Hotels ramp up their wine-tourism experiences
While overall wine sales have slowed in recent years, at least in the US, oenophiles have started to consume more - and demand - better quality wines. To attract this traveller, hotels and resorts are increasingly ordering private-label bottles, producing their own and ramping up wine-centric experiences.
“With so many lodging choices, wine programmes offer companies another way to stand out,” Renée Allen, founder of the Wine Institute of New England, said, noting that two desirable demographics, millennial and Generation Z consumers, want to become more knowledgeable about what they drink.
Cheryl Stanley, who lectures about food and beverage management at the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, said that with margins being so tight, hotels and restaurants make more money on beverages than on food. “Wine tourism has always been pretty big in Europe, but I’ve seen more of that growth in the United States,” she said.
From wine weekends to grapes grown on-site, here are a few ways the hospitality industry is elevating their wine-related offerings.
Private label wines
The Britannia Hotel in Trondheim, Norway, reopened in April after a three-year renovation, and marked the occasion with a Brut Champagne blended for the property by Caroline Latrive, a cellar master at Champagne Ayala in France.
A private label - essentially a hotel’s bespoke wine brand - can enhance the travel experience and even help guests take memories home.
Britannia’s multi-vintage is served by the bottle ($100 [R1435]), by the glass ($15) and with afternoon tea during weekends ($40 per person). “This is the first hotel private-label Champagne in Norway,” said Ida Dønheim, the restaurant director. The property is likely to debut more private labels in the future. (Room rates run from $265.)
One of the most successful and large-scale hotel private labels was created by Folio Fine Wine Partners for Hyatt in 2007. The Canvas brand now offers five varietals and recently shipped its 12 millionth bottle; a limited-production cabernet sauvignon debuted last month. The wine, priced at $30 per bottle, can be purchased online and at most Hyatt properties.
“That’s the first time I’ve seen a hotel chain doing the blending, bottling and rolling out across all states - and of that quality,” said master sommelier Fred Dex.
Resorts producing their own wines
Some accommodations on vineyards produce wine on the premises rather than sourcing it elsewhere.
The Inn at Opolo, a bed-and-breakfast in Paso Robles, California, opened in 2008. Surrounded by more than 121 hectares of vines, the inn now makes 28 varietals for purchase. Daily tastings are available to guests, as are free wine and appetisers each afternoon. (Room rates run from $359.)
The resort Adler Thermae in Tuscany, Italy, opened in 2004 with 90 rooms, and in 2016 added a 20-acre vineyard filled with Sangiovese grapes. Organic red, rosé and sparkling rosé wine is produced under Adler’s Aetos label (from around $22 per bottle, $7 per glass; room rates $228 per person). In Tuscany, the assistant manager, Lukas Rubatscher, said that “it is common for a hotel to have a vineyard, but not so much a hotel with its own wine production”.
But Samuel Leizorek, owner of Las Alcobas Napa Valley, a 68-room vineyard resort in California, warns that not all good hotels can be good vintners. “They are two very different enterprises; it takes years to develop good wines from the time you plant the grapes,” he said.
Enhanced in-room wine experiences
Flavio Scannavino, the sommelier and general manager at Hotel De’Ricci in Rome, said he has created eight wine cellars, one in the fridge of every suite. Guests make choices from the central cellar, which has more than 1500 labels and 15000 bottles. (Room rates run from $445.)
“At the moment of booking, guests can choose the wine,” Scannavino said.
The London West Hollywood, in Beverly Hills, California, introduced Plum wine dispensers in each of its 226 guest suites in September for a wine-by-the-glass experience. The touchscreen appliance acts as a virtual tasting room and also preserves bottles ($18 per glass, with room rates starting at $389).
Wine-education tastings and dinners
A few properties offer courses and events for visitors to deepen their understanding of wines.
Little Washington Winery, a five-room inn in Washington, Virginia, started a wine school called Foodie-U in 2011, offering two-hour-long courses that include instruction on how to blend wines.
“By May 2012, we had 1700 people sign up,” said the owner, Carl Henrickson. (Room rates run from $300; courses from $40.)
Château Élan in Braselton, Georgia, has a two-hour Taste of Georgia experience with an educated wine attendant. Offered monthly at its winery, the event is limited to six guests and features locally made products like cheese and olive oil paired with six wines ($85 per person; room rates from $299).
Last March, the J&G Steakhouse at The Phoenician resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, organised its first rare-wine event, pairing five dinner courses with hard-to-find vintages. Three more events will be offered this year ($125 to $150 per person).
“Around 15 to 20 years ago it was about finding the biggest, juiciest wine we can drink,” said Taylor Chandler, the restaurant’s sommelier.
“Today it’s about finding the best wine we can drink.”
The New York Times