Designing wine tours


For some time I’ve had my wine tours as a small subsection of this website. This was primarily because this site worked as something of an assemblage of everything I do in the world of wine and elsewhere. In talking with fellow local wine and food enthusiasts at the Dalmacija Wine Expo last month (where I presented a masterclass Catalan-Dalmatian wines), I realized that this was shortsighted and ultimately this site should be on its own where it now exists as European Wine Tours. You can find my original sections for Priorat, Montsant, and Girona-Costa Brava there which are now joined by offers from friends in Istria, Croatia and Zagreb, Croatia.

This allows us to present a group of tour guides who maintain a similar standard of knowledge and expertise. We all write about our relative regions and know the wines backwards and forwards. This is important in a world where it seems that some guy who was slapping together beach apartments prior to 2008 woke up to his unemployment ending some time in 2010 and decided that he was going to start guiding wine tours with little to no knowledge about the subject.

What this theoretical (but probably actually not) guy didn’t know was that there already are and will undoubtedly be for a long time to come the McDonald’s type of wine tours out there. These consist of a guy with a minibus who groups together 20 or so people and takes them to the cheapest (possibly free) cellars to taste at. These are not tours for true wine lovers but they fill a need for those who just want a quick day trip out to wine country to drink up and maybe buy some wine which is a style born of Napa Valley. I know it well and have seen it in action as I first started working there when I began in wine.

What more people are sensible wanting these days are private tours. Some of these same McDonald’s tour companies are seeing this as well and trying to offer private tours. I don’t really see how this will work as people requesting private tours are paying more for the privilege and are going to want someone truly knowledgeable, not someone who has read my book and henceforth ordained themselves an “expert”. I’ve seen this in action by encountering these other guides around the regions who then try to hide my book they’ve been using. It’s somewhat satisfying to see that you’ve written something so comprehensive but at the same time, people should just buy the book themselves and make their own tour as that is the point of the Vinologue series.

This is of course and important item to note as well given that there are those who can and will want to plan their own wine tours, although where one of my books isn’t available, it gets trickier. But at what point would someone want to contract my services or Goran’s in Istria or Lada & Morana’s in Zagreb? From the minute you want to enjoy yourself as even if you can speak the language, it’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle with missing pieces to get everything to fit in to place in terms of a tour.

I have an upcoming tour in Priorat which has meant spending a great deal of time this week re-confirming visits that I had set, finding out that some had to cancel, trying to find others, and juggling everything about. This will undoubtedly continue during the tour as well but the point of the guide is of course to take all the stress out of this. While DOQ Priorat and DO Montsant have nearly 200 cellars between them, it’s only about 40% that you can visit and of those, about half that are truly recommendable to do so. So the potential for a guide becomes quite clear, as long as it’s one who is qualified and for this and hopefully moving forward in to the future, this European Wine Tours collective will be of great value, especially as I work to find new members who operate at a level that I’d enjoy taking a tour from them as well.