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