A scotch whisky distiller, when asked recently if he made any blends, was gloriously sniffy and dismissive of blended whisky. It would have been interesting to see and hear what he would have made of the Johnnie Walker Directors Blends, which I got to taste last Thursday (November 28) in London.
The competition, now in its second year, rewards producers, winemakers and generic bodies - be they local, regional, national or international - that attract visitors to their wineries and raise brand awareness.
This year’s entries were drawn from countries including Spain, South Africa, Canada, Australia, Portugal, Chile and New Zealand.
Wine Country Ontario impressed the Wine Tourism Awards’ panel of judges with its easy-to-navigate website, and collaborations with regional associations that create most of the real grassroots promotional work.
Jacob's Creek took the prize of Best Visitor Centre. Judges liked the Australian winery’s forward thinking in creating Mandarin signage and noted the site’s bike and walking trails, mini vineyard – as an educational tool – and impressive visitor figures.
Bodegas Torres from Spain took Most Innovative Visitor Experience, impressing judges with its night-time tours with an astronomer.
The award for Best Food & Wine Matching Experience was won by La Motte Wine Estate in South Africa, a testament to the winery’s experimental style, well-trained staff and expertise in multi-occasion food and wine tasting.
The judging panel included Christian Davis, editor of Drinks International; Ian Harris WSET chief executive; Emma Roberts, director of Eviva Communications; David Cox of Snoxhall; and freelance writer Jochen Erler.
Davis said: “Tourism is one of the most effective ways of marketing your products, services and facilities. Wine lends itself perfectly to tourism.
“Our winners have clearly recognised and grasped the importance of wine tourism by implementing a successful tourism initiative. This generates brand awareness, brand loyalty and ultimately an increase in sales. Congratulations to our winners. We look forward to the next Wine Tourism Awards later this year.”