Murmurings: What Can Wine Tourism Learn from Food?

murmurResearch tells us that affluent travelers (and many of modest means, too) increasingly choose their destinations with food and wine in mind. I have several friends who are addicted to the Food Network and the Travel Channel, for example, and seek out the places they have seen on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Bizarre Foods and other shows when they are on the road.

Wine and Food Tourism

Wine tourism and food tourism are increasingly intertwined and, although I didn’t see it coming, I recently found myself caught up in that mix. It started with an email from the editors at Murmur, which is a new website and app that aims to help guide foodies and winos to interesting spots in different cities in the U.S. and around the world. I was asked to write up a profile of my town and it seemed like an interesting challenge, so I jumped in.

Murmur’s focus is really on food and nightlife and most of the city guides available so far are written by food writers, bloggers and experts. But wine is not ignored, with Alder Yarrow’s guide to San Francisco, for example, and Alice Feiring’s take on New York City. Steve Heimoff wrote about Oakland and “terroirist” David White about Washington DC. I thought briefly about writing about the culinary scene in Seattle, since it is such a great food town, but my friend  Jameson Fink had already done a great job there, so I decided to stay true to my roots and profile Tacoma,”The City of Destiny,” a classic “second city” just thirty miles south of the Emerald City (as Seattle is known is known hereabouts).

You can follow this link to my quirky guide to Tacoma. The format called for a brief introduction and then a guide to a “perfect day” in Tacoma followed by specific recommendations in various categories that the Murmur editors provided. I invite you to check out my recommendation and those of the other authors.

Looking for Lessons

Murmur is an interesting concept — very personal and quite different from Yelp, TriipAdvisor and other websites that sort of crowd-source recommendations. I wonder — are there any websites or apps that do for wine tourism what Murmur hopes to do for food?

I know there are plenty of apps and sites out there and lots of information, too. I’m just curious if we are playing in the same league as food tourism of if maybe there’s room to grow? I’d encourage readers to use the Comments section to share particularly effective wine tourism apps and sites and perhaps also to identify spaces that need filling in this regard.

This raises a more general question about what wine can learn from food. I have written before that food is way ahead of wine in terms of media and popular culture profile and there are good reasons for this. We live in the age of celebrity, for example, and while there are many celebrity chefs that  are known outside the food industry, I wonder how many winemakers are well known outside the narrow world of wine?

Maybe we need to try to learn from the success of the food scene since consumer attitudes and expectations about wine are not shaped by wine alone but also by their experiences with other products. Celebrity is one side of this, but certainly not the whole story.

What can wine learn from food? A lot, I think, and we need to get with it especially since food has already appropriated some of wine’s mystique by embracing terroir through farm-to-fork, single origin and other characteristics that we once thought of as our own but that are now common culinary currency. The environment is very competitive and, as some of us have said recently, wine is in danger of losing ground if we don’t up our game. Learning from the success of others is a good way to begin.

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Thanks to the folks at Murmur for giving me this opportunity. It was a lot of fun to write about food and tourism. But I suspect that this is not my comparative advantage, so I’ll probably stick to wine economics in the future!

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13 responses

  1. A very interesting article and relevant question. How can wine travel look to food travel (and the general hubbub around food that is found online and elsewhere) for ideas and inspiration?

    I think one reason that food gets a lot of great attention and passionate followers is that most people feel it’s more approachable and relatable than wine.

    However, I don’t think as many people travel FOR food as they do for wine. Many people may plan some of their trips around certain restaurants, or have a food checklist of what they’d love to try while on vacation…but doesn’t the majority of food tourism stop there? Whereas wine tourism gets highly focused vacations: people want to walk in the vineyard, learn about how the wine is made, talk to the producer, and take home a bottle.

    The part where wine tourism can learn from food tourism is keeping up the conversation and general excitement around the subject, online and in popular culture.

    This particularly interests me because I write for an online magazine about wine tourism in Piemonte (bilingual: http://www.winepassitaly.it). We write about what we think will interest the traveler: where they can go, general overviews of areas, more specific looks at wine cities, interviews with winemakers (instead of chefs!) and articles about specific wines. But the wine world online, while definitely growing, remains much smaller than the food world.

  2. Hi Mike

    Thank you for your informative postings, I always look forward to getting and reading these.

    Some time back you did an article on the life cycle of wine, there was even a model which included boom and bust times (very simply put)

    I can’t for the life of me find that article, and I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction?

    I work for a packaging company in New Zealand and approximately 60% of our business is around wine sector customers.

    O look forward to your feedback.

    Best regards

    Andrea Bartley – Account Manager

    Tel:

    +64 9 580 2740

    Fax:

    +64 9 580 2617

    Mobile:

    +64 2143 3492

    Email:

    abartley@charta-packaging.co.nz

    Web:

    http://www.charta-packaging.co.nz

    Click here to read disclaimer policy

  3. Great comment, Diana. I would tend to agree that wineries, and to a lesser extent, craft breweries, are more destination-oriented once you get beyond a certain geographic proximity. For example, living in NW Indiana, my wife and I could very well travel to Chicago for a specific restaurant (less than hour travel time), versus Indianapolis (approx. three hours travel time). However, we might very well travel a couple of hours to go to a central Indiana/ southwest Michigan winery. I think that wineries can begin to tap into more of the “foodie” (I consider myself one, so the term is not made negatively) popularity, by doing more of what many breweries/ brewpubs are doing, which is tie in high quality food with their product. With wine especially, you could offer dishes that “pair” well with certain wines and/or are actually made using those wines. I am a big fan of quality wine, craft beer, AND food, so anything that increases interest in any of those products would help enhance the experience for all of us. Wine tourism in Italy… I’m jealous!

    • You’re right. And wine is definitely meant to be enjoyed with food, as any Italian will tell you! Some of its greatest wines are even just too intense to be drunk on their own (like Barolo), and really must be enjoyed alongside food.

  4. Wait – do other people not use Jancis Robinson’s World Atlas of Wine like it’s a Loney Planet guidebook? : )

  5. Mike,

    Thanks for the mention and the kudos. Whenever I visit my family in Proctor I always go for a walk along the Ruston Way waterfront to the same destination: The Spar for a beer.

    Best,

    Jameson

  6. Completely agree, Mike, with your comments about the media attention food gets compared to wine.

    I’ve watched Margaret river grow from a sleepy surfing and fishing area to first a wine destination and now a food destination. It’s home to some of Australia’s best restaurants but even though most of these are in Wineries, visitors of all types are more likely to be familiar with the chef’s name rather than the winemaker because he’s probably been in the media with recipes and cooking advice.

    I personally think the wine industry needs an equivalent to Masterchef Australia, one of the most watched TV shows ever (in Australia, I understand that it’s UK and US cousins were not so successful). Masterwinemaker doesn’t sound too good but what about Master of Wine? Although I’m not sure the institute would sanction the use of their major qualification?

    In all seriousness, regardless of how it’s done the wine industry needs to get it’s human face e.g. wine makers or even sommeliers, in front of the media continuously.

      • Yes, it’s shame he’s sorta moved on to other pastures and is now more well known as an entrepreneur and internet personality.
        I think there been a few since him but obviously none that did it so well.

    • I don’t think you’d necessarily need to have a show entirely about wine, simply make wine part of the mix. I saw an episode of Iron Chef America where each team had a mixologist to pair cocktails with the dishes. Why not a somm pairing food and wine? And I don’t see why wine couldn’t be part of a MasterChef challenge — especially if there is a guest winemaker or somm there to provide stories about the wine. I think exploiting the food-wine connection might be more effective than trying to go solo with wine. What do you think?

      • We could be on to something here!
        All we have to do know is patent it and sell the idea to one of the networks or maybe do a House of Cards and approach Netflix so that the whole season can be watched in one or two weeks.
        I actually do think that this is a great idea – we have to make wine sexy.
        The whole story of wine from the vine to the bottle and beyond, not to mention it’s personalities are great stories that need to be told in a way that grabs the public imagination.
        What better way to tell them than on a competitive food and wine show.

  7. Hi Mike,

    I’ve been exposing this problem for years, but nobody seems to react. From my humble point of view there is a critical aspect: the miscommunication between wineries / wine makers and the consumers. Food, on the contrary, is felt close, and chefs have been clever to turn back the tide and from being anonymous they’ve been able to become celebrities and being admired.

    Wine didn’t follow. Wine speaks to pro and uses at least two intermediates to reach the consumer. It’s too hard to be desired when there is no contact.

    Well, in any case, I opened a travel agency in Spain (the second largest wine producer last year) and it’s the only native travel agency trying to connect people (not visitors and wineries). We love wine, we love hospitality and we take care of every single traveler and wine maker as friends. And we are working on a new business model to come full circle: we want travelers and wine aficionados from the US to be able to bring the experience back home, meaning being able to buy local wines and send them to their home in the US. That is the only way to really create relationships and stay in people’s memory.

    Nobody said it was easy, but we’re on the road.

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