WINE AND TOURISM: THE POTENTIAL OF A PROMISING STRATEGIC ALLIANCE
NOT ONLY BEVERAGES DESIRED BY THE WHOLE WORLD ARE PRODUCED AROUND THE WINE INDUSTRY. IT IS ALSO POSSIBLE TO DEVELOP NEW SOURCES OF ACTIVITIES.
January 20, 2016
If there is something on which the experts agree is that by its climatic and geographical characteristics, the Maule Region is privileged in terms of wine production, so much so that since its origins the history of the region has been linked to this appealing beverage.
“Throughout the seventeenth century the expansion task of the Maule haciendas deepened and consolidated a rural type of economic model, supported on three pillars: cattle, agriculture and agro-industry. Agriculture was centered in the vine and wheat. And on this basis it emerged the agro-industry with wineries that manufacture the wine and flour”, according to the study called “Vineyards and Wines in Colonial Maule” carried out by researcher Pablo Lacoste.
Since then, the importance of this industry has been increasing, to the point that, as explained by the director of the Technology Center of the Vine and Wine (CTVV) of the University of Talca, Yerko Moreno, currently the region has the largest wine vines planted area in the country.
“We are talking about a figure that borders the 40% of the national total, which means that it is definitely the most important in terms of volume,” he said.
The specialist added that one of the main characteristics of our territory is its ability to produce a large diversity of varieties and styles of wine.
“It has the ability to accommodate different types of crops depending on the area and to a very high level. For example, in the Andean foothills it is possible to obtain Sauvignon Blanc as good as the best cold regions of Chile, while in some sectors of the valley -which are fresher - produce great Cabernet Sauvignon, and in those warmer places, some Carmenere of very good structure. Then diversity, rather than the uniqueness of a strain or of a place, make the region very entertaining,” he explained.
Along with producing musts of quality, this feature also opens an important niche for the development of another type of activity: wine tourism, that is to say, that it allows people to know in the field the processes involved in the production of wines.
Professor Moreno explained that such is the interest that this type of activity rouses, that it occupies an important place in those countries that stand out for the development of their wine industry.
“The Napa Valley, in California, is an emblematic place that has become the second touristic destination of the United States after Disneyland”, he noted.
A different reality from what happens in the Maule Region, he said, where despite its huge capacity it still has a lot to do in this area.
“The region can be an interesting destination for wine tourism, but it has to make investments in infrastructure to receive the tourists, improve the available hotel capacity –which it is always small and not diverse–, and in addition to improve other attractions that are complementary,” he said.
By way of example, Moreno cited the Australian experience. “A lot of the wine sold there comes from the hundreds of wineries that exist and where people get to buy and eat on the weekends,” he said.
“They are spaces that are permanently open to the public. There are events, classical, contemporary, jazz and rock music, there are outdoor activities such as horseback riding, trekking, and tracks for cycling, even renting bikes, painting competitions and even a large part of the wineries allow tourists to make their own wines, to be oenologists or winemakers for a day, or participate in harvesting activities. That is, the amount of things that can be done in a winery oriented to the public is immense,” he said.
In our region, several vineyards have begun to recognize this potential and opened their doors to tourists, developing interesting circuits that offer visitors an unforgettable experience.
“It is one of the types of tourism that attracts more visitors in the region, along with nature and rural tourism”, explained the regional director of the National Service of Tourism (Sernatur), Carolina Reyes.
Due to this, the authority acknowledged that the issue is being promoted with particular care in the region.
“We work closely with the Wine routes, both in the Valley of Curicó as in the Maule’s, which is located in Talca, because we clearly identified that the region is the one that has the largest amount of hectares planted with vines, we produce and export the largest amount of wine and therefore we have a landscape associated with the wine tourism that has a high interest to visitors, so we've been developing specific products to diversify from other regions that also exhibit oenological characteristics”, he said.
In this regard, the authority said that work is being done on several initiatives to promote the valley-mountain destination.
“We have set up various activities associated with wine tourism, for example the first Sparkling Wine Route; also we are developing experiences of organic wine and chicha in Rincon de Mellado. In addition we support strongly the Wine Route in their promotional activities as the ‘Night of the Wineries”, which is done in Vichuquén. In the case of the Maule Route in Talca, we support them with the dissemination activities of the Night of the Carmenere, on the Wine Boulevard” he said.
Carolina Reyes also pointed out that a series of actions with the vineyards associated with the routes is being done.
“Also we raised as a new product the development in the wine sector and from the tourism point of view, the province of Cauquenes, supporting organic wine producers there with the first Pais Variety Wine Fair that was made last year and now we're going to generate a Route in that territory”, she added.
“It is the valley's largest producer of Chile, but now the eyes are here because of the great work that is being done in the rescue of vines planted many years ago and are not as well known for the habitual consumer, like the Carignan and the Pais wine. The Maule Region has a tremendous potential and the people are taking notice,” explained Fernando Toro, representative of the Maule Valley Route, an association comprising nine vineyards and acts as a coordinator of tourism among vineyards and tour operators.
Toro explained that thanks to this kind of alliances, those who participate in each tour “can taste wines, visit wineries and learn about their production process, in addition to impregnate themselves with the wine culture of the area.”
He added that, aware of the potential that underlies this type of activity; its associates have developed adequate facilities to receive visitors.
“Some vineyards have developed a very well organized infrastructure for tourism and others are on the way to achieve it,” said Toro.
In that sense, the manager of the Route, Veronica Rebolledo, said it has developed around a specific goal: “to highlight specifically the history of wine in our region.”
“We want to show that wine is in our blood and we can go from the mountain to the sea through century-old vines. We have a cultural heritage around the world of wine that we are interested in respecting, rescuing and to putting value on that,” she said.
In terms of wines, another emblematic zone is the Colchagua Valley, in the O’Higgins Region.
“The climatic conditions make the Colchagua valley a prime area for the growth of vines and for the production of wine, especially red wines, on the other hand it has a Mediterranean climate, which gives the possibility of visits and observations throughout the year,” said Monica Vergara, coordinator of the of Wine Tourism Program at the Campus the University of Talca keeps in Santa Cruz county.
The professional added that in this area is located the Union Association of Vineyards of the Colchagua Valley, which is home to 13 of the more than 25 that are concentrated in the valley. “Clearly a wine tourism destination comparable to other valleys such as Napa Valley in California,” she said.
“Every year, the valley has been modernizing its tourist offer, forming and strengthening associations such as the Colchagua Chamber of Tourism”, she added.
Vergara also noted that there are alternative routes of small producers, or directly offered by each of the wineries. Some include accommodations, services, restaurants, and blend with other areas of interest, like horse riding, trekking, etc
“Since the 90’s, along with the growth and specialization of the industry, tourist services have also grown, it's a tremendous challenge, and it is understood as models of success to replicate them in the valley for the tourist offer”, she said.
It is a niche that they are far from neglecting. “The growth potential is extremely high, considering that Chile is one of the main producers and exporters of wines worldwide. Particularly, Colchagua is one of the 5 most recurrent tourist destinations of our country to foreigners”, she said.
The academic highlighted that this was the reason that prompted the UTALCA to open in the zone, more than a decade ago already, a Campus dedicated to the training of specialized human capital.
“The installation of the Colchagua campus of the University of Talca, with its senior technical programs in the areas of viticulture, winemaking and tourism was born as a response to the needs of the sector”, she added.