Italy closed 2016 with a new export record, but producers had hoped to grow more than the 3 – 3.5% increase in volume. “Results were positive, considering the international situation, which overall was not favorable. In the last decade, great work was done to improve both the quality and the image of Italian wine, even though world markets have not yet rewarded this strong commitment with increased prices”. On the eve of Vinitaly, with Giovanni Mantovani, CEO of Veronafiere, we looked at strategies of internationalization and at the markets for the Made in Italy world of wine.
What contribution does Vinitaly aim to make in enhancing the appreciation of Italian wine on foreign markets?
“That goal can be attained by working on marketing, promotion and training, all of them activities that find concrete answers in the Vinitaly system. As far as the Verona event goes, we’ll continue along the lines already clearly set out last year on our 50th anniversary. We aim to attract a continuously growing number of Italian and foreign buyers, to create conditions that transform every contact into a business opportunity, and at the same time, structure an appealing and quite separate program in the city and the province for wine lovers. Vinitaly&theCity maintains our link with consumers. Last year’s numbers – 130,000 operators, 50,000 of whom came to Vinitaly from 140 countries and 29,000 who participated in Vinitaly&theCity – and above all, the satisfaction of our exhibitors proved that we were on the right track.”
Veronafiere planned considerable investments for the near future. Will it change Vinitaly?
“The transformation into a S.P.A. guarantees that Veronafiere will have the tools to compete on the international marketplace, thanks to a juridical set-up identical to other Italian and European fair organizers. A development plan until 2020 is tied to this change, and 94 million euros of investment is set to improve the infrastructure of the fair facilities and its services, starting with digital transformation. We will build 3,000 parking places, as well. A large sum is destined to the development of fair events. For Vinitaly, along with careful oversight of the Verona fair, the industrial plan also will create a task force for the internationalization of Italian wine, open to institutional partnerships and at the same time strongly oriented towards business, with innovative action both on-line, for example e-commerce, and off-line, such as events. The fundamental goal of the Industrial Plan for Wine – presented last December 6 in the 2016 edition of wine2wine, along with the heads of Ice, Federvini and Unione italiana vini – is to consolidate the leadership of the fair event sector, giving Made in Italy wine new and decisive tools for taking a leap forward in foreign countries. The primary objectives are the USA, a market not yet fully mature, and China, along with Asia.”
Again, internationalization: a programmed approach…
“The objective is to increase the services available to businesses that want to export and to grow the promotional activities of the country as a whole. The positive results obtained so far, the experience of almost twenty years on the markets that are most important for our exports, from the USA to Canada and China, from Russia to Japan and the Far East, international recognition, but also that of Italian institutions, with the Vinitaly brand as a flagbearer for quality Italian wines, encourage us to move ahead in this direction. Part of this is our involvement in the Extraordinary Plan for the internationalization of Made in Italy, backed by Mise, Mipaaf and Ice in the USA. We have commissioned important research about the consumption of Italian wine in that market. The first results were presented at Vino 2017 in New York, and will be illustrated at Vinitaly 2017 and on the Italian Wine Channel promoted by Mise, Mipaaf, Ice and Vintaly for the promotion of Italian wine on the Chinese market. These projects, now in the development stage, represent the latest in a long series of activities in which we work with the institutions in a logical, systemic way.”
Indigenous varieties: are they a competitive factor on foreign markets? And if so, are we using them well?
“The value of Italian grape varieties is immeasurable in terms of quality, whether economic or related to our image abroad. In Vinitaly, since we decided to arrange exhibitors by region, it is easier for foreign operators to understand the zones of origin, at the same time stimulating their spirit of research. To use diversity as a competitive weapon, it is also necessary to train people to become the ambassadors of Italian wine in the world. This is the objective we have set ourselves with the Vinitaly International Academy. Educational experiences are always sought after during Vinitaly International events. Many different Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers have registered for the third certification course, which will take place in the days before Vinitaly, as well as educators, buyers and wine trend-setters. Most come from the United States, China and Canada, but some are also from South America, Asia and Europe. So far, the Academy has certified six Italian Wine experts and fifty-five Italian Wine Ambassadors. Many groups are imitating this program, both in Italy and abroad. Promoting education about Italian wine is a fundamental element in Vinitaly’s international market strategy.”
A wine’s image begins with its production territory. In France and also in Spain, impressive, pioneering wine houses are springing up to emphasize the cultural aspect of a sector that also includes tradition and economy. What’s missing in Italy?
“The extraordinary typicity of Italian wines and territories have nothing to fear from other countries’ wine worlds. The Italy of enology is just younger than that of the French. But there are many private companies, associations and consortiums that are carrying out very interesting systematic projects that join territory, enology, landscape, culture and tourism. Vinitaly is doing its part in this direction too, and participates in projects of showcasing and promoting wines.”
The complete fair program is on www.vinitaly.com