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What do you think of this quiz? Like of Gary Vaynerchuk fame, this wine shop in the heart of DC was created a few years ago and geared towards young wine consumers (clearly over 21 yrs of age), the idea is to grow your customer, educate them (formarli) and as their palate grows more sophisticated, adult and discerning the hope is that they will buy more and more wine.

One of the things I don't see very often here in Italy, and bear in mind that I live in a small town pop. 82,000 but in the very HEART of wine country is a careful, strategic and concerted effort to interact with customers. So when I say I don't see it in Italy I mean I don't see it in Marsala or Palermo, Palermo though is not so small, the population is close to 1 million inhabitants.  I remember tasting an amazing wine a red Nero d'Avola at a local restaurant earlier this year, I was so excited I looked them up and called them as I couldn't find it at the one approachable wine shop in town and the sales manager haughtily (con arroganza) told me that they did not sell to the public, their target was HORECA. I politely thanked him and rang off. The question though is even if your target is HORECA eventually a HUMAN will select, drink and pay for your product.

In my town there were wine tastings every saturday morning  in all the nicer wine and spirits stores in the city (Washington DC) and the supermarkets, the higher end ones Wholefoods, Trader Joe's or Dean and Deluca  and  had and still have tastings, and you can get a very plain chilean red, or a $150 important California or French wine, the Italian market in many of these venues was somewhat under represented back when I lived in DC, 2004. Many local restaurants also closely collaborated with wine shops, distributors and wineries and there were and still are weekly wine dinners. At these dinners there would be flights of wine matched to dishes prepared by the chef and a brief talk by the wine shop/distributor or winery rep to tell the customers a few words about the wine. At the end of the dinner brochures were available and cases of wine for sale. It was fun for a single gal like me to go to one of these dinners, eat in a convivial atmosphere and taste new and interesting wines. They weren't cheap around $50 to $75 dollars per dinner but I did it every month or so especially when it was at a restaurant I hadn't tried or a wine I was curious about. I learned a lot by going to saturday morning tastings and monthly wine dinners. As far as I can tell in Marsala and Palermo these events are by invitation only, they are not adverised in the local papers or websites and they are geared towards industry professionals. Preaching to the choir as it were. Is it different in bigger cities..can Jane Doe find out about a tasting in her local paper and go to it? Are there wine dinners? Is the public, the paying public welcome?
Now in the US for the most part there isn't this supermarket and HORECA distinction. In higher end markets and gourmet local shops often the selection runs the gamut. What is the reasoning behind this somewhat rigid distinction here? What business advantages does it give? Is it like this only here in this small town in Sicily or is it hard to find prestigious lables at supermarkets up north? I am quite curious about this.
So my Italian wine specialist friends my questions are 3:

1. Did you take the quiz? What did you think of it?

2. Do you know about the wine world phenom and wonderkind Gary Vaynerchuck of fame? Check out one of his videos, he specifically targets college students and recent grads a demographic that will buy wine for decades if they can be wooed away from beer. What do you think of him? He is not well liked by the wine establishment (Robert Parker et al) but he sells about $60 million USD worth of wine per year so he must be doing something right.

3. Why is there this cloud or shall we say perhaps shroud of mystery, exclusivity and inaccessability around wine here for consumers, some of us would like to buy the nicer stuff, why is it so hard to do so at least in my city?

What's it like in Milan, Turin or Genoa? Can a regular housewife or a young recent college grad buy a decent or even nice bottle of wine or two at the local market or Enoteca?
Help me out.

Cheers :) Dea x
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#4 Commenti

  • Filippo Ronco

    Filippo Ronco

    Hi Dea, very good points.
    I've done the quiz, nice game, good for beginners but curious for wine lovers too :)

    Concerning the issue, I think the best way to find all (or almost all) the wines you're looking for is just going to a specialized wine shop (that is one of the's faces). The choice of wine in supermarkets in Italy is extremely variable. We've also supermarket chains but only a few cover the entire national territory and usually these are not the ones with the best wine selection :)

    One of the best supermarket chain i the north part of Italy (Lombardia for example, I don't know if they are in other regions too) is Esselunga. This supermarket has a very good choice of wines of different price ranges. Anyway, as far you can find a good wine selection in supermarkets, it will always be a very small and not completely representative selection than the one you can find in wine shops or restaurants.

    Our wine market sometimes is very odd :) Actually don't know why but most of the people involved in wine (wine professional or wine lovers), think that the right place for good wines is a wine shop or a restaurant and not the supermarket.

    But here on Vinix we can't stay just looking to the things :)
    We've created the vinix live! format that anyone can adopt: through this format, we let consumers and wine cellars meet and ask to wine producers to sell directly at the same price they do to professionals. Just for that special day, exceptionally.

    Another thinkg we do once a year is:

    Have a look :)

    Cheers, Fil.

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  • Deika Elmi-Abdulle

    Deika Elmi-Abdulle

    I will thanks a bunch Fil,
    but my question remains why is the wine business in Italy so focused or apparently focused on B2B only and not B2C so much?
    It's quite curious. For me anyway.

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  • Deika Elmi-Abdulle

    Deika Elmi-Abdulle

    Btw your knowledge of this industry is Encyclopaedic!

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  • Filippo Ronco

    Filippo Ronco

    Dear Dea, can't say why.
    I think we have a very large and consolidated chain:

    Wine cellar
    Wine distributors / importers /exporters
    Wine agents
    Wine shops

    and, finally, the consumer.
    Sometime, some illuminated consumer take his baggage and goes to wine cellars to buy directly but not all the wineries sell directly. Moreover, sometimes we have paradoxical situations where the cellar sells directly to the consumer at the same (the same!!!) price of wine shops, just to avoid the other links of the chain to get angry... and, on the other hand, sometime I've seen agents to sell directly to consumer at the same price they do to resellers :)

    I know, it's the caos. But it is.

    Everybody in the chain wants his part of the profit and, as you can imagine, all the links in the chain are well established and it's very difficult to discard or subvert this solid establishment.

    But at TerroirVino, in June 2010, we've done it.
    A big but very selected wine exhibition (more than 150 exhibitors) where most of the wineries sold directly their wines at "prezzo sorgente", something very similar to the same price the cellar does to professionals. It was an hurricane. Got a lot of complaints from the chain but I believe in this model expecially because we leave all the wineries to decide to agree or not to our proposal.

    Well, someone is working hard to let wineries get in touch with consumers.

    Ciao, Fil.

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