Understanding The “Why” of Wine Tourism: Who Are The Different Kinds of “Winetravelers”

By | Winemaker, Tour Guide & Master of Tourism Management and PhD in Business and Economics
Last Updated: August 6, 2019
In this article, Jordi Ustrell, PhD. Master in Tourism Management dissects a study analyzing wine tourism, and defining the various types of "Wine Tourists," or "Winetravelers." How do you classify wine tourism? What is the traveler's motivation and why do they want to visit cellar doors? Learn more.

Winetraveler Motivation & Wine Tourism: A Perspective From Barossa Australia

(echoed with some examples from Priorat)

Why do we wine travel? Off the top of my head, the obvious answer would be because we love wine. In fact, there are several trending hashtags on social media these days, including: #WineLovers, #WineTourism and #Winetraveler.

While this may help to explain the reason why we travel for wine, some immediate questions pop up: Do you love wine the same way I do? Do I know as much about wine as I think I do? Will the people I travel with have the same kind of fun in a wine tasting room as me?

These are all tricky questions. And they tie into a bigger concept about wine and wine travel we all must come to understand — wine is subjective. And everyone has a unique travel preference.

Why Wine Tourists Visit Cellar Doors

A recent study by Johan Bruwer, Girish Prayag and Marta Disegna tries to disentangle these intertwined issues via scientific research. Let’s have a look at their paper called “Why wine tourists visit cellar doors: Segmenting motivation and destination image” published in the International Journal of Tourism Research in 2018. 

The Study

The study is set in the Barossa Valley wine region (learn more about this Australian region in this post). It was a survey conducted among cellar door visitors at 17 wineries and 676 usable questionnaires were collected. Most visitors (84%) were Australians, there were slightly more men than women.

Winery visitors were asked to rank 15 different wine travel motivations from the most to the least important (e.g. tasting wine, purchasing wine, eating at the winery, etc.). The collected data was statistically evaluated to identify typical Winetraveler profiles. According to visitors’ priorities, five different types of cellar door visitors were identified.

The “Wine Buyer”

The authors called the largest identified cluster “wine buyers” (nearly half of the visitors) because their top priority for visiting Barossa wineries included tasting and purchasing wine. This profile is probably the easiest one for wineries because it matches the purely commercial purpose of a tasting room. From my personal experience, such visitors are not necessarily interested in the exhaustive details of the Priorat wine region’s history or the winemakers’ story, but they still appreciate a glimpse of these if I slip them naturally into the conversation while tasting the wine. Occasionally, I’m able to peak their interest further.

The Gastro-Traveler or “Dining Enthusiast”

The second largest part of the sample included “dining enthusiasts” (21%). Their top motivations don’t have much to do with the wine buyers. Having a meal at the winery and its attractive atmospherics make their day. This type of winery visitor spends more money than the others at the cellar door, but they are also more challenging. They appear to be more demanding to the way the winery looks, and meals involve extra effort from winery staff.

At Celler Devinssi, we don’t serve full meals like a restaurant, we don’t even have a menu. To address this second type of wine lover, we offer a visit that features some local nibbles to pair with our wine (always with previous booking). Thus, on one hand, we don’t incur large costs (no storage, only just-in-time delivery, easy to serve). On the other hand, we don’t have to rival the local restaurants and bars, who have a greater variety on their menus and are professional eateries. Some wineries in Priorat do run their own restaurant as a business unit. Check, for example, Clos Figueras in Gratallops.

The “Wine Connoisseur”

Regarding the third largest wine traveler group, there are the “wine connoisseurs” (19%). They’re very motivated to discover different wines and, particularly, unique wines, and the tasting experience is the central part of their wine travels. Moreover, they may purchase more wine than the “wine buyers” do. My long-term observations show that connoisseurs may be quite open-minded when tasting some off-the-beaten-track wines, which is valuable for some middle-to-full-bodied white Priorats.

Wine Learners

Wine learners” (7%) follow the connoisseurs. Learners are probably less experienced in wines, so a cellar door visit is a good opportunity for them to spend a day out in a nice place, as well as to taste and learn about wines. They can be great listeners, so briefly talking them through the wine production process might be insightful enough for them. From my professional experience, wine learners don’t want technicalities, but they do want a spot of wine-making knowledge plus some guidance through the wine tasting “Kamasutra” (seeing, sniffing, swirling, sipping, spitting, swallowing, all the possible S’s).

The “Wine Enthusiast”

The smallest group is the “wine enthusiast” (4%). They are similar to learners because they are also eager to taste and learn. However, purchasing wine just after the tasting is far less important for them. It doesn’t mean they’re more frugal when purchasing wine on a daily basis. Statistically, their annual wine purchase is very similar to the other groups. Therefore, the winery host should make sure that enthusiasts can find the brands available in their area (online retail, specialists shop or just direct delivery from the winery).

Conclusions About Winetraveler Motivation & Preferences

According to its authors, this is one of the first studies on winery visitor motivation that uses robust statistics. So let’s rely on it for the time being. I can conclude that cellar-door wine tasting remains the core experience for all the five clusters (featuring meals for the “dining enthusiasts”).

Wine tasting hosts may do well to take that into account, because I frequently hear from my visitors that in some places the visit includes an “unexpected lowdown on wine production technicalities” while the tasting is a bit too brief and / or intimidating.

Last spring, I had a chance to brush up my wine English in a crash course held by Andrew Ashurst, one of Spain’s greatest wine-and-English professors. So, in one of the sessions, as a result of some brainstorming, we all agreed that cellar-door wine tasting is a moment of truth. The winery is able to reach some sizable customer engagement, increase brand awareness and collect immediate and valuable feedback on the wines being sampled. Within the cellar-door visit time slot, the wine tasting plays the main role, so let’s just try and give it more time and rationally adjust it to the different wine traveler “stereotypes” described in this post. 

The research article also describes the match between different traveler motivations and the destination image. Since it lies quite beyond this post’s scope, I might write another post just about the destination image issue… I also suggest reading “How To Spend 3 Days in Barossa Valley Australia – A Wine Lover’s Guide”. 

Reference: Bruwer, J, Prayag, G, Disegna, M. Why wine tourists visit cellar doors: Segmenting motivation and destination image. Int J Tourism Res. 2018; 20: 355– 366. https://doi.org/10.1002/jtr.2187

Disclaimer: This post reflects its author’s construal of a research article. In order to fully understand its purpose, methodology and conclusions, you should access and read the original study.

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