The wine tourism network

The Great Wine Capitals network is 20 years old. Roger Morris finds out what it’s all about.

Photo by Guillaume Flandre on Unsplash
Photo by Guillaume Flandre on Unsplash

There are a couple of business proverbs that may sound clichéd and overwrought, yet one global wine trade organisation has succeeded by encouraging its membership to embrace both. One is, “Learn from your competition”; the other, “A rising tide lifts all boats”.

As recently as the last half of the 20th century, Bordeaux, like most Old World regions, remained somewhat insular and secretive when it came to interacting with wine producers from other regions, regarding them as competitors and not as colleagues. Sure, it was okay to chat and have drinks with these people when attending an international trade event (though not the Burgundians, of course), but you wouldn’t invite them to visit your winery. Wine tourism was given lip service but, in reality, most Bordelais considered visitors an annoyance.

It isn’t surprising, then, that when Casablanca-born, Bordeaux-educated businessman Robert Beynat put together a new trade fair concept called Vinexpo in 1981, some of the Bordeaux locals were wary. But Vinexpo, co-owned by the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce, did invite producers from around the world and it proved to be an immediate success. 

Next, Beynat had another brainstorm – why not an association led by the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce that represented the great wine cities of the world, but with no more than one city per country? He decided to call this association the Great Wine Capitals. “My boss – Robert – came to me one day in the late 1990s and explained his idea,” says Catherine Leparmentier Dayot. “Then he said, ‘Well, Catherine?’” It would become Leparmentier Dayot’s job to get Beynat’s idea off the ground. The organisation was launched at the turn of the century in 1999 and, 20 years later, Leparmentier Dayot still runs the enterprise, Great Wine Capitals Global Network, as its managing director. 

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