Muscadine-wines, wineries and the hospitality industry: An exploratory study of relationships
Purpose ‐ Muscadines (Vitis Rotundifolia Michx.), a vine native to the southern USA, is processed into different products, including wines. Today, many wineries in the southern USA offer an experience that combines muscadine wine tastings, tours, education, and in some cases food. However, apart from offering on-site sales and a tourist experience related to the hospitality industry, to what extent are wineries engaged in relationships with local or state restaurants? Also, what, if any, challenges do wine operators face in the process of seeking to market their wines to hospitality operations? The present study aims to explore these areas from a winery operator's perspective. Design/methodology/approach ‐ Data were collected from 31 winery owners located in different southern states, including Alabama, Florida and North Carolina, predominantly via telephone interviews. Findings ‐ Almost half of the respondents (15, 48.4 per cent) acknowledge synergies between their wineries and hospitality businesses; however, the other 16 (51.6 per cent) are not involved in such relationships. Such absence of networks and relationships is to a great extent due to concerns of surrendering control of their wines to wholesalers and distributors (in many cases winery operators are not allowed to sell directly to restaurateurs), and the apparent lack of appreciation of muscadine wines by many hospitality businesses. Research limitations/implications ‐ While the findings of this study may provide useful information to the muscadine wine industry, particularly as a foundation for future research, the low number of participating wineries presents a limitation. Practical implications ‐ Muscadine wines have the potential to enhance not only winery visitors' experience when travelling to areas where muscadine grapes are grown, but also their restaurant/dining experience. However, support in the form of promotion, education and legislation, allowing more direct winery-hospitality industry relationship, is critical for the long-term sustainability of the muscadine-wine industry. Originality/value ‐ The present study examines an area that, despite its clear links to hospitality and tourism, to date has been overlooked in contemporary research.