In November, I had the great honor to speak at the Assoenology Conference in Brescia for 700 Italian winemakers. It was such a wonderful experience. I am grateful to Il Maestro (the association's president), Riccardo Cotarella, for inviting me there and believing in my vision and collaborative work in Italian wine.
It is moving to me now to have my first article published in Italy & in Italian. Here is the English version here, and a link to the article as it was published in Italian. I hope you enjoy.
Communicating Identity and Typicity in Italian Wines to the US Market
Wine is the most important food product in the history of the Western World. It has cultural and spiritual value for the communities that produce it, and importantly, it also serves those communities by creating economic stability through the strength of its identifiable attributes. Typicity in wine is the expression of a collaboration between people and nature over time, linking wine’s identity to the people and place from which it comes. This means that the stronger and more easily communicated the identity of an appellation is, the more prosperous the economic reward is to the entire community within the appellation, not only the individual producers.
The identity of an appellation is constantly evolving in relationship to nature and the culture of the people who produce the wine, but also in conjunction with the needs and desires of the markets it serves. This is true throughout history from Gevery-Chambertin to Champagne, from Chianti to Franciacorta. Defining and protecting a wine’s identity is essential to its success in the marketplace, as is the ability to communicate clearly about that identity.
From a historical perspective, what separates wines that are successful in foreign markets from those that are less successful is not only the quality of the wine but the ability to communicate about that wine in a way that is compelling and connects to the needs of the people in the target market. The success of that communication begins with the precise description of the identity of a wine through the disciplinary of the appellation. The disciplinary is the tool-kit producers use to transmit the essential elements of their wine’s identity. If that disciplinary is unclear or cumbersome in its description, that tool kit can work against the efficacy of communication by intimidating the consumer instead of inviting them. For this reason, the agreement and collaboration of the producers is the first step in the success of any wine region.
The breadth and diversity of Italian wine are both an advantage and potential obstacle in the US market, which is large and complex. If presented appropriately, Italian wine broadly has something to fit every market category at the highest level – from unique traditional and historical wines to innovative contemporary wines to simple wines made in quantity to refresh and augment a daily table.
Given these complex factors, top-down messaging is the most effective way to produce long-term market stability by influencing perception and interest in Italian wines. This means focusing on education and a long view to succeed in foreign markets. These simple steps allow sustainable goals to be achieved, affecting future generations.
· Clearly define identity: the messaging conveyed by the disciplinary should serve to instruct, not confuse. It is important to distill the truths about that identity to its most essential points so that the market isn’t overwhelmed by over-complicated rules and descriptions that arise from internal differences of opinion.
· Generate simple and accurate materials and effectively transmit them to key wine education and certification bodies.
· Create programs and initiatives for educators and journalists who educate professionals and create market pathways for consumers.
In closing, efforts to transform and inform overall perspectives in the US market are most efficient when targeted toward educators and professionals who drive the industry, create demand, and generate sales. Individual wineries' marketing and sales work is more accessible when consumers are ready to understand and receive their wines. Long-term success comes from shaping cultural perspectives and understanding of Italian wine both generally and specifically, engendering an openness and excitement to discover a rich range of pleasures through Italian wine.