In our series of interviews with the companies disrupting the wine industry, the next stop is at Winerist, a company that is trying to make food and wine travel enjoyable and easy to plan. As the brand name suggests, it’s the connection between Wine and Tourist.
I’m sure many of you have struggled to plan a trip in an unknown region, surfing the web and probably ending up crossing your fingers that everything will work after a reservation with a phone call or an email without confirmation. And that’s usually only the first step of planning a trip: every day you will have to find restaurants, bars, and wineries that fit with your taste.
If I think of my experience visiting wine countries, I can summarize two situations:
- most of the wineries are very small without a website to find information and make reservations. Above all, they are not easy to find.
- after endless researches, you give up and book an organized trip where you just run through 3-4 wineries in one day with no time to enjoy them.
Winerist tries to solve these problems connecting travelers with wine and food tours, hotels, and wineries. To know more about how everything started and how it’s evolving, we enjoyed interviewing Diana, co-founder and CEO of Winerist. She started Winerist together with her friend and co-founder Tatiana.
How did everything start? How did you have this idea?
Winerist started 3 years ago and it’s now an award winning website and the largest online marketplace for wine and food enthusiasts to book experiences online. You can find the best wineries, restaurants and hotels in wine countries without jumping on different platforms.
The idea started during a wine trip in Champagne, Bordeaux, Rhone Valley and Provence: wineries were literally closing the door, refusing to let us pay for a tasting. There were 8 of us so not a small number either. We wanted to change that so we started with free travel guides: wineries and bloggers jumped on the opportunity, as well as many providers who needed good content and a nice platform. Now, Winerist lists over 100 wine regions, 70 free travel guides and a booking tour for winery visits, boutique hotel stays, cooking classes and many more food and wine experiences.
We changed the way wine travel works. We worked with local influencers to educate travelers. Things are changing and now there is a lot of blogging on wine, food, and travel. Even when wine enthusiasts come back from travels, they want more info, such as “where can I find this wine in London?”, “where should we go next year for a similar experience?”
What’s your competitive advantage on other travel websites?
We are focused on offering winelovers a very different experience. The content is curated, the tours are off the beaten path. No one else connects them with so many vineyards in any wine region in the world and we make the booking process easy – you can do it all online.
According to Conde Nast Traveller, wine travel will become the fastest growing travel sector by 2025. Italy for us is such a great opportunity because wineries are coming online and are not shy. They want to sell their wine and they want to sell experiences. On the other end, wine travelers are becoming better informed and want new experiences, not commercial tours: they want to taste wine, learn and be engaged.
Which are the latest trends?
There are some trending regions around Barcelona (Priorat) with great ambassadors and a strong marketing push. More and more people are traveling with a specific purpose in the wine and food space such as truffle tours and cooking classes. And we don’t see that only with younger people. One of the top selling experiences on Winerist is the Saint-Emilion Afternoon Wine Tour, which includes a tour of the town, two Chateaux, tasting class, Bordeaux tasting, aperitif and transport
Listing services to wineries are seeing a significant growth: wineries want to be connected with winelovers and are willing to pay a fee to be featured on a targeted and visually appealing platform. Few hundred wineries signed up and more are about to. We want to work more and more with wineries in the future.
Do you still enjoy traveling, wine tasting… in the same way as before you started Winerist, or something is a bit different now that it’s also part of your job?
I’m very spoiled in that sense: everyone looks after me wherever I go and needless to say I have the best job in the world. My perspective definitely changed and I encourage my friends to think outside of the box and always do some research before to optimize their experience.
There are many startups now trying to innovate the wine industry (delivery, recommendation engines, new buying experiences…). Which ones are your favorite?
Vivino is one of my favourite because it’s disrupting the way people share information about wine.
And I don’t want to forget traditional wineries: they have a legacy but are not afraid of diving into digital marketing (Clos Figuoras in Priorat, Querciabella in Tuscany). Not to mention Catalunya wine influencers and events like Digital Wine communication conference (DWCC). Finally, specialized product companies like Coravin, which can completely change the wine drinker experience are up there in the top too.
You already have a pretty large community (150,000+ wine & food lovers). How are you preparing your transition to mobile?
More news on that is is coming in 2016 so watch this space!
Favorite wine & food pairing?
Just mentioning the most recent ones: home-made pasta with white truffle paired with some Chianti favorites such as Fontodi, Querciabella or Isole e Olena.
What’s your experience with food and wine travel? Don’t forget that the truffle season is on in Alba…time to practice traveling!
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