the same time strengthening their national identity and pride. The actors are no longer limited to state politicians and their chefs but include food corporations, celebrity chefs, tourist agencies, public relations firms, public diplomacy practitioners, TV cooking shows, and social media.

Can you give us a couple of countries or case studies where Gastrodiplomacy is happening?

The region in which the most work has been done is South-East Asia, but there have been projects in other parts of the world, including South America (especially Peru), Europe and the United States. Apart from culinary nation-branding initiatives, there are other practical applications of culinary diplomacy that are performed by the mere citizens.

Gastrodiplomacy is a manner of creating greater soft power — the power of influence, by making distinct culture more attractive through better understanding of all the culture entails. For countries like Peru and South Korea, the benefits of gastrodiplomacy have been profound as each respective nation’s cuisine has topped the charts of the popular food trend lists.

Gastrodiplomacy helps under-recognized nation brands such as Taiwan or Korea, among others, to attract broader international attention for their culture through their cuisine, and thus indirectly enhance their soft power. Or it can help great powers like the USA ‘soften’ their image. And of course, it is an excellent means to boost economic development and improve the social situation and national self-awareness for countries like Peru. In the case of each nation, the cultural narrative acted as a cohesive social force, uniting neighbourhoods, villages, regions, and the nation, offering a sense of belonging and pride. The private, public and civil sectors have the capability to resurrect the positive narrative through a systematic approach to national gastronomy. As a relatively new discipline, gastrodiplomacy has already proven itself effective as a soft power instrument of public diplomacy. Its importance is highlighted by the general trend of globalisation, where it is becoming more difficult, especially for smaller countries, to showcase their national identity. It has the potential to reshape public diplomacy through its promotion of gastronomic exchange between nations, as well as its strengthening of cultures through accentuating a sense of pride for nationals. The number of ways in which a nation —and each citizen — can utilize gastrodiplomacy is endless.

What would you say are the conditions that a destination should have to make Gastrodiplomacy a success?

The most popular gastrodiplomacy strategies: quality, evidence-based content creation and storytelling, media strategy, brand ambassadors, fighting for official recognition, food and wine festivals, affiliations, agricultural product marketing, specific education, social and economic measures…

But the recipe of success requires only 5 quintessential ingredients:

  1. Consolidate the forces and create a powerful lobby.
  2. Include gastronomy in as many of the actions of the destination as possible.
  3. Reinvest profits and constantly improve the quality of the experience and guarantee it.
  4. Do not overdo it: nationalist ideas do not lead to anything good.
  5. Measure the results and correct the strategy respectively.

Food and wine seem to go hand in hand yet we hear about food tours and wine tours – are these two different types of tourism?

Definitely not. Wine is a part of gastronomy and should not be considered separately. At least if we want people to understand not only this wine in a glass but all the history and landscape required to make it.

Keep up to date with the wine and culinary tourism industry at the next International Wine Tourism Conference (IWINETC)

About Irina

Irina Gusinskaya — food, wine and tourism expert but still meticulous editor, enthusiastic publisher, accomplished blogger with 15+ years experience. For the last 7 years I’ve been working as deputy editor-in-chief in Alpina Publisher. (A short article about my publisher’s alter ego can be found here.)

In 2016 I moved to Spain to turn my passion into a new profession — to study the Master of Food Tourism in Basque Culinary Center, and the next year my Master thesis won the Gourmand Award in two nominations — Innovative and Embassies. You can download the whole thesis in Spanish here.

Since that time I’ve also become a certified sommelier and spirits master (Madrid Chamber of Commerce), whilst still working as an editor and organizing gastrotours — thus practicing the gastrodiplomacy.

Ref. my LinkedIn profile for more details.

Take a Holistic View of your Online Tech

Tourism tech is a hot topic – and a difficult one for wine and culinary tourism organisers: which to choose and when, how to integrate it into the planning process, the tourist experience, how to make people embrace it rather than resist it…. Roberta Garibaldi, responsible for “Food Tourism Research & Trends” for the World Food Travel Association, gives an appetizer of her talk scheduled for IWINETC 2020.

Your talk at the upcoming edition of IWINETC 2020 is about improving customer experience through technologies. What level of tech maturity do you see today in the wine and culinary tourism industry?
 

Wine and culinary tourism industry are currently embracing new technologies. A number of examples from different industries (restaurants, producers, themed museums, …) testify that such tools have been, and are being, adopted.  According with my experience, the level of maturity is slightly lower compared to other tourism sectors. Especially when considering producers of food and wine. It must be said that technology was formerly introduced to facilitate disintermediation and sharing of information; only in recent years, has taken on more sophisticated and relevant functions, becoming both enhancer and enabler of experiences in the co-creation value.
 
In the age of internet and DIY tourism can you give us a few tips on how tour operators and travel agents can remain relevant tomorrow?

 
It is now difficult to answer to this question, considering the health emergence that we are currently facing and is deeply affecting the tourism sector. Previously, providing customized holidays and focusing on niche products might have been considered appropriate suggestions.

What does it take to choose a new tech solution aimed at improving customer satisfaction? 
 
Technology can facilitate the development of enhanced experiences where customers actively participate and interact with virtual contents and places as well as enable a dynamic co-creation process with visitors allowed to create their own experience. Wine tourism operators should properly consider what they want to achieve and what are the most suitable technologies to be adopted for this purpose. Also evaluating the additional costs and future benefits. In covid 19 time, tech can help the wineries to be in touch with the customers, e tastings, e tourism could help in these months.
 
From your own experience would you say wine tourism experience providers embrace new tech or resist it? Can you provide an example or two of wineries that have embraced it?  

Wine tourism experience providers are embracing new technologies. Hennessy Maison (Cognac, France) and the “Living Wine Labels” project provide examples of the possible application.

Hennessy Maison offers the opportunity to enjoy different technologies during the guided tour. This experiences allow to discover the entire winemaking process, from ‘the birth of grape to the glass of wine”, and to be introduced to the range of products that can be appreciated in the tasting room.

Living Wine Labels is the updated version of the “19 Crimes” app, a project created by American Tactic agency between 2016 and 2017 for the Treasury Wine Estates group. By scanning the bottle label with the camera the user has access to a range of information in augmented reality. The content is told by different characters shown on the label, such as ex-convicts in the case of the “19 crimes” brand. Data testifies it success:
– 700+ Million impressions
– 8+ Million App Sessions
– 4 star rating in Apple and Google Play Store
– 22+ Million Total Screen Views
– 4+ Million App Downloads
– 2:57 Average Session Duration

How can co-creation help customer satisfaction when it comes to wine and culinary tourism?
 
Co-creation allows visits to actively participate and interact with people and places. A higher level of engagement can make the visitor more satisfied the experience he/she is doing. In this scenario technology mainly plays a complementary role, as it supports the tourism experience. New technologies can also empower and become an integral part of the tourism experience, enabling a dynamic co-creation process, can facilitate the edutainment; at this level, technology has a crucial role and needs to exist for the experience to happen.

Meet Roberta at IWINETC 2020 where he will be delving deeper in the topic of  How to Improve Customers’ Experience for Wine through Technologies

Time to take a look at your Digital Marketing

No small matter. Judith Lewis of DeCabbit a SEO, PPC, Social Media and Digital Marketing Training & Consultancy tells us about Digital Marketing in the wine and culinary tourism industry. Her experience and know-how will help you take a look at the way you market your winery tour services and get you motivated to battle through the Pandemic Covid-19.

Your upcoming talk at IWINETC 2020 is titled: Website Optimisation and Digital Marketing for Dummies in the Wine Tourism Industry. How would you define dummy?

The ‘dummies’ name is more in the style of the books ‘XYZ for Dummies’ as a way of expressing a value-based simplification of a difficult specialism. By focusing in on communicating only the really important bits, rather than everything, it enables businesses to focus in on the most important elements which have a real business impact and so it is better to ask help from the link experts available in https://serpninja.io/cannabis-cbd-seo/ link who have successfully been in this field for a long time. There is, of course, a lot that goes in to assessing and optimising, a website but there are some more straightforward fundamentals that, if you get them right, can have a really big impact on ranking and visibility. People can check these comparison websites if they need information on businesses and insurance.

You have talked in the past about leveraging Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for wine tourism. Can you update us on any new trends which may be of use for wine and culinary tourism professionals?

Facebook remains the place that everyone seems to reside but they have improved their platform with additional targeting. Email marketing is not only the best medium for sales but using email lists of your best customers can help you design lookalike audiences on Facebook to ensure your marketing budget is spent on targeting people most likely to want your services or product but who don’t already know your brand. Twitter can still be used with scheduling in place as I have spoken about previously. Linking Instagram, Twitter and Facebook is still straightforward using either the native app or IFTTT (If This Then That) so there are easy free efficiencies there or for a paid solution there’s Hootsuite, Sendible or others. Don’t try and leverage Snapchat for organic reach unless you have the time to invest but you can use paid advertising there now unlike TikTok.  This deck does not cover Tictik or the new Snapchat advertising but attendees of my 2018 session on “Getting Seriously Social” may remember this deck: https://www.iwinetc.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/1.4-Ballroom-IWINETC-Getting-Seriously-Social.pdf. Are you searching for guest posting services or blogger outreach agencies? At https://indexsy.com/guest-post-services/ you will find the top guest posting services. Link building is a core factor in SEO, so it is a necessity for your website to thrive. Using guest posting and blog outreach softwares to create quality backlinks for your website with ease!

Would you say Google Travel is having or will have any impact on wine tourism businesses worldwide?

I don’t think Google Travel is as big a threat to tourism as it is to travel. While Google has created a multitude of destination guides, wine tourism is in the enviable position is including guides with specialist knowledge, access to cellars that are inaccessible by the general public arranging their own journey, and expertise to visit the most relevant wineries for the region – not just those with the biggest marketing budget. Google did purchase a PSS solution (ITA software) and has had a comparison engine guilt in to the search results which outranks the brand itself, and has for some time. This is a serious threat to airlines and travel companies as this usually results in Google being paid a fee on the successful completion of a purchase even when the search was for the brand and the searcher had intended to purchase directly from the brand. That is a huge issue but thankfully wine tourism for the moment while there are specialists with a passion for communicating the story of their local wineries and wines, it will be less impacted by Google’s destination guides than other types of tourism businesses.

How can players in the wine tourism industry make their webs sites more visible to customers?

They need to follow the steps to properly optimise a website which are: research the topic; group the keywords into topic groups (small groups of keywords clustered around a tight set of keywords, not too diverse); decide which page related to which topic (if more than one, split the content up); write naturally; optimise the title tag for keywords but also make it attractive for people (ranking factor); optimise the mete description (not for ranking but for clicks); make sure you include the target keywords once on the page but otherwise write naturally; ensure internal links point to the page; write naturally (did I mention you should write naturally?).

For example, I just looked at a website that had duplicated title tags trying to rank for a single keyword across multiple pages. Not only did this not work, the title tag (the short title that Google uses in the search results, often taken from the headline of the page by WordPress but this is editable using a plug-in like Yoast) was replaced by Google because it was so useless. This teaches us that each page should be targeted at one topic only, title tags should reflect the unique, single topic using our keywords, and the meta description should be compelling, making people want to click. Many SEO specialists, like Victorious, know that it is important to utilize proper optimization in order to make our websites visible.

For more tips, IWINETC attendees from 2016 will remember I did an epic masterclass on this. The slides for that masterclass are here: https://www.iwinetc.com/iwinetcspeakers/judith-decabbit-lewis/

We are starting to hear about online tours where the customer is sent wines or tapas, video links to guides and written and visual documentation to their homes. Do you think this will be the future for wine and culinary tourism after the coronavirus lockdowns? That being the case, how should web sites change so they stay relevant and in business tomorrow?

I love the new subscription boxes I see with wine or gin plus snacks that are coming out which enable people to discover the wines and foods of a region each month or two or whatever. I think that this approach is fantastic as an additional offering to core wine tours, enabling people who may not be able to travel for whatever reason (time, fear, budget) to still virtually tour different wine regions, experiencing the difference terroir makes to not only wine but also the other products grown nearby.

As to the optimisation, because this is so new, there isn’t quite the search demand but it could easily become something should the restrictions on travel not ease substantially. As to selling, I think it is the kind pf product that could be added as a virtual wine tour, where different packages are offered to people for different wineries or regions where they get the package of wine and tapas or food of the region and a recorded guided tour of the cellar, winery, and the different farms involved. Given these could be recorded solo with a selfie stick and mic, or with two people from the same household, it could be recorded now with proper social distancing. This is then referenced using a QR code or similar link that is password protected so it isn’t just accessible to everyone and the content held that way. By relating the virtual tour to the in-person tours, within the same suite of packages, you can cross-sell to people who were looking for the tours. The key thing would be getting creative with Facebook advertising through targeting those lookalike audiences and advertising the new virtual tasting tours to that group and selling through that way. Sadly the SEO side of things might not work as quickly but if the packaging is sorted with the alcohol shipping regulation issues ironed out, it could work very well.

Meet Judith at IWINETC 2020 where she will be delving deeper in the topic of Website Optimisation and Digital Marketing for Dummies in the Wine Tourism Industry

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.

EARLY BIRD IT & TAKE your place at IWINETC

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.

Exhibit

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 info@winepleasures.com  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.