Winerist is a global online wine tourism platform and a free online booking service for wine hotels, travel and tours. Offering over 135 wine regions worldwide, Winerist brings wine lovers of all ages, educations, and interest the ability to book a variety of experiences while also offering information from local experts on where to stay, where to go, where to eat, and many more insider tips on their magazine. Yasser Tsikhlakis, Operations Manager at Winerist, sat down with us to give us a look into the platform and how it is revolutionizing the wine tourism industry one glass at a time.

Yasser Tsikhlakis

So, tell us more about your role at Winerist and your connection to wine?

I grew up in a Greek-Jordanian household so food and wine have always played an important role in my life. My parents could also be considered “gastro geeks,” always bringing me around good food and good wine. In that environment it’s hard not to develop an interest and appreciation for how wine is the centerpoint of so many life occasions.

My interest in wine only grew as I got older and began to study for WSET certification. About a year ago, my interests in business and wine combined into one with my start at Winerist. Here, I can continue to be immersed in all things wine while being responsible for all the  strategy and operations for the website to ensure we’re making the wine experience the best it can possibly be.

How is Winerist making wine experiences better and changing the preconceived notion of what a “wine tour” is?

We make wine experiences better by having two sides to our business: the bespoke side where our wine expertise comes in and the tech side that makes booking a trip online very convenient.

We’re bespoke in the sense that we pride ourselves on being experts in the areas that we provide tours in. We offer experiences in +130 destinations and each one of them is catered by experts that know the wineries, producers, and other members of the community personally. They’re local guides, or the winemakers themselves. This allows us to be local experts on a global scale.

That information isn’t just available to those that book a tour, however. That information is also shared on the various articles and guides in our magazine. We aim to inform and inspire people about the different destinations and experiences that they can access through Winerist, making us a one stop shop. That is unheard of in wine tourism and it hasn’t been done before.

The tours offered through Winerist are some of the most sought-after for any wine lover, so how do you choose these +130 destinations?

There are a variety of things we do to make sure that the quality of our tours is still to our standards while having so many destinations available. This goes back to our experts that are available to guide consumers to the right experiences they’re looking for. Our travel experts talk to the tour guides and wineries as frequently as possible. We’re also trying to visit these destinations ourselves, and members of our team will visit different locations throughout the year. We try to get to know all of our destinations in person. Everyone that goes on a tour enjoys it because we know where we’re sending them.

We’re also constantly spotting consumer interest trends and sharing those trends in our magazine to glean further information for what our customers are really looking for. It’s all about knowing both sides of the coin so well to offer the best experience possible.

(Douro Valley, Portugal)

Enotourism experienced a boom in 2018, do you think this will continue into 2019 and beyond? Are there specific regions that will see a larger crown than others?

Taking a wider look, we’ve found that specifically the experiences industry within the larger realm of tourism has seen a massive boom in recent years and will keep growing past 2025. What’s involved in the experiences industry? Food and wine! It is one of the biggest sectors of the experience industry as it’s the connector to different cultures and people. Enotourism fits in very nicely to this trend so we feel it will only grow as more and more people are opting to place experiences over other factors when it comes to taking a trip.

That being said, we’re working with our partners and investing heavily into making our platform the best it can be to meet the demand that is coming. As much as people want to experience new cultures, they also still want to book online and have a very quick and easy time booking their experiences.

As for exactly where we’ll see more trips being taken, it will be a split between the perennial wine tour destinations and new up and comers. Existing markets that people have visited before (Bordeaux, Tuscany) will still be regulars, but Portugal, Chile, Argentina, Moldova, South Africa and Greece are growing wine regions and tourism regions that will see a big jump in visitors. This is really great to see as the wine is bringing people into the country for the first time and expanding their tourism market as a whole. Greece, for example, made a large initiative last year to encourage its wineries to welcome more tourists by introducing a seal clearly stating “Wineries open to the public.” This helps distinguish wineries as great destinations for tourists and locals!

Winemakers across the globe are realizing the importance for wine tourism to their country’s economy and acting like an ancient CRM if you will. They structure their wineries for tours and give these amazing experiences that turn into purchases, which goes back in to their business and the financial health of the country’s people. It then becomes an even larger discussion of sustainable tourism because you’re giving back to people that work hard to make a great product.

(Kefalonia, Greece)

So in the meantime as customers are in between trips to local or international wineries, how is Winerist appealing to that audience to still satisfy their travel itch in the meantime?

We like to be sharing content that is relatable to all wine lovers. Our magazine, which hosts podcasts, articles, and video content, shares ideas that are always keeping wine enthusiasts (and myself) inspired for where to go next if they’re looking to make a larger trip. What’s important to keep in mind is that Winerist has just as many half day and self-guided trips to local destinations in addition to international trips. We love to share the best place to go in New York City for an espresso martini, or the best place to visit in London for champagne. We know that you’re not always wanting to go somewhere far, but that doesn’t mean that you can still enjoy everything your hometown has to offer.

(London, England)

How is Winerist catering its offerings to appeal to different audiences and generations of wine lovers?

Because there is so much variety in what we offer with our wine tours, there’s something for everyone. We even cater to other interest areas like beer, gin, whiskey and other spirits which makes us very well equipped to cater to, and educate, everyone. The most obvious thing that we are doing to appeal to the millennial audience is the online booking experience. We live in time where services are expected instantly, we’re bringing that to the world of wine and food tourism. But since we always look to emphasize expertise and tradition, we’re marrying the old world with the new world in a way that appeals to everyone — not just millennials. Whoever lands on our page will find something interesting.

As more and more people have access to the once closed-off and somewhat rigid wine industry, often times we get people that are unsure or perhaps intimidated of what to expect of wine tourism. It’s our job to remove that stigma and make it for everyone. That’s where the next level comes in to take a traditional wine tour into a more all-encompassing experience with food, bike tours, self-guided tours, etc. Our mission is to share that you don’t have to be the wine snob to enjoy your trip, wine and food tourism is for everyone!

(Bordeaux, France)

For fun, what was the last wine you Coravin’ed?

As I don’t get to make it to Greece very often, I have a special bottle that I absolutely love and only use a Coravin to drink it, otherwise it will be gone in one night! It’s Ktima Gerovassiliou’s Viognier. One sip and it’s as if I’m back home by the sea.

Want to learn more about Winerist and explore the amazing tours and local wine suggestions they have? Click here to check out their latest trips, and be sure to share how your latest wine tour went on social by tagging @Winerist on Facebook, @TheWinerist on Twitter, and @Coravin on all social platforms!