Doctor of ethnological sciences and sociologist of culture, as well as an expert in wine, culinary and gastronomy tourism and culture
Aleš Gačnik is a professor at the University of Primorska, Faculty of Tourism Studies Turistica, and is also the head of the Centre for Gastronomy and Wine Culture. In addition to being the author of many monographs and scientific articles published both in Slovenia and internationally.
Are there any wine-related courses at your Faculty?
Of course! At Turistica students are taught about the culture of wine and wine tourism within several subjects, including Gastronomy Tourism, Culinary Culture, Culture of Food and Culinary Tourism within the doctoral study programme Innovative Tourism. Additionally, there are annual specialised gastronomy study tours in various gastronomic regions, especially in Slovenia, as well as participation in numerous wine events and festivals. I’ve also noticed a growing interest in wine, culinary and gastronomy tourism within the context of graduate, master and doctoral theses.
How big of a role does wine tourism play in Slovenia’s tourism sector?
For now, too small! We have many excellent winemakers who receive the highest awards at the most important international competitions, but wine is one thing and wine tourism is another. In Slovenia, we can talk about different stages of development of wine tourism in individual wine-growing regions, among which is the Primorska wine-growing region, headed by the wine growing district of Goriška Brda. To put it simply, we can say that the alphabet of wine tourism in the context of all the wine-growing regions of Slovenia is still being taught. We lack the boldness, creativity and innovation that should be based on the richness of our wine (and culinary) heritage. But things are changing rapidly. In the area of wine and culinary events, we are surely a “European superpower”, but in the field of infrastructure investments and the organisation of wine tourism, much will have to be done. What we currently lack the most and what we have been trying for many years to achieve, is an overall strategy of development of wine tourism.
What challenges does Slovenia face in terms of further developing its wine tourism sector?
First of all, we need an effective strategy for the development of wine tourism. Then we have to invest in knowledge in the field of wine tourism: we need to train winemakers with knowledge in the field of tourism and the tourism sector (catering, hotel industry) with knowledge in the field of gastronomy. That is why I see the orientation of Slovenia in gastronomy tourism (as a mix of wine and culinary culture) as one of the most strategic development policies of the country. We need to be both in the past and in the future at the same time. We must especially provide for international promotion of the oldest vine in the world from Maribor, which for me represents the “zero point” of wine tourism in Slovenia. It is a symbol and the most important medium of global communication of our wine culture and wine tourism.
As a destination for wine tourism, what can Slovenia learn from more established regions
From them we can learn how to think about wine tourism in the first row! How to respect its differentiation and uniqueness, how to integrate the heritage of viticulture and winemaking with modern technologies, art and expectations, creativity and innovation in the organisation, marketing and promotion of wine tourism. We can learn from them that wine tourism is not only the domain of small, boutique wine cellars, but also large ones, which together form the offer of a wine tourism destination. We can also learn from examples for the creation of modern wine museums or interpretational centres, which represent important cultural attractions of the destination. Wine tourism in these wine-growing regions is not only a generator of tourism but of integrated, sustainable regional development.
And what can Slovenia offer that these other regions can’t?
First of all we must know how to offer our “culturological terroir”! From the point of view of international promotion and communication of Slovenia as a wine tourist destination, it is most important that we respect and know our own identity, in the context of European wine culture. Our diversity and uniqueness is marked with our heritage and culture, wine-growing landscape, with hospitality, and must be marked by our creativity and innovation, since wine tourism is a global phenomenon that is marketed locally.