Lara Dunston and Terrence Carter of travel blog, GranTourismo!, are a globetrotting power couple. She captures the essence of a place with words and he uncovers its soul in photos. Together they focus on slow travel, living like locals and giving back to the communities they visit.
Widely published in over 50 guidebooks, countless feature stories and tons of reviews, they have explored more than 60 countries since they first began their travels. As returning speakers and members of the Blogger/Media Fam Trp at 2012 International Wine Tourism Conference in Italy, we caught up with them about their favorite memories from last year, Umbria as a wine destination, and of course, some of Terrence’s favorite pictures.
1. Welcome back! Having been a part of the 2011 conference, what are some of your favorite memories and what are you most looking forward to this year?
We loved every moment of the 2011 Porto conference and the pre- and post-conference media trips to the Minho Valley and the Douro region, as you can see from our stories here: http://grantourismotravels.com/tag/portugal/ The highlight of the conference for us was Charles Metcalfe’s guided tasting of Portugal’s wines, which was essentially a grape-focused grand tour of the country. We knew – and had tried – very little vinho verde before the conference and we weren’t big port wine drinkers, so it really opened up a whole new world to us, and because of the range and depth of experiences we had, it wasn’t really a taster, but more an education. There were some fascinating speakers at the conference, but we also thought the very practical sessions by our fellow writer-bloggers such as Marcy Gordon and Thea Dwelle were terrific introductions to aspects of social media for wine tourism companies venturing into it for the first time. This year’s programme looks even better if that’s possible.
2. The 2012 Wine Conference takes place in Perugia, Italy, how do you view Umbria as a wine destination?
We’ve been travelling and writing on Italy for many years and there some areas we know intimately, like all the Northern Italian regions, such as Piemonte, Lombardia and the Veneto, and the south, such as Calabria, Sicilia and Puglia, but we’ve never been to Perugia and know little about wines from Umbria, so we’re really looking forward to discovering the grapes there, as we did in Portugal.
3. You have spent most of your life on the tourism and travel side of things, how did you get into wine and what is it about wine that excites you the most?
We got into wine in the late 1980s when we were living in Sydney, Australia, when we did a couple of wine appreciation courses and started to build a cellar based on trips to the Hunter Wine Region in NSW. We’re travel writers, and my husband Terence is also a pro-photographer, so a big part of what we write about – perhaps half – is food and wine. If someone’s writing about travel and they’re not interested in food and wine then they’re probably in the wrong business, because for most holidaymakers the most important and most enjoyable activity on a holiday is eating and drinking! I remember reading the results of a survey a major UK publisher conducted a few years ago and shared with their writers, and it showed that the number one thing a UK traveler loved to do when they travelled was sit in the sun with a glass of wine! The second most important thing was eat. Those were ahead of lazing on the beach and visiting important museums and iconic monuments.
4. Having traveled through many of the world’s wine producing regions, what advice do you have for other travelling wine lovers as far as tasting, touring and getting the most out of their visit?
Some wine regions have got their act together and are really well organized – such as the Australian wine regions, especially the Margaret River and Barossa Valley, all the South Australian wine regions in fact. They’re probably the best we’ve seen around the world when it comes to having a well set-up tourist office with loads of information and a variety of tours and activities on offer, and wineries with cellar doors that are nearly always open, so you can just drop in and embark on a series of free tastings or sit down for a wonderful lunch. The Cape Town wine regions are also very good, with wineries offering picnic lunches and cheese tastings with wine etc. In our experience, the Europeans don’t do it nearly as well – in Northern Italy, for instance, people need to phone up and make appointments to visit wineries and often they don’t have English speaking staff, and people just don’t want to deal with that when they’re on holidays. My advice is to do your research before you go away. Head to wine regions that are well organized with a tourism office and established wine routes with driving maps and brochures listing cellar doors and opening hours. Try to book accommodation at wineries for a fuller experience.
5. Terence, vineyards can be such beautiful places and many beg to be photographed; having traveled so extensively, which wine regions/vineyards stand out to you in particular?
Cape Town’s wine regions are probably the most photogenic as they’re dotted with historic towns, the wineries themselves are very beautiful, also boasting historic architecture in many cases, and the towns and vineyards are set against dramatic mountains. If wine-loving photographers are planning to slip in some photography between tastings, my best tip would be to visit a region when there are grapes on the vines (bare vines aren’t very photogenic) and if they’re after action, go for harvest time.
6. To give our readers a taste of what’s to come, can you share a few of your favorite photographs from the conference last year?
Pop over to Grantourismo where we’ve got a handful of stories from last year’s conference and media/blogger trips with scores of gorgeous photographs: http://grantourismotravels.com/tag/portugal/
7. Which Italian wines do you hope to see in the Jane Hunt MW Grand Wine Tasting Wines of Italy?
We’re big fans of big reds, and love a good Sangiovese, so looking forward to trying plenty of those. We’re also fond of Trebiano and Malvasia. We’ve heard a lot about the Sagrantino di Montefalco wines – even from sommeliers we’ve talked to here in Australia recently! – so keen to try those, the red as much as the pasito. If Jane Hunt’s tour is anything like Charles Metcalfe’s they’re all going to be wonderful!
Hear more about Lara and Terrence’s favorite travel and wine experiences at the 2012 International Wine Tourism Conference in Italy in January.