Slake your thirst for knowledge. Visit a vineyard!

Richard Esling speaking at the International Wine Tourism Conference
Richard Esling speaking at the International Wine Tourism Conference

For those that love wine, apart from the liquid nectar itself, there is nothing more pleasurable than learning more about it.

What are the grape varieties, how is it made and where exactly does it come from?

What is the climate like where the grapes are grown, what is the countryside like and the personality of the producers?

To answer all these questions and a whole lot more, there is no better way than travelling to the area where the wines are made and visiting the vineyards and wineries.

Wine Tourism is now taking-off big-time in different wine producing regions around the globe. Curiously, the newer wine regions appear to be more ahead-of-the-game than some of the more traditional regions, although these are now catching-up fast.

The leading region for wine tourism internationally is California, with revenues from the activity in Napa, Sonoma and other parts of the state, counted in millions, if not billions of dollars. Research from around the world highlights the economic importance of wine tourism for the wineries, as well as the regions where they are based. Revenue is increased both directly and indirectly and there is also a significant effect on brand awareness.

A recent study from New Zealand showed that the international wine tourist spends nearly 80 percent more than the average tourist. Both the New Zealand and Australian government tourist boards give a great deal of support to wine tourism in those countries, recognizing the economic importance not just for the wineries, but also the regions where the wines are made.

England is a newcomer in the fine wine market, yet from the start, the industry has recognized the importance of wine tourism as a long-term strategy and is a cornerstone objective of WineGB, the industry body. This point, along with many others was included in a presentation I made at an International Wine Tourism event in Bordeaux last week.

Many years ago, when I was importing wines from Bordeaux, I was extolling the virtues of the wines from this region in England. Last week, the tables had turned as I was in Bordeaux ‘beating-the-drum’ for English sparkling wines, to an attentive and very interested international audience. My presentation was followed by another by Fiona Anderson of Bolney Wine Estate in West Sussex, in turn followed by a tasting of three of the Bolney sparkling wines.

The growth of the English (and Welsh) wine industry is exponential and predicted to reach a production level of 40 million bottles within the next 20 years, most of which will be sparkling. Wine Tourism revenue in the region is calculated at over £658 million by that time, showing the significance of this activity. Bolney Wine Estate has recognized both the appeal and the economic sense of attracting wine tourists and is one of the best examples in Sussex and indeed in England.

With visitors to English wineries already arriving from the US, Scandinavia and parts of Europe, this sector is set to grow from an international viewpoint, but also from domestic tourism within the UK. World-class wines to be tried in the beautiful settings of the English countryside. Slake your thirst for knowledge and go visit!

Richard Esling BSc DipWSET is an experienced wine consultant, agent, writer and educator. An erstwhile wine importer, he runs a wine agency and consultancy company called WineWyse, is founder and principal of the Sussex Wine Academy, chairman of Arundel Wine Society and is an International Wine Judge. Twitter @richardwje. Visit www.winewyse.com.

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