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Five companies excelling in wine tourism were honoured on December 3 at a ceremony held during the Christchurch|South Island Wine and Food Festival. Four of them, Appellation Central Wine Tours, Melton Estate, Northburn Station and Yealands Estate received a Best Of Wine Tourism award from the Great Wine Capitals Global Network while Nelson Wine Art was highly commended for Wine Tourism Services.

Photo: Councillor Sue Wells of the Christchurch City Council presents the International ‘Best Of Wine Tourism’ award to Appellation Central Wine Tours.


Wine Tourism Services: Appellation Central Wine Tours – Central Otago
This is the second year that Appellation Central Wine Tours has won the award for Wine Tourism Services. This tour company offers an exceptional wine tourism experience for the novice or more experienced wine consumer, with each tour tailored specifically to meet the needs and interests of the clients on the day, in terms of the detail of commentary and even the wineries visited. Whether taking a half day or a full day tour, clients are exposed to a range of both well established and new, boutique operations in three subregions of Central Otago. As well as the wine tasting opportunities, each tour includes a delicious platter lunch served at one of two winery restaurants, and offers a commentary on the history of the wine industry and the region as a whole.
Appellation Central Wine Tours has been operating since 1999, when Central Otago was still in its infancy as a wine region, and in their years of operation almost 20,000 people who have taken one of their tours. This company has established a close relationship with the wineries of the region and today work with a total of 20 winery partners in their tour selection. A large part of the success of Appellation Central Wine Tours is due to the professionalism and level of knowledge of their team of tour guides, who they recognise as their ‘single most important asset’. To this end, ongoing training of guides is a priority of the company.
Feedback from customers to the company itself and through sites such as Trip Advisor reflect the outstanding job the company is doing in promoting the Central Otago wine region to the world and they are deserving winners of this award.

Wine Tourism Restaurant: Melton Estate – Canterbury
Melton Estate has been successful in winning the Wine Tourism Restaurant category. Their restaurant boasts an extensive menu and sources local produce where possible and the judges were most impressed by the quality of the food served. At their winery cellar door, restaurant and event venue, the owners, Philip and Tracy Caunter, prioritise ‘wine hospitality’ in everything that they do. This emphasis is based on the recognition that wine is only part of the mix for guests to their venue; they are seeking opportunities to socialize, relax and enjoy themselves.
In the aftermath of the Canterbury Earthquakes, the Caunters decided that Christchurch people needed destinations and venues which allowed them to escape the city and relax for a while. To this end they launched a series of events combining a winery lunch and a show which showcased New Zealand music and comedy. These events have been a resounding success, and have resulted in plans to expand their venue with a new outdoor dining area and venue.
Melton Estate are worthy winners in this category this year; they have overcome regional adversity to provide a restaurant and venue offering high quality food and a strong hospitality atmosphere. There is little doubt that the presence of Melton Estate is providing real benefits for the local community and Canterbury region as a whole.

Innovative Wine Tourism Experience: Northburn Station – Central Otago
Northburn Station are the winners in the category of Innovative Wine Tourism Experiences this year. Their innovative ‘Northburn Experience’ – a hosted wine and food matching experience – coupled with the superb location and venue, the commitment to using local produce, and the exceptional hospitality make for a memorable and unique wine tourism experience.
Northburn station is a 13,500 hectare high country sheep station which incorporates a 23 hectare vineyard and an extensive vegetable garden and orchards. At ‘The Shed’, their purpose built cellar door, restaurant and function venue, Jan and Tom Pinckney offer the visitor a unique opportunity to experience all of the produce of this sustainably managed land. The Northburn Experience provides the opportunity for cellar door visitors to taste a selection of Northburn Station’s wines alongside a selection of delicious canapés, hosted by friendly and knowledgeable staff. Not only are these canapés specifically designed to match the wines, but they are made from the best local produce; much of it is sourced from Northburn’s own organic gardens, orchards and farm. The canapés offer an enticing entrée to the winery restaurant, whose menus are seasonal and based on what is fresh at Northburn Station, most clearly exemplified in the delicious Northburn station platter. Not only can visitors buy the wine they have tasted at the cellar door, but they can choose also from a wide selection of chutneys, jams and jellies (and legs of merino lamb!) made with Northburn produce, ensuring they can recreate the ‘Northburn Experience’ at home.
The setting of Northburn Station’s cellar door, overlooking a trout pond and with stunning views towards Lake Dunstan and the Pisa Ranges, and the hospitable welcome received cap off what is a wonderful winery experience where the best of Central Otago food, wine and landscape is on display.

Sustainable Wine Tourism Practices: Yealands Estate
For the second year in a row the winner of the award for Sustainable Wine Tourism Practices is Yealands Estate. Yealands Estate is an exceptional showcase for best practice in sustainable wine production. Inspired to “Think boldly, tread lightly and never say it can’t be done”, Yealands is a world leader in sustainable innovations, and is continually exploring new opportunities to improve sustainability. For example, in the past year pallet burners have been installed at the winery in which baled vine prunings are burnt as an energy source in preference to fossil fuels – the first of its kind in the winemaking world.
The judges were highly impressed by the way in which these sustainable practices are being transmitted to visitors at the cellar door. A short audio visual presentation introduces the winery’s vision of becoming the world leader in sustainable wine production and an interactive touch screen allows visitors to develop their own understanding of sustainability. ‘Sustainability tours’ of the winery and vineyard offer further insights into these sustainable practices. As well as being shown the winemaking process, on this tour visitors can see firsthand sustainability in action, making the experience more memorable.
Every aspect of the winery, vineyard and production at Yealands is focused on premium sustainable wine production and they ably demonstrate their commitment to sustainability in the wine tourism experience they offer.

Highly Commended: Wine Tourism Services: Nelson Wine Art – Nelson

The judges would like to make a special mention and highly commend the entry of Nelson Wine Art and General Manager Gisela Purcell for the professional and energetic work the organization is doing to coordinate and promote the wineries of the Nelson region to the local, national and international community. As well as regularly producing and updating the Nelson Wine Guide and Wine Tasting journal, Nelson Wine Art is highly active in coordinating events to showcase the region’s wines. This year, as part of the Real New Zealand Festival (in association with Rugby World Cup 2011), Nelson Wine Art organized and hosted the very successful and highly innovative ‘Nelson First Fifteen Wine Competition’, which saw wines from Nelson pitted against competitors from Italy and the United States, whose rugby teams were playing in the region. With a fairly limited budget, not only did this event attract visitors to Nelson, but gained a great deal of publicity for the region, and highlighted the quality of Nelson wines locally and globally. The events were run very professionally and were greatly enjoyed by those who attended.
This event, and the ongoing efforts of Nelson Wine Art, lead by Gisela Purcell, highlight what can be achieved when wine regions work collaboratively and are innovative in their approach to marketing their products and region.

About the Great Wine Capitals Global Network
Founded in 1999, the Great Wine Capitals Global Network is an alliance of nine internationally renowned wine regions – Bordeaux, France; Cape Town, South Africa; Christchurch|South Island, New Zealand; Florence, Italy; Mainz|Rheinhessen, Germany; Mendoza, Argentina; Porto, Portugal; Bilbao|Rioja, Spain and San Francisco|Napa Valley, USA. The Best Of Wine Tourism awards serve as an industry benchmark for excellence and recognize leading wineries and wine-tourism related businesses within each Great Wine Capital that have distinguished themselves in areas such as innovation, service and sustainable practices. For more information visit http://www.greatwinecapitals.com.

Written by John Abbott

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