Coronavirus crisis – the Italian wine market initiatives to fight it.

Original in Italian published on March 28, 2020 by the blog Avvinando.

We have told you about many of the initiatives through which the world of wine is trying to react to the emergency dictated by the Coronavirus that is hitting our country and all sectors severely. Following the previous article, you have reported many. As promised, and we will try to continue to do so in the coming weeks, we have collected some promoted by different protagonists or by the same operators who are creating new projects or making them evolve.

Let’s start with the latter case. Cantina Social moves on to phase 2 of the #iorestoincantina campaign. Wineries that have joined the initiative now offer a wide selection of representative wines at a lower price than the cellar price and taking on the shipping costs allocating at least 10% of the sale to charity to a hospital in their region or directly to the Civil Protection.

Furthermore, Milan Wine Week opens a fundraiser aiming to help two hospitals in the province of Bergamo, the front line in managing the battle against Covid-19, the San Pietro Policlinico at Ponte San Pietro and the San Marco Policlinico in Zingonia.

The group Casa Paladin launches the #iobevoacasapaladin campaign. For each six bottles purchase from the cellars owned by the company 15 euros will be donated to the Sacco Hospital in Milan to continue the great work of saving many lives.

La Raia and Tenuta Cucco eliminate shipping costs and donate 40% of every order received online to the Red Cross of Novi Ligure.

Not only that, wineries and wine experiences platforms are developing services and products to continue tastings remotely.

Divinea platform launches Smart Tasting, a new tasting format to allow users to continue tasting through a video conference with producers as during a traditional winery visit.

The FISAR Milano Delegation offers remote training and tasting activities through the hashtag #iodegustoacasa. ONAV tasters launch their tastings online through the #ilvinociunisce campaign. AIS sommeliers offer educational appointments on the net with the cry of #ladistanzanoncidivide.

In short, many initiatives on various levels. We’ll keep reporting them doing our best to give them visibility.

We keep our spirits high and with a good bottle of wine everything will be fine!

Sergio and Raffaele

Labor relations after the coronavirus crisis

A few days ago I watched a Carlo Petrini’s message talking about the current coronavirus crisis and its impact on students, staff and collaborators’ life at Pollenzo’s University of Gastronomic Sciences, the home of SlowFood. I really liked Carlo Petrini’s message. Especially the passage that says that we must try to turn difficulty into virtue.

In many professions, like mine, home office or remote work (terminology I prefer) it has been a reality for at least a decade. Suddenly, people who do not work on essential services were forced to face technology and perform their activities remotely. For those who are not used to this can be a great challenge. Especially during the current coronavirus crisis where you will necessarily work from home.

But this post is not intended to give you tips on how to focus while your kids play video games or to trick your wife/husband who wants to talk while you need to focus. What I want to share here is my hope that working relationships will change after this crisis created by coronavirus and people realizes that for many careers it no longer makes sense to focus on people’s working hours.

Imagine the resource savings in a company that no longer needs to have workstations for everyone. The reduction in spending on water, electricity, rent, coffee, etc. Imagine your personal savings with clothes and accessories, transportation, food etc. It will be a revolution in people’s lives.

It is necessary to focus on results.

Italian wine market during coronavirus crisis

While events and wine fairs are postponed or even canceled, the entire Italian economy suffers the effects of quarantine. In fact, I believe that most countries in the world are now experiencing an economic crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic.

General sales drops are accentuated by families austere practices of consume, but it is still boosted on online sales, especially with online traders such as Tannico and Callmewine. Now, looking closely at the Italian wine tourism market, the impact is really huge. The reason is simply people are no longer visiting wineries. As result, the traditional gastronomic experiences and industry are collapsing.

Due to the crisis, the entire industry and its supply chain, such as hotels, restaurants, transports, tour guides, follow the same path. Thus, local arrangements that support this industry are facing a big challenge and need to reinvent themselves. While two months ago the next step was seeking a circular economy to promote sustainable and integrated development for local businesses, now is necessary to go further. It is necessary to seek solutions where services can be provided digitally.

But how can we transform wine tasting into digital experiences showing how wines are made and transmitting it’s terroir? Well, it’s a big question. But we can start dividing it into parts and start somewhere.

That’s exactly what the Italian startup Divinea did. Based in Milan, thinking about lower the impact of quarantine for winelovers, wineries and their employees, Divinea created a new service called Smart Tasting. With Smart Tasting, customers can purchase an online wine experience on Divinea website or on partner wineries website.

The Smart Tasting package includes a set of wines to be delivered at your place and a scheduled guided tasting session with wineries specialists.You’ll be able to learn about the winery history, how wines – including the ones you are tasting – are made, characteristics of the terroir and anything you are willing to ask. The events are often presented by winemakers and owners.

Here we see Giulio Morando, owner of La Morandina conducting a Smart Tasting with Federico Gotz, one of the three brilliant and talented minds behind The Wine Buzz.

We hope new ideas like this from Divinea Spread globally, giving both customers and industry a chance to survive this crisis.

How do you consume wine?

Wine is quintessentially anthropomorphic – it is imbued with humanlike characteristics, motivations, intentions, or emotions.

Epley et al. 2007

Wine is experimental, social, cultural and can be educational. Wine is, after all, a definitively human phenomenon, made by people for people to experience and joy. The main question of this post is how do you consume wine but also how and why do you behave in certain way choosing and tasting a wine. Is there any chance that your choices are being influenced by issues outside of you and not related to the taste itself?

What I strongly believe is the educational side of wine. Once you start consuming wine, it’s like you’re on an endless journey. Everyone asks basic questions about the wine they are drinking. Questions like from where the wine comes from, or the grape variety, or the year. Even if they don’t know what exactly the real meaning and implications of the answers.

Do you believe that knowing the history of wine in general, knowing how it is made, having even a basic notion of different styles will help you better appreciate it? And knowing that virtually every aspect of taste and aroma in wine can be chemically manipulated and adjusted? Will this affect your final experience when choosing, tasting and understanding a wine?

Personally, all of these aspects significantly affect my overall tasting experience. When I began my journey of wine knowledge I had no idea how vast this world is and how uncertain and doubtful the liquid inside the bottle can be. In general, knowing more about how a particular wine was made, whether it is made by hand or industrially, makes me change my perception of quality. Today I prefer a wine made by hand, respecting the characteristics of the grape in the vineyard. I believe 95% of the quality of a wine depends on how healthy the fruit is in the vineyard.

I don’t like to feel influenced by marketing, beautiful labels or fictional stories about the tradition of a particular product. I like to understand how what I consume was made and why those characteristics of color, texture, aroma and taste are present in the wine I am consuming. Maybe knowing all this you might stop finding faults in artisanal wine and, like me, you may find the perfection of chemically treated wine strange.

Storytelling and the wine market.

Storytelling describes the social and cultural activity of sharing stories, sometimes with improvisation, theatrics, or embellishment. Every culture has its own stories or narratives, which are shared as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation or instilling moral values.

But what is the relationship between storytelling and the wine market? I believe we have to start by understanding what wine is in terms of product. I can simply define wine as an alcoholic beverage obtained from the fermentation of grape juice. It’s a very simple definition and very cold don’t you think?

I believe that the right definition of wine must bring with it all the historical burden, the tradition, the millennial cultural heritage, the bond with the territory, and so on. From all this together we can understand what wine really is and its importance in the history of mankind. Where I live, for example, wine is so ingrained in popular culture that even in my children’s elementary school math is taught using the vineyard and winemaking as a backdrop for operations.

For some peoples, wine is a ancient tradition that has always been there and is a fundamental part of the local culture and life of all. For others where there is no culture of wine production, only its consumption already brings the desire to understand what are the cultural differences and terroir of its production that make the wine of the same grape variety but different places have different characteristics.

In this context, over time the need has arisen to narrate for the consumer the link between tradition, history, territory, family, values, land, climate, among others, with the wine being consumed. From this was created the Wine Teller.

The fascist ultra-conservative speech in Brazil, the so-called “economic liberalism” and the Brazilian wine market

Brazil is experiencing an unprecedented crisis mainly because it strongly extrapolates the economic crisis and is bringing out a conservatism that was shrouded in population. Given the degree of ignorance of the majority, some ultra-conservative and even fascist appeals are finding echo in those less enlightened when it comes to civil liberties and human rights. However, for the consumption of wine I understand that it doesn’t matters. At least for those who can buy, since the policies of false economic liberalism currently practiced in Brazil are considerably affecting the consumption capacity of the middle class.

The fact is, with the exception of communities formed by European immigration as Italians, Portuguese and Germans, the consumption of wine is not a tradition in Brazil. The most consumed and popular alcoholic beverages in Brazil are still beer and cachaça. I believe that cachaça is the most similar in terms of tradition compared to wine nowadays. Cachaça is a distillate obtained from sugar cane produced practically throughout the Brazilian territory and has a great tradition since Brazil was a Portuguese colony.

But let’s go back to the wine. The consumption of wine in Brazil has been increasing every year. I believe currently the only obstacle to the popularization of wine consumption is the price of the product and the crises facing the country. According to Wine Intelligence study commissioned by IBRAVIN, about 32 million Brazilians said they had consumed wine in the last 30 days, 66 million said they had consumed wine in the last 6 months while 14 million said they consume wine daily.

In the eyes of the European who has an average per capita wine consumption of 40 liters per year, Brazilian numbers may not seem stimulating. However it is necessary to understand the market and take a look at the historical series so as not to be influenced by the 2 liters per capita consumed on average annually by Brazilians. Brazil is currently the 15th largest wine producer in the world and already exports its product to 59 countries. Let’s bet that the Brazilian market continues to advance and grow.

Sensory analysis, smell and social prejudice.

I was here thinking about how much my preferences have changed over the years regarding wines. Wine has always been present in my life. In my home my mother used to consume wine at meals on weekends and also when we received visits. As soon as I reached the legal drinking age, I began my journey into the fabulous and vast world of wine. The object of my analysis is delimited from the moment when wine becomes a common and frequent habit to the present day.

I was born and raised in Brazil, a country that has little tradition in wine, which is considered a luxury product, and its consumption is largely associated with social status. An important point is that wine in Brazil is expensive and not accessible to most of the population, unlike our neighbors Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. However, for those who have money enough, you can find wines from all over the globe.

From this we can make a correlation between the ordinary Brazilian consumer and Rousseau’s character Émile: we were born without preferences for wine and our society corrupts us with concepts that, for the most part, have nothing to do with the quality of the liquid we find inside the bottle. I am talking about social concepts ranging from the price of wine, specific colors, berries aromas to the shape of the bottle. For purposes of restricting the topic to this brief post, I will limit myself to the smell.

So I start with a simple question: How important is the smell of wine? I believe that everyone who starts drinking wine develops the habit of smelling it before drinking. I think this custom is first developed empathically simply by the fact that you begin to do so by trying to copy the constructed social stance of how to taste a wine. Just as you copy the act of swirling the wine glass. However, few can really explain why they do it.

Answering the question, for me the smell is the most important aspect in wine. Because it’s where we find and correlate affective memories and the elements of comparison with flowers, fruits, emotions, experiences, places, etc. I question also how our perception of smell is affected by predefined social constructions and aesthetic patterns? When you get a wine and, even before you open the bottle, you get the information the wine is a “natural” one, do you ever expect that the wine will have unwanted aromas?

Well, I need to confess that my perception of what a good wine is has changed a lot over the last 15 years. At first, when I heard that was a natural wine, I already imagined an unwanted smell of pasture. The fact is that I insisted and learned to understand and also to appreciate not so common aromas in wine. This change was motivated mainly by knowledge, that is, by understanding why a certain aspect of smell or taste is present in a wine and also the history of its evolution.

Today, I can say that I do not wrinkle my nose when I hear that I will taste a wine made from organic grapes, with natural and indigenous yeast. The world of wine is vast and this massification of taste and smell is extremely harmful, as it tends to extinguish everything that deviates from the industry’s predefined aesthetic standard.

Are PIWI grapes a Genetic Modified Organism (GMO)?

Sauvignier Gris

A few days ago after posting a few posts about PIWI grapes, a discussion began on LinkedIn whether or not PIWI grapes are considered a genetic modified organism or simply GMO. The controversy is important and pertinent because in some countries like Italy it is forbidden the cultivation of GMOs.

I soon went to study a little more because I wasn’t sure of my answer. At first it seemed not to me, because PIWI grapes are the result of crosses and selections, not DNA manipulations. But reading some other scholarly articles I wondered if recent research had inserted some varieties that could be the result of DNA manipulations and considered GMOs.

Between comings and goings, a light appears at the end of the tunnel. A fellow winemaker, Vagner Marchi, clarified for us that PIWI grapes can indeed be produced from manipulation and genetic modification, which would make the process of their generation much faster. However, the varieties grown so far have been produced exclusively from crosses of different species, basically Vitis vinifera and Vitis lambrusca.

So the most accurate answer to this question is that currently grown PIWI grapes are not a Genetic Modified Organism – GMO.

Wine and digital experience

The wine market has been expanding worldwide in every possible direction. New wine-producing zones have sprung up mainly in the New World bringing new denominations and styles. More than 36 billion bottles are now produced in more than 1 million distinct labels by about 150,000 producers. The wine market is also more competitive every year.

While the European domestic market has remained broadly stable in per capita consumption (in some countries shrinking somewhat), the new world market has been growing at a rapid pace, driven by the strength of the new middle class in emerging countries like China and Brazil.

Invariably people around the world, new or old world, maintain a closer relationship with wine that goes far beyond drinking an alcoholic beverage or something to pair with a good meal at a good restaurant or family reunion. People who drink wine are also interested in its history, its origin. In short they are interested in knowing the tradition behind that wine label. Increasingly, especially in the new world, wine consumers want to have a fuller wine-tasting experience. They seek to better understand what actually defines that terroir. What’s the tradition inside that bottle of wine.

So we need to urgently expand the range of winery services and experiences. Just selling wine is no longer enough. We need to do this beyond the face-to-face visit. The next step is to allow people to increase their point of contact with wineries and to have a little more digital experience. It is necessary to bring to the virtual world the experience of a vineyard tour and a guided wine tasting.

The time has come to better manage the touch points that customers can have with the winery digitally as well. The time has come to offer digital experiences. I believe this is the next step in the digital transformation for the wine consumer market.

Wine tourism and the digital transformation

For some time now we have been discussing the digital transformation in business. Several businesses have sought to innovate and expose their services and products from a digital experience that meets the expectations and new forms of consumption of younger generations. Examples are digital banking, app payment, transportation apps, food delivery services, hotel and restaurant reservations, and so on.

Is digital transformation happening in the wine world? Some companies that already sold wine on the web decided to make their own sales app. We also have some wine rating apps, but the fact is that these services didn’t bring anything new. They only bring together in one application a set of information and services you already had access to on the web.

In addition to the transformations that new technologies are bringing within the wineries and vineyards, the turn of wine tourism has come. Wineries are increasingly opening their doors to welcome their customers by offering a wide range of services ranging from tastings, vineyard biking, tasting picnics to experiences where you can stay at the winery and participate in the grape harvest.

This transformation in the services offered by wineries brings an urgent need to modernize the contact points between wineries and their customers. Most of the time customers come from far away, from other countries, and need to have access to all the details about the services offered and the need to book in advance in some cases.

It is in this scenario that Divinea was born, an Italian start-up that offers a digital transformation platform for wineries and companies offering enogastronomic experiences such as wine bars, wine schools, restaurants etc. From the Divinea platform, anyone interested in a wine experience can search and view the type of experience they want, view details, interact with the winery, schedule and pay without the hassle of having to use the phone or send emails. At the same time wineries have the facility to manage their experiences portfolio as tastings and tours without having to maintain a structure for handling emails, phone calls or even a website.

It seems that the digital revolution just arrived in the wine lovers world.

%d bloggers like this: