Winetourism, an area under development

Talking about Winetourism in Portugal was once an ungrateful task, but at present we already have examples working well. The improvements of recent years are evident, even so, there is still a lot of work to be done.

Winetourism is a relatively recent phenomenon. Worldwide, Europe has awakened earlier to this reality, followed by the New World, which has invested in great force in this area and today also offers numerous possibilities in reference wine tourism units. However, there is no legislation regulating activity, with the exception of Italy, which was the pioneer in launching the concept of winetourism, has a legal framework in this much more evolved area, and is therefore more organised.

The European Charter of Wine tourism, which emerged in 2006 under the Vintur project, inserted in the European Network of Wine Cities, came in some ways to help the producer define quality rules and parameters. It is only a 'goodwill' letter, which guides producers but, although incomplete, has contributed to an improvement in wine tourism services in Portugal.  

The letter is closely linked to the environment, the region and local populations, demonstrates respect for regional culture and economy, and points to a path of sustainability. This document includes in the definition of the term wine tourism all activities and tourist, leisure and leisure resources related to the cultures, materials and intangibles of wine and the indigenous gastronomy of their territories. In this definition, a European consensus was sought, establishing a line of participation and cooperation of the various actors for the development and self-regulation of the activity. Membership implies that a common long-term strategy for tourism development is developed through an activity programme, information sharing, management models, technology and data analysis, adaptation of the supply of services to customer expectations and also the contribution to the appreciation of local heritage.

However, the Charter has identified flaws. Despite seeking to comply with non-existent legislation on wine tourism, it does not have a mandatory character. It is assumed as a document with reference guide lines and organization, formalizing good practices for the onotourism activity. Among the failures, one can point out the lack of concrete regulation or guidance on safety standards, such as the activities possible to carry out in harvest times. In relation to quality criteria, they also have a large load of subjectivity, since they are not clearly defined, leaving open the interpretation of each one.

Evolution of wine in Portugal versus Winetourism

Wine has been evolving qualitatively over time, thanks to the progress and development of knowledge and techniques in wine production. The consumer himself reacted to this improvement, seeking new knowledge and willingness to carry out wine-related activities.

But let's go in pieces. After years of 'sunk' in the production of poor quality wines, sold in bulk in taverns and taverns that gave it even worse reputation, Portugal began to wake up to a new reality. Apart from the port wine - with fame that was already coming from afar - or the few good wines of Dão and Bairrada that were sold bottled, which then produced only embarrassed us. What really mattered was quantity and not quality. But Portugal's entry into the European Community in 1986 and the existence of new rules completely changed the Portuguese wine landscape. The 1990s will make the result of these changes more visible and, little by little, wine tourism is also beginning to gain more strength.     

The wine world has taken a real turn. Wine production started to bet on quality. It started to be bottled and sold everywhere: in the wine cellars, super and hyper-markets, and in the Horeca channel (restoration). Talking and knowing wine has become status and being part of lifestyle. New producers and new wine brands have begun to emerge. Viticulture techniques evolved and wineries modernized by bringing another quality to wine. Winemakers who graduated in agricultural engineering seek specializations in oenology and internships in other countries, returning to Portugal with new and in-depth knowledge. As with chefs, winemakers have seen 'stars'. In important national and international fairs, their presence is required, as well as producers, in order to have a more direct contact with the consumer. The wine/food link begins to gain increasing importance, especially through the tasting menus with various dishes to harmonize with wines, prepared by well-known chefs. Wine is beginning to emerge more and more forcefully in the media at national and international level. Television shows, films and documentaries related to the theme also appear. Several wine contests are held here and outside. Portuguese producers win many medals and prizes. Wine courses are increasingly sought after and consumers become more attentive to the wine theme and are more demanding. There are then good reasons that make the producer start investing in the aspect of winetourism.

Wine tourism of the various national regions

Portugal has a great abundance and variety of wines and producing regions. In view of the development of wine tourism in the world and in the potential of Portuguese wine, the national regions and their producers have invested in new infrastructures: hotel units, restaurants, events, animation services, among others, which serve a set of people of various ages (most between 30 and 60 years), of different nationalities (Portuguese who are interested in wine but also tourists who seek to know our wine routes), and different objectives (some more knowledgeable that others on the wine theme). This is the profile of the winetourism.

These people have as general motivations to know the wine on site (The history of the property, the producer, the vineyards, the winery, the people who work there); know environmental and ecological aspects of wine production now very much in vogue; learn about wine and its connection to food; know the rural area (the landscape, the inhabitants, agricultural practices, the region); practice recreational activities (harvest, visit the winery, taste wines); appreciate heritage, culture, architecture and art; and enjoy lifestyle, elegance and well-being. These types of visitors are generally wine consumers who, taking advantage of their trip to a particular country, take the opportunity to get to know wines, varieties, wineries better.

The enoturists are increasingly demanding

On the other hand, there is also a more dedicated type of enoturist. That is, your motivation has nothing to do in general. Winetourism is the raison d'être of your carefully planned trip, with a great expectation about the wines. He studies and has prior information about wines, producers and winemakers. They are important consumers because they seek to know particular and technical aspects of wines. Thus, to communicate effectively to these two audiences, language cannot be the same. While the general motivated visitor intends to know the winery, the producer, the grape varieties, the winemaker and the wines, the dedicated visitor already knows what he will find because he planned to detail his trip. Your expectation will be greater and the language you intend to find should be much deeper, including technical aspects that may interest you. If for the first to say that a certain wine aged in wooden kites, for the second will have to say in detail how long the wine aged (6, 12, 18 months, another) and in what type of oak (French, American, another), when it was or will be bottled and will be bottled and will be launched to the market.

Having information available for both cases is very important as they have different degrees of demand, and the cellars have to be prepared for this. For more demanding visitor groups, the producer's human resources must be well prepared, to be knowledgeable of the matter, since more technical questions may arise. For the visit, there should be informative material and someone who knows how to speak English. It is the universal language and almost everyone speaks and understands it. Gold over blue will be the producer to invest in multimedia equipment with complete information, where the history of the producer, the winery and its wines can be counted in several languages. In case it is a very expensive investment, at least invest in multilingual brochures and brochures, and some more technical additional information, to distribute to those who ask for it (even if they are only texts printed on A4 sheets).

Adega da Torre de Palma, Alentejo

Ideal conditions for Winetourism

Portugal already has wine tourism that fillus with pride and that are not behind any other around the world but, of course, there are stronger regions than others. The largest offer of winetourism focuses on alentejo, where we have very complete examples such as The Estate of Malhadinha, Herdade dos Grous, Torre de Palma or Adega Santa Vitória, which in addition to the possibility of overnight, have restaurants, wine shops, activities and adventure sport, among many other possibilities. The Douro, classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, also assumes a prominent position with ecotourism of excellent quality, such as Quinta do Vallado, Quinta de Nossa Senhora do Carmo, Quinta da Pacheca or Quinta do Crasto.

Quinta do Crasto, Douro
Quinta da Pacheca, Douro

However, there are still other regions such as Dão, which was probably the one that in recent years stood out to emerge most with novelties in terms of winetourism (Quinta de Lemos, Caminhos Cruzados, Madre d'Agua, among others). All other regions have also grown, but slower. Then there are also the simplest wine tourism, without stay, but with impeccable service, and who know how to receive well, such as Quinta do Ameal (Vinho Verde), Quinta do Encontro (in Bairrada), Adega Mãe (in Lisbon), Herdade do Rocim (Alentejo), Quinta dos Vales ( Algarve), among many other examples around the country.

And after all, what makes an wine tourism good? Basically, get paid. Knowing how to tell the story of the property, the wines, the people who dedicated themselves to the vineyard and invested in it. Then everything else is advantage. As, for example, have a varied range of wines, which allows the visitor to know several realities (monocast wines, two or more grape varieties, of different styles including whites, rosés, reds, sparkling wines, fortified, among others) thus covering a wider range of consumers / visitors.

Herdade da Malhadinha, Alentejo

Adega Mayor, Alentejo

The association of wines with other regional products (bread, olive oil, cheeses, sausages, jams, honey, among others) is another added value. Gastronomic combinations are always to everyone's liking. On the other hand, if combined with the quality of wines the producer is endowed with modern and organized facilities, with a good landscape surrounding, visitors will only be very impressed. In Portugal there are already many wineries of this style, including the so-called "design cellars", idealized by well-known architects such as adega Mayor (Siza Vieira) or Herdade do Freixo (Frederico Valsassina), both in alentejo.

Being inserted in the wine routes of the respective region also helps, as well as having adequate signage on the roads in order to guide the winery to the winery without problems. Wine Routes are assumed as a tourist product composed of signposted and advertised routes, organized in network, involving farms and other establishments open to the public, developing as a vehicle for dissemination and Marketing. In the case of Portugal, the routes are the image of wine tourism, and it is appropriate to be part of them to have greater visibility and, consequently, a greater number of visitors (most tourist posts in various cities / regions support and provide information about their wine routes).

Herdade do Freixo, Alentejo

Invest in product image and communication, have time flexibility, bet on a wine and merchandising store, prepare specialized staff to receive different audiences and diversify the offer of wine-related activities (and not only) in order to capture more visitors, it is other actions that complement wine tourism and contribute to their success.