For various reasons (like, 2,000 of them, about what the trip would cost me) I’m not getting to VinItaly this year. It’s not that I’m not interested in seeing Verona, Italy or too busy to taste a couple thousand wines or anything, I’m just not there.
Instead, I’m following the action through the ether: reading press releases sent from the VinItaly press office and on some favorite blogs, including those by Susannah Gold and Alfonso Cevola, aka The Italian Wine Guy.
Susannah speaks impeccable Italian (including several different dialects, which comes in handy when dealing with Italy’s 20 wine-making regions) and during a recent visit to New York City for Italian Wine Week Susannah introduced me to Kris Kim, VinItaly COO and a charming, hardworking spokesperson for all wines Italian. All of which means that even though I stay here in the States, the contacts in Italy are among the best.
One recent release that Susannah wrote on concerned a seminar (actually, a series of related seminars) on the question, “Do Italians still love wine?”
That’s a question you might never expect to hear voiced out loud, particularly when it’s voiced at VinItaly, the world’s largest gathering of Italian wines and winemakers.
However, that was the very question on many lips last week at one of the trade seminars offered during Vinitaly’s four-day run that ended Sunday in Verona, Italy.
To be blithe, the answer is yes but maybe not as much as in the past. Forty years ago, Italians managed to down 100 liters (about 133 of those .750 liter bottles, about 26 gallons) of wine per person per year.
Today, that’s dwindled to a comparatively meager 42 liters per year. But it’s positively W.C. Fieldsian compared to Americans who, according to the Wine Institute, choke down just under 9 liters (less than seven bottles, about 2 gallons) per person.
According to some 2009 numbers from the Wine Institute, the leader in per-capita wine consumption is Vatican City State where the 932 or so residents down 70.22 liters (18.5 gallons) per person each year.
That’s not as much as it sounds. It comes out to about 1.35 liters (less than two of those .750-liter bottles) per week, which won’t nearly keep up with most of my friends.
Italy’s 42 liters per person is sixth in per person wine consumption while the U.S. at 8.96 liters per person is far down the list, behind such notable wine countries as Finland, the Cook Islands and New Caledonia, the French Territory in the South Pacific where residents drink almost 21 liters per person per year.
But here’s the biggie: Even though American drink less wine per person that Italians, there are WAY more of us drinking our share.
Last year, for the first time the United States surpassed Italy in terms of total wine consumption, Wine Institute said.
Wine Institute reported that in terms of total consumption the U.S., drinking 2.75 billion liters, is second only to France (2.9 billion liters). Italy now is third, at 2.45 billion liters.
Which doesn’t necessarily support any theory purporting Italians losing their love for wine. What it might indicate, though, is how world economics and the changing demographics of Italian wine drinkers are affecting that country’s wine consumption.
Contrary to what the dreamy-eyed Italophiles among us might think, only 40 percent of Italians say they drink wine everyday, said a report from VinItaly.
Many Italians are saying they have reduced consumption due to economic or health concerns.
Curiously, wine industry consultants Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates in Woodside, Cal, reported earlier this year that year the U.S. surpassed France as the world’s largest wine-consuming nation as wine shipments to the U.S. from California (leading a reader to believe California no longer is part of the U.S.), other states and foreign producers grew to nearly 330 million cases, a record high for the industry.
Gomberg, et al, said the estimated retail value of these sales was $30 billion, up 4% from 2009.
The French, meanwhile, consumed 320.6 million cases of wine in 2010, Gomberg said.
Robert Koch, president and CEO of Wine Institute, said U.S. wine-market conditions remain “highly competitive”, which usually means lower prices for consumers, and he expects the growth in wine consumption to continue.
“Americans are increasingly interested in a lifestyle with wine and food, demonstrated by the presence of wineries in all 50 states and 17 consecutive years of growth in U.S. wine consumption,” Koch.
Other countries to watch include China, which last year increased its wine consumption by 36 percent, and Russia, where wine consumption last year jumped by 30 percent.
The panelists at VinItaly had a handful of suggestions for developing new consumers, including marketing campaigns aimed at women and at young people just developing their interest in wine.
Italian wine producers also are exploring ways to increase sale in supermarkets, which currently account for 60 percent of that country’s wine sales.
Many states in the U.S. allow food stores to sell wine but Colorado isn’t among them. Buying wine in a food store generally is a “caveat emptor” experience, since few stores (none, in my experience) offer the level of expertise found in dedicated wine and liquor stores.
One of the challenges for a wine lover living not living in a major city is finding wine events to attend.
Not that they’re lacking, although someone in say, New York City probably can select from several events each week.
My friend Susannah talks here about having that abundance of decisions.
Here, I’m always looking for something other than the weekly “tasting” at one of the local liquor stores, semi-events with hand-picked limited selections that can turn into sales pitches for whatever the store has in overstock.
No matter where you live, though, if you don’t know about an event, you can’t attend it.
That’s why I was initially fascinated by the idea promoted by Eric V. Orange, founder and developer of the Web site LocalWineEvents.com.This site is a free listing service of wine events in your area.
And how do the events get listed?
By you, of course.
“Even after ten years online, I am surprised at how many people in the food and wine business do not know about LocalWineEvents.com,” Eric wrote in a recent e-mail. “I recognized years ago that the ‘industry’ folks are looked at as a source of reference from friends and family and the bigger base of the industry using the site, the broader it gets into the consumer world.”
His idea was to gather information on each event at one site and make that site available to everyone.
“It’s really a simple idea,” said Eric, whose wine background includes a five-year stint at Millbrook Vineyards outside of Poughkeepsie, former wine rep and certified sommelier who now lives with his wife and family outside Philadelphia.
He explained that LocalWineEvents.com is a free “post your own event” site, and once you’ve posted an event, future postings are easier since the basic information is on the site.
And keeping up with technology means developing an iPhone app, which includes a Geo-location feature (for those of us terminally direction-challenged) to show events within a pre-selected distance from your location.
Which means you don’t have to thread through events in San Francisco when you live in Atlanta (unless you’re headed to SF, of course).
And if you’re looking for an event, the site is remarkably easy to use. The main page offers you a click-on menu of states, which in turn opens a window listing all the sites in that state where events are planned.
The key here, of course, is that if you know of an event that isn’t listed, you can go ahead and make the listing and that event forever will be in your debt.
Not just domestic events, either. LocalWineEvents.com is an international site, so if you’re heading to, umm, France, say, the current listings say you can choose from 26 events across the country.
Oh, don’t worry about people reading your listings, it seems there’s a lot of demand for something to do.
Here are a few stats about LocalWineEvents.com, thanks to Eric: 115,00 subscribers to The Juice, the weekly events e-mail newsletter; 21,000 fans on Facebook; and 4,600 followers on Twitter.
Don’t you wish you had 4,600 followers on your Twitter site?
Eric said at last count, the site had listed 282,354 events and sold $3,987,629 worth of tickets.
I’d love to go on, there’s more (isn’t there always?) but the LocalWineEvents.com site has it all.
Take in an event near you, and spread the word on future events.
Who knows, you might save someone a boring weekend.
It’s 92 in Grand Junction and only 3 p.m., which means it may reach 95 or so before the sun sets.
I was reading posts by Susannah Gold and Charles Scicolone on a PR tasting they attended (n in NYC, of course) for Soave, an under-appreciated white wine from the Veneto region.
And those posts got me to thinking of a cool Italian white to savor after work, which brings me to the Frascati I have in the fridge. Frascati is a blend of Malvasia bianca (50 percent or more), Malvasia del Lazio and several other varietals including Greco, Trebbiano Giallo and other local (local to Rome, that is) white varietals.
But the wine itself doesn’t get much respect, with most reviews I’ve found calling it “serviceable” and “unremarkable.”
It doesn’t sound like much but maybe that’s about all I need on a steamy Friday, something serviceable and unremarkable.
Not sure what to pair it with, all the reviewers suggesting “unremarkable” foods like seafood cocktail. Seafood cocktail? Not sure I even remember what that is.
But maybe it will give me something to ponder other than the disaster in the Gulf, and the memories of the friends and family who make their living on and near the waters of Louisiana.
It’s been a tough spring for them, and there are going to be many tough weeks and months to come.
But as a bumper sticker said during the dark days following the Exxon pull-out in 1982 that left thousands of people jobless in western Colorado: tough times don’t last, tough people do.
My heart goes out to the tough people of Louisiana.
And I’ll get back to you on this here Frascati.
Buon weekend, y’all, as Alfonso would offer.
After listening for several hours last February to a panel discuss the impact social media such as blogging, Twitter and Facebook are having in today’s wine-marketing world VINO 2010 in New York City, and then recently reading The Italian Wine Guy and his comments on a similar panel at VinItaly, I was pleased to receive a new blog from Azienda Agricola Rivetto in Italy’s Piemonte.
Italian winemakers have long been pushing to get more of the U.S. market, and after hearing comments at VINO 2010 and VinItaly that younger Italians aren’t drinking as much wine as past generations, it’s seem now more than ever those Italian producers are looking to fill that gap through the U.S. wine market. But until the Rivetto blog, the only Italian winemaker I know with a blog is Susanna Crociani from Montepulciano.
Susanna is a delightful person and very talented winemaker, as you’ll discover by reading this blog by our good friend, well-known wine blogger and Italian wine lover Susannah at Avvinare. Susanna Crociani said during VINO 2010 that her blog helped increase her business noticeably. Not only her wine business but here agriturismo, as well.
I also read Franco Ziliani’s Vino Al Vino blog but I feel that it’s more news oriented, not necessarily something written from the heart and eyes of a winemaker, as are the blogs by Susanna Crociani and Enrico Rivetto.
So why don’t more Italian winemakers post on blog sites? Maybe, for one, it’s time consuming and there’s never much rest in the winemaking or grape growing business, as you’ll also find out by reading Enrico Rivertto’s blog entries. But also by reading Enrico’s posts, you get a real idea of who he and his family are and what they are doing.
It was interesting, too, to discover his blog was presented to an international journalism audience at a conference in Perugia and was described as “an example of wine marketing best practice.” Enrico also engages the world through Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube.
Enrico’s comments: “Wine producers with blogs in Italy are really few, I think you could count them on one hand; I believe it’s a good way to bring the consumer closer to the complicated world of wine, making it easier for them to understand what lays behind and inside the glass.”
Those comments really hit home for many wine lovers. And winemakers, too, who want their customers to know what goes on in the vineyard and the winery. That’s probably every Italian winemaker I’ve ever met, and after hearing how blogging helped Susanna’s business, it’s almost a given for any winemaker who wants to get their name out to the public.
My feeling is, if any producer, whether it’s wine, cars or legislation, tries to hide the process, there probably is something wrong with the final product. It’s fun and refreshing to read blogs from Susanna Crociani and Enrico Rivetto. Let’s hope more Italian winemakers join the social media world.
Along with many of my online colleagues, I spent most of a week recently in New York City for VINO 2010, Italian Wine Week, sponsored by the Italian Trade Commission and promoted as the largest Italian wine event held outside of that country. The regional sponsors of Vino 2010 were Tuscany, Apulia, Calabria, and the Veneto.
The week was full of seminars and tastings and “Buon Giornos” as you met literally hundreds of wine producers, wine writers and critics and thousands of fans of Italian wines. Some of my colleagues have written excellent blog articles on their experiences, so I’ll share some blog sites and some dialogue on ones I’ve found most entertaining.
Susannah Gold at Avvinare wrote eloquently about her good friend and excellent winemaker Susanna Crociani of Montepulciano. Crociani makes a delightful Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG and several other lovely wines, including a wonderful Vin Santo di Montepulciano DOC. You can read that post here.
The two Susanna(h)s were panel members for a seminar on the impacts of social media (Twitter, Facebook, and blogs) reaching out to the estimated 80 million or so “millennials,” those between 18 and, what, 28 or so. This generation of wine drinkers already is using social meida more than any other generation and the people who will direct the path that wine writing, drinking and conversation will take in the near future.
Other members of the panel included Alder Yarrow of Vinography,Doug Cook, Head of search at Twitter and founder of Able Grape, Steve Raye of Brand Action and Anthony Dias Blue. You can see the panel here, but you have to wade through a commercial before the panel video begins, and then you should fast-forward a few minutes to get past the crowd shots.
I attended a seminar/guided tasting on wines from Calabria led by Italian Wine Guy Alfonso Cevola. Titled: “Gaglioppo the Great: The New Generation Of Southern Reds”, the seminar featured 11 wines, not all of them Gaglioppo, along with a producer or representative of each wine. Among the wines were some made with Malvasia Nera, Greco Nero, Magliocco , Nerello Cappuccio, Nerello Calabrese and two grapes new to me, Arvino and Lacrima Nera.
The next day, the inestimable Charles Scicolone led a tasting on the wines of Apulia, of which he wrote eloquently on the i-Italy site here. What I hadn’t realized until spending an afternoon with Charles at Cipriani for a tasting is his intense dislike of barriqued wines. He prefers wines that aren’t hidden by oak and it was illuminating to see how precise his palate was in detecting oak overtones in what otherwise seemed pretty nice wines.
As he mentioned, he sometimes has to hold his tongue when talking to winemakers. He played the discretion card several times during the Apulian wine seminar, where several of the wines were heavily oaked, which overrides the natural flavors of the wine.
Charles also mentioned that his wife Michele’s newest cook book, “The Italian Slow Cooker,” is out and doing well sales-wise, which reminded me of Michele’s article on the seminar entitled “Italian-American Food…Why Don’t it get NO Respect?”
As she notes in her blog, it was the only seminar in three action-packed days that focused on food. Tom Hyland in his Reflections on Wine blog wrote both a food-related column and a general view of VINO 2010.
And that should be enough reading for now.