Wine Tourism in North America - July 2012
The US ranks among the top ten tourist destinations in the world. In 2010, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), it attracted almost 60 million international visitors. US Travel Association figures show that in the same year, domestic travellers made 1.5 billion ‘person trips’ for leisure purposes (including visiting wine regions). North America’s wine industry is dominated by California, a leading tourist destination for both domestic and international travellers. In 2010, according to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), it produced 60.6 billion gallons (US) of wine – 89% of total US wine production in that year (a typical pattern, repeated in 2011).
Although California dominates the wine industry – it is home to over 3,540 wineries – wine tourism is by no means confined to the West Coast. There are pockets of grape-growing regions across the US and also in Canada – surprising to some perhaps, given the latter’s reputation for extreme cold. Ontario has several regions with mild microclimates and the interior of British Columbia (BC) enjoys temperatures similar to the desert areas of California. South of the border, New York State, with a couple of hundred wineries, is the second-largest wine-producing state in the US, accounting for 2.5 billion US gallons in both 2010 and 2011, according to the TTB.
This report focuses on these four areas – ie California (Sonoma), New York State (the Finger Lakes), British Columbia (Okanagan) and Ontario (the Niagara Peninsula). It looks at why North America’s wine industry almost disappeared after the era of Prohibition and how it was ‘reborn’ in the 1970s and 1980s, when vineyards were replanted with European varietals and vintners experimented with hybrids, to cater to changing tastes. It was during those decades that North America’s modern wine-tourism industry began to emerge.
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