Well over a million wine lovers and tourists are expected to flock this weekend to some 1,000 vineyards taking part in this year’s Open Cellars event. Now in its 15th year, Open Cellars has been a pioneer in developing Italy’s wine tourism sector which attracts over four million people to the Italian countryside.
Aside from seeing where and how wine is made, and discovering the difference of tasting it at its source, Open Cellars offers visitors a chance to learn about traditions and culture linked to wine-making and country life. Although wine is the chief focus, Open Cellars also offers tourists a chance to sample other farm products, especially olive oil, and feast on an array of regional foods and cuisine.
The initiative, organised by the Wine Tourism Movement (MTV), originally began in Tuscany to then spread quickly to Italy’s other wine-producing regions. A number of special events have once again been organised in various Italian regions for the Open Cellars weekend.
The region of Lombardy will reprise “dinners with winemakers” in a number of vineyards, historic homes and restaurants where visitors will be able to enjoy the region’s best wines and foods while chatting to a professional vintner.
A cross-country bike rally has been organised in Friuli Venezia Giulia and the region will also offer Open Cellars 2007 souvenir glass wine goblets, the proceeds of which will be donated to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). In Emilia Romagna, wine tasting will be twinned with sampling the region’s varieties of bread, with each vineyard playing host to a local baker. Vintage and classic cars and motorcycles will be an Open Cellars sideshow in Abruzzo with the participation of the Motoclub Pescara, the Sulmona Vespa Club and the regional Fiat 500 Club.
In Molise, Open Cellars this year coincides with the feast day of the patron saint of Portocannone, an ethnic Albanian enclave, where there will be the traditional ox cart race in honor of the Madonna of Constantinople. A ‘wine road’ will be inaugurated during Open Cellars in Calabria to allow wine tourists a year-round itinerary to discover the region’s wines.
Wine tourism in Italy has been expanding at a rate of some 8% a year and now attracts and generates annual revenue of around 2.5 billion euros in wine-producing regions.
A study by the social research group CENSIS found that every 10 euros spent in the vineyard generates 50 euros in earnings for the local economy. According to another CENSIS report, wine and food have become the second most important reason why tourists come to Italy and is considered the treat which gives the greatest satisfaction to visitors.