Wine2Wine Logo square - The rise of digital and other takeaways from Wine2Wine in Italy

Pierpaolo Penco, Wine Intelligence’s Country Manager for Italy, shares his perspective on the latest industry developments as showcased at Italy’s annual wine business forum

The Italian wine industry is often considered fragmented and uncooperative, partly because it lacks a national wine marketing coordination body, such as the Austrian Wine Marketing Board or Wines of Chile. However in recent years it has acquired some much-needed marketing infrastructure from VeronaFiere, the body that manages the main Italian wine fair, Vinitaly of Verona, which has proposed a reference point for Italian wine in the world with the project Vinitaly International. Some main outputs of this initiative include a promotional roadshow in some international markets and a program to train dozens of Italian Wine Ambassadors.

The initiative also includes a specific event to bring culture and business know-how to the sector, called Wine2Wine. Now in its 4th edition, Wine2Wine is a two-day forum held in early December that provides a close succession of about 70 seminars and workshops focused on latest developments in the wine sector. The speakers are international and Italian experts in the field, selected among the most authoritative representatives of the event’s topics. Wine Intelligence has been invited in the past, both as organizers of a seminar and as speakers, and I have been attending since the first edition, finding many stimulating themes and speakers.

The program is like an “all you can eat buffet”, given the many themed areas: wine tourism, export (with specific focus on foreign markets such as China, Russia, Japan, Canada or the USA), sales, customer care, digital marketing, social media communication, storytelling, packaging, and institutional or regulatory issues. The organizers propose macro areas, but visitors can choose what is of interest to them, moving from one room to another.

This year, for example, I particularly appreciated the clear analysis of the future of Robert Joseph’s wine world which, by combining an undoubted capacity for vision with an ironic predisposition to public speaking, outlined what could be the effect of the technology in the industry. In particular, the emergence of new concepts of wine brands that are easier to understand for consumers in emerging markets can be purchased more and more through digital platforms. These new concepts will put a strain on the management of traditional denominations of origin and distribution chains. In extension, wines purchased through apps that know the tastes of their owners and offer wines aligned to these tastes. I was able to deepen many of these aspects of the wine business later with Robert, agreeing on the need for greater understanding of new markets and differences in their consumer patterns by Italian companies.

At another seminar, Felicity Carter of Wine Business International and Rebecca Hopkins of Colangelo & Partners were extremely effective, dealing with the topic of “how to sell your wine through words”. To be successful in the wine market, in fact, it is essential to be able to adequately present your product to events for the trade such as tastings aimed at consumers or presentations with distributors, often from foreign cultures.

In addition, the professor Vincenzo Russo is one of the most well-known experts in wine neuromarketing. If in the previous editions of Wine2Wine he made the audience understand how wine consumers and their purchase process can be obtained through the analysis of information on emotions and visual stimuli, this year in the seminar on “The mistakes to avoid in the presentation of the brand” he explained how it is necessary to know how to listen to oneself in order to develop a style of communication that actually reflects our identity and personality.

At Wine2Wine 2017 there was a lot of talk about digital communications, influencers, apps and technology, even in the section on export markets. Here, China has always been of great interest, given the complexity of the country and the indirect knowledge of the operators. The most important takeaway emerged from the various seminars on China was the need to talk about Italian wine to Chinese in Chinese, preferably through people of Chinese mother tongue. This applies to both first and second-tier cities that should be known in their different characteristics and performance (in 2nd tier cities, for example, operating costs are lower, competition is lower and economic growth is often higher than those of 1st tier). This is one of the analyses Wine Intelligence has developed during our “China Market Workshop” roadshow, which also touched upon Italy at mid-December with a workshop for Friuli producers.

In general, the Italian wine sector is going through a positive moment, thanks, above all, to exports and the offer of wines that are appreciated by consumers from different markets at different price points and styles. Markets, however, still require information by the operators, which exists thanks to the support of events such as Wine2Wine. But it is the domestic market itself, after many years of decline, that seems to provide a positive horizon, starting with the penetration of sparkling wines, as stated during some seminars at Wine2Wine and as we have also noted at Wine Intelligence with the report “Sparkling wines in Italy” soon to be published.

Author: Pierpaolo Penco