The inextricable link between wine and the local identity led to the development of a growing form of leisure in rural areas. From visitors’ perspective, wine tourism includes visitation to vineyards, wineries, wine festivals and wine shows, for which grape wine tasting and/or experiencing the attributes of a grape wine region are the prime motivating factors for visitors. Consequently, someone who engages in wine tourism seeks for specific experiential benefits, which may be related either to the attributes of a wine region or to intrinsic needs. Thus, according to the “Push–pull” theory, a wine tourist can be motivated either by external (pull) factors, as part of a regional complex, such as the rural landscape, wine, local gastronomy and culture, or internal (push) factors, which include relaxation, hospitality, education and communing with other people.
Despite the long tradition of winemaking in Greece, wine tourism is still an emerging sector which has been almost completely driven by the development of wine routes. At the moment, there are several wine producing regions that serve as destinations, both in the mainland and in the islands. While recent research has shown that visitors to Greek wineries are mainly domestic day trippers, further information on their socio-economic characteristics, motivations and attitudes is rather limited.
Within this context, the aim of the current study is to highlight the particular attributes of a grape wine region, with respect to its appeal to distinctive visitor segments. In particular, this paper seeks to sketch the wine tourists’ profile as well as to explore their motivations for visiting a rural area along with a winery. Using an on-site, self-administered questionnaire, empirical data on visitors of Northern Greek wineries during the “Open Doors” event are presented. The findings suggest that the wine identity along with the natural environment create an appealing destination image. Moreover, emphasis should be placed on the visitors’ needs for escapism, relaxation, socializing and education. Finally, the results of a two-step cluster analysis reveal that the wine tourists may be classified into four exclusive groups, namely, “Wine Lovers”, “Companionable Visitors”, “Uninterested” and “Escape Seekers”.