Great Wine Capitals

Villabuena de Álava, a small village with 300 inhabitants, lies on both slopes of a ravine carved out by a small creek.  You could drive by the village on the main road and probably miss it completely if you weren’t looking carefully. But if you turn off the road and drive down the hill into the village, you are in for a pleasant surprise, because this village has more than 40 wineries, a fact that surely deserves a place in the Guinness Book of Records.

Twelve of these wineries, along with the spectacular Hotel Viura, have created an innovative wine tour through the village that won a regional 2019 ‘Best Of Wine Tourism’ award from the Great Wine Capitals Global Network.

We decided to take the tour to find out for ourselves.

 

Five years ago, local entrepreneurs and music lovers Jose Pancorbo and Rafael Bezares weren’t sure if they wanted to create a special music festival or a special wine festival.  So they created both: MUWI La Rioja Music Fest, an annual event that fuses music, Rioja wine and tourism.  This unique focus earned the event a 2019 ‘Best Of Wine Tourism’ award for Art and Culture from the Great Wine Capitals Global Network.

Imagine having a hobby that is extremely enjoyable to yourself, as it should, but also brings great pleasure to everyone around you. Mark Lloyd from Coriole might think of the successful music and theatre he has been bringing to the rolling hills of McLaren Vale, as he - almost guiltily - mentions them to be more of a personal obsession and a digression to winemaking. But, if you win Great Wine Capitals ‘Best of Art and Culture’ two years in a row, I think it is time to call it more than just a runaway passion.

There are not a lot of places in the world, let alone wineries, which are as inviting as Elderton in the Barossa. As soon as I walked in the door I just wanted to find a spot on one of the beautiful couches to curl up next to the fire with a glass of delicious Shiraz. I felt like I walked into the home of a favourite auntie and was about to experience the best bit of family time. I think I picked up the vibe of this location perfectly - family seems to be the magic word, and the Elderton Ashmead family makes sure you feel like part of theirs.

Etude is the San Francisco | Napa Valley global winner for the 2018 Best of Wine Tourism Awards. They farm and operate with the goal of sustaining a healthy environment and eco-system, so they may be responsible neighbors and community members.

Monverde Wine Experience Hotel has been a long time affair of mine ever since I visited it for the first time, in 2016. Quite unsurprisingly, this stunning and picturesque wine hotel was the regional winner of the “Sustainable Wine Tourism Practices” category of the Best Of Wine Tourism 2018 awards, following on from winning the “Accommodation” category in 2017.

Thanks to their open door philosophy, welcoming guest for tastings, lunches and dinners in the property, Château de la Dauphine have already received two GOLD BEST OFs, in the categories of “Architecture & Landscape” in 2014, and “Food” in 2016.

They have now added another GOLD Best Of Wine Tourism award for “Sustainable wine tourism practices”, for their new Green Tour. This 'Visite Nature' will appeal to anyone looking to understand the challenges that face vine growers. The tour gives guests an intimate understanding of the ethical and environmental initiatives at the property.

Before the arrival of electricity, pumps, air conditioning and heating, wineries dug underground cellars to vinify and age their wines.  A fine example of this architecture is Bodega Conde de los Andes in Ollauri, the largest underground network of ageing cellars in the Rioja region. Loving maintenance and respect for ancient winemaking traditions by the owners, the Murua family, earned the winery an award for sustainable wine tourism from the Great Wine Capitals Global Network in 2018.

For Pam and Tony Barich of Whistling Kite Vineyards in South Australia’s Riverland district, the answer to creating a sustainable and healthy future are organics and biodynamics.

There are never enough excuses to pay a visit to the enchanted Douro Valley, one of the most prominent wine regions in the world. Therefore I was very glad to accept the invitation of CoolTour Oporto, the regional winner of the “Wine Tourism Services” category of the Best of Wine Tourism 2018 awards, to go on a group guided tour to the Douro Valley.

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