Wine tourism: Montalcino bounces back. Summer presences +20% on pre-Covid, international visitors +87% on 2021. Bindocci: Brunello, engine of the entire economy, respecting the environment

“This past summer Montalcino regained its role as the global fiefdom of wine tourism. After three years of forced absence from our wineries, our historic visitors have returned. Enotourists from around the world make their way in ‘pilgrimage’ to Brunello, where they discover that wine is not the only element that makes a difference. Montalcino also means the Val d’Orcia UNESCO-designated landscape, with its biodiversity, agriculture and lifestyle. What we have is proof that demand for quality-culture, high-value wine tourism truly exists, and that wine can be the economic engine of an entire territory, while promoting environmental respect.” This is how the Chairman of the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino, Fabrizio Bindocci commented the preliminary analysis of tourist presences issued by the Region of Tuscany Office of Statistics, just prior to “Benvenuto Brunello”, the preview presentation of vintages scheduled in Montalcino from 11th to 21st November.

“With these data,” added Bindocci, “our impressions of the summer are confirmed. This is the first time we have ever seen such tremendous presences from May to August, simultaneous with quality: thanks to the great return of the Americans, Brazilians, English, Canadians and Australians, all of these always our pre-pandemic historic regulars, at Montalcino. The result, for a rural area that has one accommodation facility for every 35 inhabitants, clearly an ample offer of space, is record-breaking: over the four summer months Montalcino totalled about 120 thousand presences with overnight stays, 20% more than the pre-Covid 2019 period, and an 87% increase in foreign presences over 2021, when the oenotourist-hospitality sector was reduced to complete reliance on Italian arrivals. This year, the about-face in trends brings us definitely back to normal, with foreigners from about 60 nations returning and accounting for nearly 70 percent of total guests in local hotels and agritourism facilities, in the wine cellars and relais of the wine estates, in wine shops and fiaschetterias and – since 2021 – in the “Tempio del Brunello” museum, very recent winner of the Innovation Award from Tiqets, the world’s leading online booking platform for museums and attractions.”

According to the Consortium, the provisional data indicate that the shares of arrivals have returned to pre-pandemic distribution, with the big spenders, obviously Americans, representing the top foreign market for Brunello di Montalcino sales, then Brazilians and Canadians, as well as the geographically closer Germans and British, but also with increases from further countries. The analysis by macro-areas shows the Americas with about 25 percent of the total presences (compared to 7 percent last year and just over 2 percent in 2020); growth in the incidence of European Union guests and a decline in Italians, but still accounting for 1/3 of demand after their peak 70 percent share in 2020.

The Montalcino district comprises 3,500 hectares of vineyards registered under the DOC and DOCG designations, with 2,100 of these cultivated with Brunello, the latter share deliberately held constant for the past 25 years. Another constant is the area under woodland: of the total 31,000 district hectares, about half remain in uncultivated forest, with 10 percent planted in olive groves and only 15 percent in vineyards, and the remaining lands used as pastures, arable land and for other crops. One of every two businesses of the district is a farm operation, altogether composing one of the world’s richest agricultural communities and among the most virtuous nationwide, with half of the district economy founded on farms and an unemployment rate of less than 2 percent, capable even of absorbing much of the labour force from neighbouring municipalities (4,000 employees in peak seasons). Vineyards land values reach almost 1 million euros per hectare, representing a district total of more than 2 billion euros. Over the past 50 years, according to a WineNews analysis, vineyard land values have risen 4,500%. The district is highly “green oriented”, with organic vineyards now close to 50% of total planted for the DOCG. In 2021 Brunello di Montalcino was the best-known wine among Italian consumers, with 67% familiarity according to the Wine Intelligence annual report conducted on a representative sample of “Bel Paese” consumers.

This year’s Benvenuto Brunello event sees the participation of 137 wineries; on tasting are: 2018 Brunello, 2017 Riserva, 2021 Rosso di Montalcino 2021 as well as the other two wines of the denomination: Moscadello and Sant’Antimo.