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The Many Flavors of Enotourism

Numerous vineyards and regions are getting on board with the enotourism trend. Here's what you should know.

Ever see the movie Sideways? It’s a 2004 film about two guys who travel to California wine country in search of adventures, some of them having nothing to do with wine. This is a basic idea of what enotourism is.

Uncorked and Wine Country are another two examples of these types of films. If you’ve never heard of any of these films, you’re not alone. But if you definitely have, you might just be a true enophile.  

There are the casual tourists who will stop by a major vineyard once they have seen their A list destinations, and there are wine geeks on the search for the most obscure sources of the world’s priciest vintages. Somewhere in the middle is the gastro-tourist, who will go out of their way for a great product but wants it served with some serious nourishment.

The World of Enotourism

Actually, it’s not really a world. For connoisseurs, top wine comes from a relative handful of destinations, so the wine tourism market is limited to certain areas. But these locations account for some impressive revenues. For example, it is estimated that enotourism generates $2 billion per year in California and €3 billion per year in Italy, while 600,000 people visited Europe in 2017 primarily to imbibe top quality wine.   

Numerous vineyards and regions are successfully exploiting this trend. For instance, in the United States, 60% of winery sales are direct-to-consumer.

Enotourism Basics

The classic wine tasting method is known as a “cellar door” experience. The cellar door is specifically meant for wine tasters, because you can’t just stroll the grounds of a private business and dunk your head in the barrels.

Instead, at a cellar door, you might be offered a “tasting flight”, meaning an opportunity to simply try some samples. Or, you can take part in a guided tasting, complete with history, explanation of the wine’s flavor profile, and instruction on how best to taste it. Some cellar doors also combine their wines with specific foods that are meant to bring out a vintage’s best qualities.

Experience Variety

You don’t just step on some grapes and watch the tourists roll in. Each establishment must adjust its tourist program to its “cachet”; the more expensive the product, the more exclusive the experience ought to seem. After all, you can’t serve Mad Dog (even though it’s kosher) with pate foie gras. So, if you’re more adventurous than the local wine festival, and want to find the wine tour that’s right for you, you should figure out what kind of wine tourist you are.  

The Casual Imbiber: Wine Fan “Disneyland”

There are plenty of destinations for the unpretentious wine fan who is looking for something in addition to a cheerful pinot – a whole wine lover’s ecosystem that provides everything for a fun trip.

There is no better example of this than the Wine Routes of Spain. Managed by the Spanish government, the Wine Routes of Spain are organized around nine main routes that intersect with all kinds of other tourist activities, from historical sites to hiking to scuba diving, along with numerous types of accommodation. One of the most popular routes is the Rioja Alavesa, which includes more than 50 wineries, plus museums, and even the “Enobus”, a low cost transportation system that travels between wineries and probably minimizes a lot of DUI incidents.     

The Gastro Tourist: Room and Board

The goal of the typical gastro tourist is to combine a great meal with fantastic wines. But if you go to a restaurant, don’t expect them to let you sample every bottle they have.

Instead, there are numerous hotels that specialize in enotourism. You can enjoy the wine tastings and then choose one or two for your meal, or taste a number of samples during the meal itself, guided by a sommelier. And when you’re not boozing/stuffing, these hotels offer numerous activities.     

For example, there’s the L’Andana in Tuscany, Italy. It’s got a spa, driving range, and church, in addition to a 33 room hotel that hosts tastings, plus wine and cooking classes. Or there’s the Cavas Wine Lodge in Mendoza, Argentina, which has only 14 rooms but you can still get a red wine bath in the spa when you’re not enjoying wine tastings or gourmet meals.

The Wine Geek: Need I Say More?

Let’s not forget that sommelier is an actual profession. Those who aspire to this level of expertise, such as vintners and collectors, tend to participate in specialized tours that include highly technical explanations. However, for geek-aspirants, some wineries provide activities that even kids can enjoy, such as pruning, debudding, trellising, and harvesting. And there’s an app for that, such as the WineryGuide, Wine Routes, and My Wine Explorer.   

Bottoms Up

Except for real wine geeks, chances are that most people are satisfied with something that they can find at the local liquor store. But aren’t you kind of curious why Chateau Lafite tends to go for about $900 a bottle? You’ll never really understand until you explore the world of enotourism, and discover what has made it such a thriving and ever-diversifying adventure.   


Jenny Cohen Drefler

Jenny Cohen Derfler

Air Dr CEO & Co-Founder

Jenny is the CEO and one of the Co-Founders at Air Doctor. She spent more than 20 years at Intel, most recently as general manager of its manufacturing facility in Israel and before that in various engineering and manufacturing roles in Silicon Valley. Air Doctor is her second startup having previously founded electric vehicle company ElectRoad.