For the 11th and 12th of November, the Consorzio of Collio Carso, a society which helps in the promotion of wines from the Collio wine area of Friuli in Italy, hosted an international event dicussing the opportunities and problems for premium white wines in Italy and how marketing is a crucial factor in sales. People from the wine biz came from all over the world to discuss how the crisis has affected wine consumption and how Italian wine is perceived in foreign markets. While many good points were made, I was left disappointed in the fact that no one spoke about how we, Italians and the Foreign market, can work together to promote wines in the future.
The panel of speakers where mainly American and Italian with Antonio Galloni from the Wine Advocate, Paul Wagner from Balzac, and Filip Cayman from Wine Intelligence, an english company focusing on trends in wine. The first and main speaker for the Italians, was Professor Antonio Calò, President of the Italian Accademy of vines and wine. A voice with ideas similar to mine, Calò explained how the types of grapes grown in Italy over the past 30 years has changed, from the original or indiginous grapes to international types, easier to sell outside of Italy. He explains how Italian producers are running from what makes Italy so special- its diversity, and that if all the wine makers rip up their old vines to plant all the same international grapes, what will make them and Italy different and special.
Paul Wagner, was another person who made many valid points about marketing Italian wines in the US. The biggest, and funniest, thing he stated, was that the Italian wine maker needs to focus on the story of the vineyard and not the technical parts. Americans are more ‘romantic’ consumers, (wait, aren’t Italians supposed to be the romantics!?) and buy because the feel ‘close’ to a product, or because a product gives them a ‘good feeling,’ not because the soil where the grapes grow is better then another.
“Friuli Venezia Giulia is a territory made for wine making and wine culture, but it’s under promoted and under utilized.” This statement by Antonio Galloni, is something I have been saying about all of Italy for years. It is a country with promise, quality and over all devotation, but the Italians do not know how to market themselves. Galloni continues, speaking about the 70% sales drop of Friulian wines in the wine market. What he says that I don’t agree with, is the role of the sommelier in the US. Although there is an interest to learn about food and wine pairings, personally, I think only a few restaurants offer pairings listed on the menu or by a sommelier. In fact, very few restaurants utilize a sommelier and most have the same wines on the list. As restauranteurs, we need to help the American public understand wine better by introducing new wine makers and new wine types in our menus and have sommelier, waitstaff and managers explain and promote these wines. This is extremely important in smaller US cities and states, not just big cities like New York and Los Angeles, where wine knowledge and the desire to learn more is on average higher.
In the end, good points were made about where the Italian wine market stands internationally. While Wagner spoke directly to the wine makers, explaining to them that they need to market themselves better by telling their story, he didn’t tell them how to directly get in contact with the US people. It is the Americans, that need to help the Italians publish their stories, to write about them in magazines like Wine Advocate, to organize smaller scaled events and tastings where the American public and easily learn about wine and its stories. The event organized today is a start of the bond between Italy and the world and the beginning of how we can all work together to better market ourselves and of course our beloved wine.