Wine tourism (in the image, visits to Pago de Carraovejas) has become the economic engine of the area.Javier Garcia
Vineyards as far as the eye can see. Driving along the national highway 122 between Valladolid and Soria throws a picture of vines everywhere, with the Duero River as the official supplier of irrigation in an ideal environment for wine production. This image remains unalterable for kilometers in the so-called golden mile of wine, since there are dozens of wineries that accumulate centuries pampering the grape. Three of the best known nationally and internationally are within a range of half an hour behind the wheel: Abadía Retuerta, Arzuaga Navarro and Pago de Carraovejas. These firms have coincided to date in their geographical proximity, in their pedigree, in having two Michelin stars in their restaurants and in the oenological experiences offered to the visitor.
Now they have gone a step further by teaming up, combining their virtues and trying to offer a broader experience for the traveler, who in half of the cases is a foreigner and who comes without looking much into his pocket. The project is called N-122 Valle del Duero and aims to show that in this area there are not only bunches and barrels, but also a wide cultural, landscape and gastronomic heritage.
The wineries, say their representatives, have understood that their guests are not content to spend their entire stay in the same place, so they have decided to speed up their search and even recommend visiting the competition. It is “friendly competition”, according to Enrique Valero, director of Abadía Retuerta, which has the award-winning Refectorio restaurant. What is good for some will be good for others, he maintains, and will benefit the area. “It took us five minutes to agree,” presumes who proposed this alliance. Abadía Retuerta is located between Sardón de Duero and Quintanilla de Onésimo; Arzuaga is located just past Quintanilla and Carraovejas sits a few minutes from Peñafiel. For now, the three groups are saving the projects they are going to execute to launch a strong joint campaign that aims to expand their numbers in the guest books.
The latest report from the Spanish Association of Wine Cities (Acevin), prepared between 2018 and 2019, concludes that tourists visit 1.93 wineries on average during their 2.4 days of stay. They spend 160 euros a day, a figure higher than that of general tourists and generate 81 million euros of direct income and another 200 million of indirect impact in 2018. Jerez, the Penedés region and Ribera del Duero were the preferred destinations.
In total, there are three major labels in 30 kilometers, companies “with different personalities”, according to Valero, from an area where wine tourism has become an economic engine that winemakers now want to improve. That “unique destination” that they intend to create, claim those responsible for the plan, is to make tourists see that there are many more attractions in addition to wine.
The manager of Abadía Retuerta points out that Valladolid is just half an hour away and offers alternatives such as the National Sculpture Museum or the Casa Cervantes, a cultural background that his hotel is also trying to promote by acquiring a recent sculpture by Eduardo Chillida. Likewise, he announces, they are in talks with the Chillida Leku art centers (Gipuzkoa) and the Botín Foundation (Santander) to expand the artistic range with exhibitions. Its facilities host about 12,000 guests a year and 9,500 visits to the winery, a figure that he believes can be increased “with vaccinations and responsibility.” Acevin’s report indicates that 63.5% of tourists are encouraged to discover the surroundings of the wine temples, twice as much as a year before.
The diversification of leisure in these three resorts on the golden mile is already working. Arzuaga Navarro has large farms with wild boar and roe deer that can be enjoyed within the activities of the winery, which has also opted for fashion by the hand of the designer and director of the firm, Amaya Arzuaga. Pago de Carraovejas, for its part, has used an intangible, such as the sunsets in the incomparable landscapes of the Duero.
Viñas de Pago de Carraovejas in Peñafiel, Valladolid.
Pedro Ruiz, general director of the entity, highlights that “you cannot be every day drinking wine and seeing wineries: we want to offer alternatives for tourists to stay and position us on the map with the Michelin stars”, in their case with the Ambivium restaurant. That is why there is no problem in recommending the competition or eating in a nearby town, where you can buy honey, Sardón de Duero cheese or crafts. The key, the businessman understands, is that the three allies work well economically and have the ability to generate a “development engine to create wealth and employment” in the region. Ruiz points out that before the pandemic they had about 5,000 annual visits to the wineries, with a “very specific customer” who paid 70 euros for a “unique experience.”
Those responsible for the wineries accept that it is “something strange” that three companies in the same sector, so geographically close, decide to join. Ruiz praises this “collaborative competition” in search of “synergies” that promote crowded restaurants, “ringing telephones” and the objective that the N-122 is a “backbone” that allows the development of a wine-oriented area as is done in the Italian Tuscany or regions of Mexico or Argentina. Amaya Arzuaga, at the head of a label that has managed to assert itself also by design and fashion, celebrates the desire to “create synergies, create destinations and complement each other”, a plan that she foresees will help improve the 45,000 visits in 2019, the 7,150 rooms reserved in that year or the 800 weekly diners in its Traditional restaurant. The Arzuaga Workshop by Víctor Gutiérrez, with a Michelin star, has a large waiting list every weekend.
The three entrepreneurs have assumed that they are in a “perfect” location to continue exploiting wine tourism. The objective that they have proposed is that other businesses can join this “commercial N-122”.