Welcome to Mark O’Neill’s Wine Blog

Wine Tourism is growing all around the world. It is an increasingly important source of revenue as well as being the perfect way for wineries to meet their customers, converting them into brand ambassadors. In the USA an estimated 60%* of wineries’ sell directly to customers, while in Australia an estimated 27%** of revenue is from direct sales at the winery. In Spain*** in 2017 there were more than 3,2million visitors to wineries generated revenues of more than €67million, 24% up on the previous year. These are trends that are set to continue to grow and here in Valencia, if done properly, there are excellent opportunities for all types of wineries, large and small, old and new.

In a saturated wine market wineries need to differentiate from the competition and find ways of communicating directly with customers. Wine Tourism must be an important element of that strategy. A visit to a winery should involve much more than a look at the tanks and barrels followed by a tasting. To make a visit memorable it has to be engaging for all types of wine tourists.

A year in a winery offers many different scenarios for planning events in each season of the year.

During the winter visitors can get involved with vineyard pruning, learning how and why vines are prepared for the new vintage. Believe me a couple of hours pruning will leaving a lasting memory. At the same time the winery can share their stores and experiences while explaining about the soils and local climate that give their wines their character and style. Followed by lunch with wine and conversation. A great way to spend a half a day.

Springtime is an exciting time to show the new wines from the previous vintage. Wineries can invite visitors to spend a morning blending wines and learn one of the key skills of a winemaker. The days are getting longer and warmer so this could be followed by a walk in the vineyards and see the first signs of growth of the new grapes.

Then there is the harvest; picking grapes and watching them be pressed is a unique experience of enjoyable work is an excellent bonding opportunity for the winery to share their enthusiasm and passion.

What to do with the kids? Make the visits children friendly while the grown ups can enjoy their experience. Exploring vineyards can be made entertaining for all ages.

Visitors travelling to and from the coast are often looking for detours and passing through a wine region offers an opportunity to stop off and buy wines directly. As you drive from Madrid to Valencia there needs to be more clear signs to invite tourists to visit the wineries in the region.

When I speak with people who have visited a winery most speak with enthusiasm of how fascinating and memorable the experience has been. To meet the people behind the brand, to see the vineyards and how the wines are made is something that makes wine different from other drinks.

Proximity to a large urban population in addition to more than 8 million visitors annually gives the region of Valencia an enviable source of potential visitors. This is an excellent opportunity for local government, the regional DO’s, gastronomic bodies and tourist organisations to work together to create a successful wine tourism project for the future.

(*figure from Silicon Valley Bank **survey by Wine Australia *** figures from ACEVIN)

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I am a Northern Irishman based in Valencia. My career in wine began more than three decades ago, in London. I am the founder of TheWinePlace.es, an online store, where wine enthusiasts can enjoy a selection of international wines and Verde Marte, a company dedicated to exporting Spanish wines. Also, Thewineplace.courses, an "approved program provider" of the courses of the prestigious WSET. I share my passion for wines through my media work writing weekly columns for the Spanish newspaper El Mundo and 5 Barricas, an online wine magazine.

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