French wine tourism from an American perspective

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The Wine Economist reflects on wine travel and compares wine tourism in France and in Napa Valley

Over at the (very interesting) wine blog The Wine Economist Mike Veseth has laid hands on the May issue of La Revue du Vin de France that is dedicated to wine tourism. The RVF issue’s cover boasts “the 35 best wine tour circuits”.

With a Critical eye Mike inspects what is in the magazine, but also with a somewhat American eye of course: Wine Tourism à la Français[e].

Revue du Vin de France
Revue du Vin de France, wine toursim

Usually when a magazine makes a special issue on a subject like this one has to take into account that it writes for its readers (or possibly advertisers). The main objective of the issue is most likely that wine lovers vacationing just about anywhere in France should be able to find a wine tour route somewhere close to where they are. So it would probably be better to call it “the best wine routes in each region in France”.

Mike notes with surprise that there is even a section with a wine tour circuit in Paris. “You might wonder at this because vineyards are not frequently seen on Parisian hillsides”. How wrong he is. There is even an association of Parisian winegrowers with numerous members. The famous vineyard in Montmartre is far from the only vineyard in Paris.

Out of the 35 circuits there are 29 in France, which is perhaps just as can be expected. The magazine is written primarily for French readers and they tend to vacation in France. Sadly perhaps. If it would have been published a decade ago I would have been surprised to see any region outside of France. Progress has been made!

Mike points out that Napa Valley can be considered as the most important of wine tourism destinations, or as he puts it “Napa Valley is the industry leader”. California had 20.7 million visitors to the wine regions in 2010 who spent $2.1 billion. Impressive indeed! It will make any other wine region pale with envy.

But that perhaps fails to recognise that wine tourism in California is very different from wine tourism in e.g. Europe. It is difficult to make a like-to-like comparison in many ways. For example:

  • Napa Valley is close to a big metropolitan area with a very large number of potential visitors within easy reach of the wine regions. Few, if any, of Europe’s main wine regions have that advantage.
  • Napa Valley wineries are very big compared to wineries in Europe and can thus afford investments to develop wine tourism on a different scale: build wine tasting rooms, wine and gift shops, hire staff, restaurants or guest houses etc
  • Wine tourism in Napa is probably quite different from “the old world” (but here I may be on thin ice since it is a very long time since I was there). I would think it is more, lets say “Disneyland” – a day in the country with the kids, some good food and wine, some beautiful scenery walks. Wine tourism in Europe tends to be more “serious”, more wine focused, less entertainment for the family.

And let me share with you Mike’s concluding words:

So what is my bottom line? Wine is good, I tell my friends, but wine and a story is better. Wine tourism is about finding that story and making it first-person. There must be fifty ways to do this (La Revue gives us at least 35) and while visiting vineyards and wineries is the most obvious form of wine tourism I guess it isn’t the whole story.

I encourage you to read Mike Veseths full article: Wine Tourism à la Français[e]. It is an interesting view on wine tourism from the US.

And if you are tempted to find out a little more of the story behind the wine, why not consider coming on one of our scheduled wine tours, or discussing a custom designed wine tour with us!

Vineyards in Franschhoek
Vineyards in Franschhoek, copyright BKWine Photography
Old wine bottles resting in the cellar
Old wine bottles resting in the cellar, copyright BKWine Photography

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