Great wines with a poor visit or poor wines with a great visit or should we aim for the middlle OK wines OK visit? IWINETC speaker Djurdjica Jojic Novakovic, currently doing here Ph.D with a focus on wine tourism takes a look at standardisation in wineries and wine regions.
At IWINETC 2019 in Spain’s Basque country you talked about tourism standardisation in wineries. What do you mean by this exactly?
Wineries are complex systems and different areas of their activities can be subject of some sort of standardisation, such as technological operations with wine, or health and sanitary aspects of the wine making facility. The third one, being the main topic here, is touristic offer in wineries.
Many wineries provide some sort of touristic services – wine tastings, visits to the cellar, visits to the vineyards etc. The quality of these services does not have necessarily to reflect the quality of the wine, i.e. some excellent wineries can offer poor touristic experiences, or not so great wineries can offer quite memorable cellar experience. The main idea is to unify the quality of the touristic offer in wineries (NB: not the offer itself, but its quality) across a region.
How would a tourist board or a collective of wineries achieve such standardisation?
Setting up a standardisation procedure is done neither easily nor quickly. There are certain preconditions that need to be met, the most important ones being – defining sources of financing, and the vision & objectives.
Implementing this system has its costs, as well as its maintenance once it is realised. It is crucial to define in advance how these costs will be covered, in order to avoid conflict of interest or even more importantly, influence of member wineries on obtaining certain grade.
In my view, the most important is the vision. Idea of where the wineries see their region in the future, what they want it to become like. This image is inevitably connected with the current specifics of the wine region. What are the strengths, what are the areas for improvement? If the region is not well connected to international airports and corridors, is it realistic to expect to attract guests from abroad?
The stronger faith and passion in the vision, by all stakeholders involved in this process, the better results can be achieved.
What criteria would be used in order to achieve standardisation if indeed standardisation is desired by each winery?
It is not necessary that each winery is subject of evaluation. It is quite possible that some will be reluctant, especially in the beginning. It is of crucial importance to ensure fair, objective and transparent process of evaluation so that those entities which didn’t take part from the beginning, eventually join and increase the number of entities evaluated.
The specific criteria are derived directly from the vision i.e. from the objectives that are defined.
For example, if the region decided to promote itself as a place of traditional values, it may give more importance to the appearance and interior design of wineries and give higher grade to those whose architecture is in line with the old style houses. Or, if it decided to position itself as a place of high environmental culture, it will give more attention to whether wineries respect the nature, if they implement practices of sustainable development (e.g. usage of renewable sources of energy). If a region decided to brand itself as a modern place for young foreign travellers, it will pay more attention to whether wineries have website and are active on social networks, and how many languages staff members can speak.
Criteria can reflect general conditions such as availability of infrastructure and parking, presentation of price list and wine sheets, possibility to purchase wine, professionalism of the host presenting the wines, hygiene etc.
Specific criteria can be availability of tasting rooms and how well they are equipped, wine assortment offered, availability of additional services (food, playground for children, offer of other products typical for the region, conference room etc.), how well the staff is trained etc.
Can you give an example where a standardisation project is currently happening and indicating any tangible results?
In my presentation I presented two case studies, or two regions – Istria (Croatia) and Villany-Siklos (Hungary). Here I will shortly describe only one, so that these answers don’t turn into a real novel.
Hungarian Villany-Siklos Wine Route Association was established in 1996. This is today one of the most developed wine regions in Hungary, not only in terms of quality and number of wineries but also in terms of accompanying activities such as tourism in general, gastronomy etc. Out of top 10 Hungarian restaurants, 5 are situated in this region. Only in the period 2010-2015, number of tourist arrivals and number of nights spent increased for as much as app. 50%.
Their concept is based on evaluating not only wineries, but rather all business that have to do anything with the wine tourism, such as: wine museums, wine shops, restaurants, producers of local products and providers of other related services.
The result is a grade presented with 1, 2 or 3 grapes. The board with the grade is clearly presented at the entrance of each winery, shop, restaurant etc.
If a wine region is to achieve standardisation how would this benefit on the one hand tour operators selling a destination and on the other DIY tourists?
Benefits are numerous for any type of visitor. The main benefit is customer protection. Visitors can be confident that they will get certain level of quality and that they will get those products and services that are communicated. It cannot happen that e.g. foreign visitor comes to a highest grade rated winery and be served with bulk wine or to be hosted by someone who is unprofessional or cannot speak English. Visitors can be safe and confident not to be cheated or mislead and to really concentrate to maximizing their indulging and learning experience.