WINE TOURISM IN SPAIN
I’m delighted to read that in 2016 Wine Tourism in Spain, Enoturismo, registered an increase of 21% on the previous year. in terms of visitors, as well as an almost 11% rise in revenue.
I’ve been involved in this industry since before it was ever recognised officially as such, and indeed, since even the name Enoturismo had been coined! Thus I have a natural interest in its development, the more so, as I continue to work within the sector.
When the bad, sad old days of the recession started (known here, rather appropriately, as ´La Crisis’) the wine industry, in common with most other sectors suffered diminished sales, and expectations too. I say ‘most’ because in such times there are industries that do the opposite – rather than contract, they expand.
An example is the DIY trade – folk who find that their income no longer supports a budget for home improvements exectuted by the professionals, often turn to ‘doing it themselves’. (I include even myself here, a guy who is totally inept at all things DIY)
Another sector that benefits in times of ‘crisis’ is the BBQ industry – sales of BBQ equipment increase as those who like to dine out, start to feel the pinch. Related here, of course, are the butchers, whose domestic sales rise while their ‘trade’ sales decline, perhaps therefore, whilst not registering increased revenue, they at least maintain their levels. Which, in hard times, is also a result.
The wine industry, like most sectors, began to suffer. The first things abandoned in such times are the luxuries – sadly, wine is considered to be one that can be done without. Bottle sales decrease, but the winery still needs to harvest its crop and make the resulting wine. It still has to replace its barrels and it still needs to retain staff, service equipment and so on.
So Plan A – ‘make wine and sell it’, had to be revised. Plan B came about, often in two phases. How many readers noticed, as did I, that, gradually, there were more bodegas selling Extra Virgin Olive Oil as well as their wines? Well, it’s a natural progression in a way – many bodegas are founded on old fincas which originally made wine from the vineyards and oil from the olive trees, for the family.
Wine production became the best bet for commercial revenue, so efforts and resources were directed towards the vines, relegating the olives to the lesser role of simply providing oil for the family.
A marketing opportunity arises for the cash-strapped wineries – let’s try and supplement declining wine sales by selling ‘Prestige Finca Olive Oil’. Let’s also use the wild Rosemary et al to add to the olive oil and diversify still further. Phase One.
Phase Two, was really only for those who had the wherewithal – the bodegas who could afford it, realised the way forward re wine sales was to expand horizons. Whilst many countries in Europe, and further afield, were also suffering from recession, other countries were enjoying an improving economy, with some actually booming!
These were the countries into whose markets Spanish wine producers had to make inroads. Emmisaries were despatched and over time clients were gained and sales achieved. No doubt these lucky bodegas were also selling their prestige olive oil there too!
Clearly though, a Plan C was needed for those who weren’t able to evolve as above, and indeed for those above too. Wine Tourism had found a raison d’etre! But not yet, the name!
The development was gradual. Most bodegas initially dipped a toe into the water. With some, it was just the little toe, manifesting itself as simply a sign in the grass verge at the entrance to the winery advising ‘Visitors Welcome’. Some went for the big toe option, though nevertheless still hardly dynamic, perhaps advising travel firms that they were open for group visits, with maybe the occasional advert in the local or regional papers.
However, those producers who could see the potential, went for full body immersion! Firstly, the above, but also with a changed job description, perhaps for the ‘commercial’, the sales rep, who was spending too much time in those days kicking his heels instead of selling his wines. He (usually, there has been a dramatic sex change [in a manner of speaking!] during the intervening years, with the fairer sex far out-numbering men these days!) would now also be I/C visitors.
From an often, uninspiring, and always humble start, during the intervening years there have been amazing, occasionally incredible, developments in this, now integral, part of the majority of wine businesses in Spain. Part Two of this article will be published soon, entertaining readers with some of the risible experiences that I suffered when visiting bodegas in the early embryonic past, right through to the present day, giving you some very positive ideas as to how you can take advantage!
NB There may be a few places left for the already almost full (at time of writing) Musical Dinner with Wine Paring and Claire-Marie (www.clairemarie.es) at Restaurante Casa Cantó, Benissa, Friday 12th May. Please call me on 629 388 159.
Next Fine Wine & Gourmet Dine Programme on Total FM 91.8 & www.totalfm.es is on Sunday 21st May 18:00 – 20:00 hrs when, talking of Wine Tourism, my guests will be Kathrine and Harald, of Bodegas & Boutique Hotel, Casa Boquera, Yecla.