28 September, 2012

Wine tourism

On a domestic note, wine tourism could be key to injecting money into the region – and the country. 

In the movie Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner’s character hears a voice saying: “If you build it, he will come,” which Costner interprets as an instruction to build a baseball pitch. I wonder if the team at Marques de Riscal had the same idea? In 2006, a hotel designed by world-famous architect Frank Gehry opened its doors. Before its construction, the winery received around 1,000 visitors a year, during the three-and-a-half-year construction this rose to 9,000 and in 2011 the company received almost 70,000 visitors. 

The building was actually intended to be the company’s headquarters but it cost so much that it became more economically viable to make it into a hotel. 

Although general sales manager José Luis Muguiro didn’t break down the figures, the total investment in the hotel and revamping the winery was Ä70m. The investment covered improvements to the winery – including a car lift to a huge function room, which has facilitated the launch of several prestigious cars. 

On the wine side, Marques de Riscal is taking steps to improve the quality of its oak with some new barrels costing as much as Ä1,000 each, as well as a tasting room that offers a three-day wine course. Did I mention the Michelin-starred restaurant? 

Then there’s Dinastia Vivanco with its museum of wine culture, restaurant and tasting room, and the iconic undulating roof of Ysios. Driving around Rioja you can see how modern architecture complements the backdrop of traditional towns and countryside, much like modern styles of wine sit on the shelf alongside their more traditional counterparts. The region should be laughing all the way to the bank.

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