New owners of the highly-regarded Warrenmang Vineyard and Resort have revealed a plan to attract more international visitors to the region.
The Moonambool empire reopened on October 19 after eight months closure for extensive renovations.
The property was purchased by the Du family in September 2017, after 40 years of ownership by regional food and wine pioneers Luigi and Athalie Bazzani.
Warrenmang managing director Emma Du said the resort was fully booked for opening weekend with upgraded facilities a welcome change.
The wine cellar has been renovated to be able to host weddings, adding to the existing restaurant and function centre.
“When we held tours people said the cellar would be beautiful for weddings. We said ‘why not, we can hold weddings here’,” Ms Du said.
While the immediate focus for Warrenmang’s new owners is growing the venue’s reputation with domestic markets, Ms Du said their long-term plan was to attract more visitors from their home country.
“I want to attract more Chinese tourists from Melbourne to Warrenmang. Ballarat is popular for Sovereign Hill, but a lot stop and go back to Melbourne or on to the Great Ocean Road or Grampians. We can offer something for them here,” she said.
Visit Ballarat chief executive Noel Dempsey said it was a harsh reality for regional Victoria that a low number of international tourists stay overnight, following the release of the latest International Visitation Survey data on Friday November 2.
Ms Du said she had been talking to wineries nearby Warrenmang about an idea to create an enticing itinerary including Pyrenees wineries.
“We want to create a three day or five day route including Melbourne, Great Ocean Road, Grampians and a stop at the Pyrenees region and include a wine tour on their way back to Ballarat,” she said.
“I think we should work together. People want to experience more… I will strongly recommend our visitors to stay in other wineries and experience other places around us.”
The Grampians Pyrenees Wine and Culinary Tourism Plan positions wine and food as the current tourism focus in the region, an idea Ms Du said fits in with her long-term goal for Warrenmang.
China will also be a target for wine export, in response to a growing demand for Australian wines.
“Australian wine is the second most popular wine behind France in China now,” Ms Du said.
“Australian wine is regarded as new world wine. The flavour is more suitable to Chinese taste and the price is more competitive, which is why I think it has become popular. We have distributors in China already waiting for our wine.”
BROADER VISION FOR PYRENEES GRAMPIANS WINE TOURISM
Grampians and Pyrenees wineries and tourism operators are working to position the region as an enticing culinary destination.
Work is underway on the Grampians Pyrenees Wine and Culinary Tourism Plan 2017-2020 that was released in September last year.
The plan identified a need for a shift in perspective at the region’s wineries to align with the demands of the ‘modern food and wine traveller’ – from ‘great wines’ to ‘enriching times’.
Mount Langi Ghiran viticulturist Damien Sheehan said wineries in the Grampians and Pyrenees had offered high-quality product for some time, but the region had been lacking a cohesive tourism plan.
“The shift in thinking is quite a big change to the aims of the past. It is not just about building a cellar door and opening the door up to the public, it is about viewing the winery as a tourism business,” he said.
“For the wineries that have been engaged in tourism broadly and understand the tourism industry, they see that is what needs to be done. But a lot of these business owners do everything in the business – they grow the grapes, make the wine, bottle it, market it, retail it – and now we are asking them to do tourism as well. We have to give them the assistance they need.”
It is not just about building a cellar door and opening the door up to the public, it is about viewing the winery as a tourism business.Damien Sheehan, Mt Langi Ghiran
Pyrenees Shire Council appointed Michelle Malone-Cohen project manager to carry out the Grampians Pyrenees Wine and Culinary Tourism Plan in June.
Since her appointment to the role, she has been working with stakeholders to develop a brand framework and decide on a place descriptor, such as ‘The Western Highlands’, to link the two regions.
Other priority actions revealed in the plan include the creation of a tasting trail, a centralised cellar door showcase and an ‘innovative’ food and wine event calendar.
A perceived lack of culinary product and experiences, a lack of coordination and consumer profile were identified as challenges in the plan.
Blue Pyrenees Estate chief winemaker and chief executive Andrew Koerner said packaging experiences was the way forward for tourism in the Grampians and Pyrenees wine regions.
“The days are gone of people just driving by and dropping in. You have to give them a reason to come. You need a compelling food, wine and experience all together,” he said.
Blue Pyrenees Estate will host it’s first November Sun music event on November 17. The event is marketed as a celebration of great wine, Australian music, local food and craft beer with 1980s rockers Dragon.
Mr Koerner said it was hoped the event would draw visitors from further afield.
“Our experience tells us that we are very busy on long weekends… people from Melbourne will travel the distance if they can stay and extra day,” he said.
“It has been a challenge to draw people from further afield on a regular weekend, but if there is an event on it will encourage people to travel. The more events like this the more people we pull.”
“We have targeted people from Ballart for event, but we know people from as far as Mildura, Melbourne and Geelong are coming and we are pushing further with television advertising into Bendigo.”
Other wineries have also begun marketing packaged experiences; Dalwhinnie offers a tour of the vineyard with vigneron David Jones and Mt Langi Ghiran offers a picnic in the vineyard with a game of bocce.
Wine and wildlife with Halls Gap Zoo and wine hikes with ‘glamping’ near the vines are other event opportunities identified in the tourism plan.
Mr Sheehan said the Grampians and Pyrenees was aiming for a level of collaboration that was not currently happening between two other regions in Victoria.
“There are a couple of programs about to begin in tourism development where we will see other regions collaborating, but we have a bit of a head start,” he said.
The Five Pillars Tourism Project announced in September will narrow the message about Victorian wine into five regional names.
The Pinot Coast will include Geelong, Gippsland and Mornington Peninsula, King Valley Prosecco Road focuses on the King Valley region, Rutherglen Fortified Resurgence for Rutherglen, Yarra Valley Culinary Destination for the Yarra Valley and the Central Region to include Bendigo, Heathcote, Grampians and the Pyrenees.
Pyrenees Shire Council manager economic development and tourism Ray Davies said while wine and food will remain a tourism focus, a new cycling masterplan will add another level of experience in the Pyrenees.
“One of the things identified in the consumer research during develop of the wine and culinary tourism plan is people like to have plenty of activities when they are on a short break. Throughout the region there is plenty of potential for developing cycling infrastructure that would promote high activity levels,” he said.
Grampians and Pyrenees are two of the 22 identified wine regions in Victoria. Eight wineries out of 20 in the Pyrenees have been awarded five red stars by renowned critic James Halliday. Four our of the eight wineries in the Grampians have received the same recognition.
Both regions operate off a low base of wine tourism visitation figures and recent National Visitor Survey figures suggest the regions are growing below industry norms, the wine and culinary tourism plan reveals.
It also reports a low awareness of the Pyrenees and Grampians region with the ‘lifestyle leader’ target audience based in Melbourne.