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    Italy Launches Major Campaign to Promote Italian Wine

     

    Rolling hills of Barbaresco

    Rolling hills of Barbaresco

    Make no mistake, we love Italian wines.? That includes the big names, the widely respected varietals and classic styles. It also includes the small producers, family wineries and unheralded local grapes that don’t get a tremendous amount of press or visibility with the average wine consumer.? They make great wine throughout the country, and they make a lot of it. It is entwined in their culture and their lifestyle.? I’ll always remember our first meal in Rome, at a small restaurant off the Piazza Navona, and when we ordered the house wine it came in an earthenware jug. You just knew there was a barrel in the back, and that it was locally made.? It was perfect, rustic, fresh and a great match for the pasta and prawns we had for our meal.? Wine is a celebration of life in Italy.

    This is really the theme of the new campaign, which is called “Italian Wine – Taste the Passion”.? Sponsored by the Italian Trade Agency (ITA), the campaign seeks to raise awareness about the breadth of Italian wine, as well as it’s cultural context and pursuit of quality and biodiversity.? Traditionally one of the largest wine producers and exporters in the world, Italy sent 23.5% of its total exports in 2017 to the United States.? The U.S. is Italy’s largest export market.

    The Italian trade Agency is not satisfied with this, however, and seeks to push Italy into the #1 position in the U.S. relative to the total value of wine imports.? Seeking to increase the total value speaks to both volume and quality, and I expect the campaign to hit both points as it rolls out.? Considering that Italy exported $1.86 Billion (yes, that starts with a ‘B’), in 2017, there is a lot at stake here.? We were curious as to the reasons behind such a campaign, and had a chance to ask the USA Commissioner of the Italian Trade Agency, Maurizio Forte, what was motivating the current effort.? Here are a few of his insights, with our questions first and then Commissioner Forte’s answers.

    LOGO ItalWineItalPassion

     

    • Is there a perception that the position of Italy in the International wine market has deteriorated significantly, or is lagging?? If so, what countries or trends do you think pose the greatest competition for Italian wines.

     

    “There is absolutely not an impression of deterioration of the position of Italian wines in the US market, in fact,?Italy is the leader in?the?US among?countries?whose wines are imported, commanding 32% of the market share.? Italy is seeing very good growth in the US and for this reason we want to support the market and thus continue the trend. That said, while the statistics show that Italy is number one among all winemaking countries in terms of volume and value imported into the US. our average prices are often lower than those of our competitors.”

     

    • Is there going to be an emphasis on traditional, well-known, iconic wine types (such as Barolo, Brunello, etc) or is this attempt to increase awareness of relatively unknown wines and regions?? Or is it both? ?

    “Ultimately, the goal is to continue to increase sales of Italian wines in the US across the board, and there?is work to be done in all categories. There are pockets of highly knowledgeable American wine drinkers throughout the country, but in general Americans are?not as familiar with Italian wines as they are with other regions. There is an obvious explanation for this: the Italian wine landscape is incredibly diverse and intricate, with the highest number of appellations and varietals of any wine-producing country in the world, and Americans need education and exposure to navigate them. Of course, we will continue to support sales of our more famous categories, which have been standard bearers for the quality of Italian wines for decades, but we would also like to see the market diversify more to embrace greater consumption of less recognizable but equally important varietals from all 20 regions of Italy. To ensure that consumers stay in the Italian section of the wine list or wine store, we want to retain those drinkers by providing exposure to all the great Italian wines from our multiple regions that are available for their consideration. We want consumers to see Italian wines as representative of a consistently high level of quality. Additionally, we would like to see consumers expand their appreciation for these wines as luxury propositions and confidently explore higher-priced bottlings.”

     

    • Is the goal to increase awareness across the price spectrum or perhaps focused more on low to mid-priced wine?? Quality is stressed in the press release, but is value even more important at all price levels to the consumer market?

    “We can see that wine drinkers who regularly buy Italian wines are continuing to support the category, and yet there is a vast number of frequent wine drinkers who spend significant money on wine but are not exploring the category in depth. We want to bring those consumers into the fold, and we think awareness and education is key to this, not to mention working with influencers and other forms of word-of-mouth advertising that can spread our message. Specific to your question about low to mid-priced wine, we absolutely do not want to diminish any of the success we are experiencing with value wines. It is thanks in large part to explosive growth in sparkling wine sales, not to mention consistently strong sales of easy-drinking whites and hearty Italian reds, that Italy is the leader in the import category. While we will continue to fight to maintain that position, we see a huge opening to introduce Americans to higher-priced, higher-quality wines from across the Peninsula. Italy is currently under-represented among imports of higher prestige despite our strength in that range, so we have an incredible opportunity to grow thanks to the abundance of selections. Regardless of the price point of the bottle, Italy over-delivers when it comes?to the price-quality relationship.”

    Barrel tasting at Albino Rocca

    Barrel tasting at Albino Rocca

    Interestingly, the second half of the year will see the campaign launched in China as well.? Apparently that market is also one which the Italian wine industry views as extremely important, and likely represents a unique opportunity. The Chinese market has been a main buyer of Bordeaux futures over the last decade, and wealthy Chinese citizens have actually bought several Chateaux in the region.? Increasing the interest in the Chinese market for Italian wines could pay huge dividends.? We asked Commissioner Forte about that as well.? Here is his reply:

    • The China campaign is similar to the US campaign, but is altered to address cultural differences in perceptions of high-quality and luxury. It certainly does involve a lot of awareness building, largely through the same strategies.”

    Look for a multi-pronged approach, which should result in more advertising, educational programs, the introduction of new Italian wineries and increased effort in every market and media outlet that talks about wine.? We’re excited to see what unfolds, and hopefully will make some new discoveries.? Clearly this campaign is about increasing awareness and market share.

    We can certainly support that, as Italian wine has been one of our favorites since we began drinking wine.? Our trips to Italy in the past have only reinforced that impression.

    The View! Dinner on Lago Maggiore

    The View! Dinner on Lago Maggiore

    We spent a few days visiting wineries in Barolo and Barbaresco a few years ago (read about that here), and were amazed at the people, the culture, the hospitality and, of course, the wine.? There is no end to the variety available in Italian wine, and we have just scratched the surface.

    It should be a great year for Italian wine. We promise to drink our share.

    The promotional video for the campaign can be seen by clicking here.

    A votre santé!

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