The demand for wine tourism in France has grown by 50% in the last 10 years; reaching over 10 million wine tourism visits each year (pre Covid) of which 6.8 million are in the Bordeaux region. Normally 40% of the visitors are from overseas, interestingly that is more or less the same percentage of Bordeaux wines that are sold abroad – coincidence? What future for wine tourism in Bordeaux?
As wine tourism demand continues to grow, so does the offer and many properties are reassessing how to respond to this growing demand and looking ahead to see how things may change post COVID-19. Bordeaux is perfectly adapted to smaller private wine tours. There are very few drop-in tastings rooms in Bordeaux, which may be frustrating if you haven’t planned ahead but it does mean that intimacy, so valued by clients and wine makers, is maintained. It also means that groups can stay in safe bubbles and that properties can manage cleanliness between groups. Modest wine makers claim wine is ‘made’ in the vineyard rather than the cellars.
Getting in and amongst the vines is something you can only do when you visit. This has become an integral part of most visits, never more so than now with sustainability and environmental responsibility high on most winemakers’ agendas. 65% of Bordeaux surface area is under one of the many certifications and growing. Outdoor settings may well be in more in demand too in this time of COVID-19.
Traditionally vineyard visits would start with a map showing the vineyard, now they take you out there, either walking through the vines or on a golf cart as at Château Angludet and Château Pontet Canet or in a Land Rover at Château Troplong Mondot. The maps are still there but they have now evolved to tell a deeper story. Château Pichon Baron has an interactive map that shows you not only where their vineyards are, but also the different types of soil they are made of and how the selected grape varieties interact with them. A clever mix of virtual and reality.
If you can’t experience the real thing right now, you can go virtual. It’s not always a poor replacement. The 3-D map of the Médoc created by Pierre Le Hong, commissioned by the Medoc Wine Council, is a brilliant overview of the region. It clearly shows the topography and drainage of the region in a way that you just can’t see when you are there on the ground.
Sharing experiences and of course wine, over Zoom with clients and friends can be fun and producers have embraced these experiences over recent months. One of the great things about receiving small groups is the connection with clients; on-line events have a similar intimacy. Entering into people’s homes, chatting about wines they have brought up from their cellar, perhaps purchased on previous visits, reminiscing about their last visit and making plans for the next one. Wine Paths is running Facebook live wine tours with partners including Château Pape Clément, Château Smith Haut Lafitte, Château de Ferrand, Château Lagrange, Château d’Issan and Château Malartic Lagravière. They have chalked up over 120,000 virtual wine tours.
Vivant is a web site that promises an interactive tasting experience alongside films of producers, wine samples that come with tutored tastings, and the possibility of scoring your tasting skills through ‘friendly competition. Concentrating on sustainable wines, tasting it’s an interesting mix of TV and live interactive tastings. There are some familiar faces from Bordeaux including Claire Villars from Château Haut Bages Liberale, Gonzague Lurton of Château Dufort Vivens, Chateau Guiraud and more. Wine might offer the impression of travel in a bottle, but wineries do want their visitors back. With travel set to become more expensive, will customers expectations change?
Keep it private
There is a demand for smaller, private groups for tours and tastings, as I mentioned above, but also private accommodation. Here again Bordeaux has a lot to offer. Taking over a whole chateau for a group of friends, family or colleagues is something my clients already love to do. Enjoying the experience of your very own French Château, relaxing at the end of a busy day tasting and touring to compare notes, and taste or re taste the wines. Château le Pape, Château de Ferrand are Château Soutard, are some of my favourites.
Wine and wellness
Wellness tourism grew from $563bn to $639bn, or 6.5% annually, from 2015 to 2017 a market that was a predicted to top $900 billion by 2022 before coronavirus struck. COVID-19 has made people more aware of the importance of their health and they will want to bear this in mind in future trips. Wellness might sound contradictory on a wine tour, but not at all. Why not start a wine tour day with a yoga session at Château Boutinet, organise a vineyard walk after lunch, or a bicycle tour around Château Marquis de Terme’s vineyards to work up an appetite for dinner. Enjoy an afternoon siesta at in the park of Château Lamothe Bergeron at the end of the afternoon.
Here are a few new projects to look forward to when you return. The brand new cellar of Château Haut Bailly came into operation for the 2020 harvest. As of next spring, visitors will be able to experience this amazing piece of technical expertise and architecture for themselves when they visit the property. The new cellar has liberated more space in the old installations to receive guests for visits, lunches, dinners and seminars.
Château Marquis de Terme will be opening their new in house restaurant this Spring with a terrace over looking the vines of Margaux.
Château Troplong Mondot completely renovated their cellars in 2019 including the guest suites next to the chateau. They are ready to receive guests again alongside the two bedroomed cottage in the vines. They will re-open their award winning restaurant Les Belles Perdrix this year and are already inviting select groups for sneak previews of Chef David Charrier’s skills in private dining experiences. A tour though the vines in a Land Rover, followed by a picnic lunch in the vines also prepared by the same in-house Chef David Charrier. Bordeaux is waiting for you.
Cover photo // Château Le Pape