Food & Wine

Ruth Troyano

Journalist and sommelier

“You don’t need to know about wine to get excited about it”

“Communi- cation is fundamental for wine tourism”
You say communications strategies are fundamental for incentivising wine tourism. Is it so important to know how to communicate what we have and do?
Communication is fundamental for wine tourism. Many wineries say a customer arrives, but it is a friend who leaves. That happens because they explain how they make wine, and work and care for the land. It establishes a human and personal relationship. Wine tourism creates bonds and it’s important that wineries empathise with the visitor, because that person will remember the wine due to their experience and, thanks to that memory, they’ll put that wine before others.
Is knowing how to communicate as necessary as knowing how to grow the grapes and how to harvest them?
The first step is to make good wine, but we have to let people know about it. It’s fundamental. Competition is savage. Catalonia is a wine country and we need to know how to show the singularity of a wine. For a winery it’s key to know how to show how it does things differently.
And is that happening?
We are still at the start, but in truth it’s nothing new. Wine tourism is part of the Mediterranean culture, a culture in which people have always thrown open their doors. Our grandparents, while they did not make bottled wine, did amateur wine tourism when they welcomed people into their homes and explained how they made wine. There are wineries that do it well and others that don’t. We are all learning. A lot can be done in Catalonia that is not possible in other winegrowing areas, as the wineries are mostly small and medium-sized companies. Those who visit them can have direct contact with the oenologist, chat with the owner... And that’s something we should highlight, because who better to explain wine than the person who made it?
What examples should we follow?
In Catalonia there are wineries that excel in just about every DO area. They are wineries that work on communication and who have belief. Dedication is obviously required and wineries have a lot of other tasks to do, but those who have persisted with a wine tourism strategy are now seeing results. There are wineries that sell 30% of their wine in their shop, and that’s a major saving in terms of transport and distribution. This is a direct effect of the privileged position a wine can attain. The consumer knows the history and keeps the bond going.
But aren’t sommeliers key? I’m thinking, for example, of Pitu Roca, about his gift with words and his capacity for seduction when recommending a wine.
He is a born seducer, a poet. At the URV, when receiving requests from companies for oenologists to work for them, they ask that they have communication skills. The sommelier is better known, but there are also great oenologists who know how to communicate.
Sometimes the layman finds the language they use difficult to follow.
We have to take some blame for that, because there’s no need to be so technical. What is required is to know how to explain where the wine was made, which hands looked after it. Consumers will pay more for what we know. When we know the history behind a wine, we value it more.
Is there not a bit snobbery where wine is concerned?
Yes, but it’s not due to the producers. A few years ago, a wine column would be full of technical issues, and such elitist information does not communicate anything. That’s now changing.
Is wine a little bit like football, in that everyone can understand it?
Perhaps, but there’s no need to know about wine to get excited about it. It’s like going to a gallery. I don’t know anything about art, but I can love a painting.
We recently had a major wildfire in Ribera d’Ebre and now there’s talk of rural areas being abandoned. Is Priorat an example to follow?
The country’s farmers are the great conservers of the land. The Priorat hillsides are full of vineyards thanks to the people’s obstinacy, and we should value that.

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