THE INTERNATIONAL WINE TOURISM CONFERENCE 2016
The 8th IWINETC was recently held in Cataluña, near Barcelona. I was delighted to be invited to attend, as a staff member!
My role was to be threefold – Moderator of the Panel Discussion on basic Dos & Don’ts of Wine Tourism; Tour Guide; General Dogsbody! Although quite physically demanding, I relished all three.
The International Wine Tourism Conference, which is a unique opportunity for all those involved in Wine Tourism to meet, network and plan further development, is the brainchild of much travelled Anthony Swift, who now resides in the hills above Villafranca del Penedés. Anthony is also responsible for the lauded ’50 Great Cavas’ competition, which, after a good deal of tasting and visiting, translates into an impressive, beautifully designed and finished publication, which readers may like to buy (www.winepleasures.com), perhaps for a surprise Christmas present this year – though stocks are limited!
There were two days, Tuesday and Wednesday, of fascinating talks by speakers from countries of origin as diverse as: Indonesia, India, China, USA, Australia, Hungary, Moldova, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania and Montenegro to name several, though by no means all! Delegates from varied walks of life, all related to Wine Tourism, of course, began arriving on Sunday, with a large influx on Monday. This was to be my first day of action!
Cava Llopart was my destination, where grapes have been grown since at least 1385, as a document has been discovered which proves this, and where, in 1857 the Llopart family wine business started. Llopart was one of the first to produce Cava in the area and the 4th and 5th generation of the family are doing the same today!
Llopart Cavas are very well known in the area of Cataluña, but, as production is limited from this relatively small winery, they are not so well known in the rest of Spain, or indeed in the world, as only 15% of their production is exported. However, the quality of their products is such that they should be extremely well known – outstanding cava.
And an outstanding guide! Cristina, one of the panel members of the discussion I was to chair a couple of days later, has the knowledge and the ability to impart it in user-friendly terms, and with a smile as delicious as the cava we tasted. Cristina heads the small Wine Tourism Project – and I’ll be back!
The next day was the first of the days which were to concentrate on all manner of talks centred on wine tourism, with the highlight, for me certainly, being that being presented by Sarah Jane Evans MW (Master of Wine). Like all Masters of Wine, Sarah Jane has an immense depth of knowledge about all things wine orientated (the title gives it away, really!), but her specialist area is Spanish wine. I knew I could learn from her, of course, it was just a question of whether I would be able to attend her talk on Cava, and the tasting of her selection of 8 cavas, each high ranking in the aforementioned publication, ‘50 Great Cavas’.
Fortunately, as it happened, Anthony had me down on his list as ‘dogsbody’ for this keynote talk and I was to meet Sarah Jane before the event to discuss her needs, re timing, glasses, pouring etc. I have to say that this was a highlight of the whole week for me! Charming, erudite, intellectual and happy to share knowledge, it was an instructive pleasure to spend some time with Sarah Jane. The more so to find that we had views in common, for example re the importance of placing the date of disgorgement on the back labels of cava bottles, and more.
As chief bottle opener (have you ever opened just under 150 bottles of cava?!), I unfortunately didn’t have much of a chance to taste any of the cavas, nor to listen to all Sarah Jane’s comments. However, her standing ovation at the end of the talk, told the story of how popular a talk it was.
That night there was a Gala Dinner to be held in the elegant restaurant of the largest sparkling wine producer in the world! That’s right – Freixenet, whose countless millions of bottles sit silently in the dimly lit cellars that run for kilometres underneath the streets of Cava’s natural home, Sant Sadurni d’Anoia, until it is their time to come into the spotlight in one of the countries of all five continents in which the Freixenet Fizz is sold!
First though – the tour! As I’ve been in Spanish wine tourism for 19 years now, since even before the word ‘Enoturismo’ had been coined, I seem to naturally gravitate to the guide’s seat at the head of the bus, in contrast to being always at the rear as our group went ‘on tour’. And what a tour it was – at each of the several stops, which took in the museum above ground and then the various levels below, there was a glass of cava for us all, accompanied by a paired tapa. And, whilst there is nothing wrong with the world famous, distinctively bottled, Cordon Negro, the cavas served to this knowledgeable group were all top cuvees!
Each dish of the four course dinner that followed was also, of course, paired with cavas from their huge portfolio. An excellent, though very late, evening!
The next day I was determined not to miss the much anticipated talk about Wine Tourism in India, to be given by Subhash Arora, one of the real characters of the conference! Entertaining and highly knowledgeable, Subhash charmed us into wanting to visit such an ancient culture with such a nascent wine tourism industry by talking us through the various wine routes he recommends.
Later it was my turn! Mine was really Mission Impossible, in fact, my opening line to the 100+ people who attended. The idea was that I should tease out of the distinguished panel members, each of whom had been asked to consider the idea from a different perspective, as well as from the audience, a definitive list of Dos and Don’ts regarding Wine Tourism. German, Jochen Erler, played the role of the Wine Tourist; Sarah May Grunwald is a Wine Tour Operator specialising in Georgian Wine Tours; and Cristina Soler, Guide and Head of Wine Tourism at Cava Llopart.
That night we had another Gala Dinner, this time after we had toured Bodegas Torres, probably the most famous winemaking family in Spain. Another fascinating and extremely tasty tour – though there’s not enough space to include details here.
For the final two days I was back in my familiar position as guide – the venues were really excellent, with such committed and passionate people, all keen to tell us their own, unique stories. Again though, there simply isn’t the space to include them here!
My final thought is one of great optimism – for Wine Tourism, of course, but also for the human condition! There were over 25 different countries represented at the International Wine Tourism Congerence 2016. Countries, all with history, and not always a pleasant one at that, and yet there was not an unpleasant word spoken, heard or I’m sure, thought! The IWINETC was uplifting, in every respect!
My next Fine Wine & Gourmet Dine Programme on www.totalfm.es is live on Sunday 1st May from 6:30pm – 8pm (Spanish Time). Wine Chat, Tasting Tips and Info as well as Restaurant news and Wine/Food suggestions – it’s all there, with some fun too! Then Sunday 15th May and every two weeks after that!
PS If you think Indian Cuisine is best paired with beer, I suggest you think again – and join me at Restaurante Kathmandu, Moraira on Sunday 8th May; and at their sister restaurant, Kathmandu, in Javea on Sunday May 22nd, for a super Spanish Wine/Indian Cuisine Pairing Evening! Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more info and to reserve the few places left!