Vinitaly US Tour: New Consumption Trends on the U S Market
|Some moments of the Vinitaly U S Tour
Palace Hotel, San Francisco (CA)
Photographs courtesy: Giancarlo Voglino
I.E.M. - International Exhibition Management S.r.l.
Via Saval, 21/C, 37124 Verona, Italy
Tel. +39 045 8303264
Fax. +39 045 8303296
Wine consumption habits are changing in the USA. There are no longer "cult" wines and there is an increasing interest and curiosity in trying new tastes and lesser known brands and varieties – provided they are sold at the "right price". Consequently, the consumption of wines priced up to $25 has grown in the high-level U S restaurant sector.
While this new U S trend, that emerged from the annual survey conducted by Wine & Spirits Magazine involving 2,200 luxury restaurants, is good news for small and upcoming Italian producers, it represents a challenge for some of the most important Italian winemaking estates that were present at in the Vinitaly US Tour – the VeronaFiere promotional event that opened on October 26 in Miami, Florida then held a second event in San Francisco, California on October 28, 2004. The goal of the event is to promote quality Italian wine in the United States through technical seminars, business-to-business workshops and wine tastings involving importers, retailers, caterers, trade journalists and opinion leaders.
With 240 million people who still do not drink wine, the U S market offers an astonishing growth potential. Italian producers improved exports up to 400 million Euro in the first six months of 2004, overtaking France in terms of value.
The Wine & Spirits Magazine survey also indicates that demand for Italian wines in the high catering sector reached 15.5 percent of the total market i in 2003, while demand for French wines dropped to 14.1 percent in the same period.
There is growing demand for Italian wines such as Pinot Grigio and red wines from the Central and Southern regions of Italy, such as Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, Nero d'Avola, Negroamaro and Primitivo, a consumers' trend that is going well beyond traditional types of Italian wines such as Chianti Classic and tends to favor smaller, upcoming producers from regions other than Tuscany, Piedmont and Veneto.
Lambrusco, the Emilian wine vilified in the 1960's by a wave of export of sweetish, watered-down varieties especially crafted for the U S market, is making a well deserved comeback thanks to producers that are attentive to quality production in total respect for the century-old tradition that has made this wine a champion in a region well known for its rich and widely appreciated cuisine.
Sales of Australian and Spanish wines grew as well, even to the detriment of the more popular American wines. Australia marked a growth of 3.7 percent, while Spain was up 3.5 percent.
Thus, in response to this new trend, the marketing of regional wine – linking brands to a territory rather than to a grape variety – seems to be the most suitable strategy. Among other things, wine producers may enjoy more flexibility, should they offer new and less expensive blend rather than low-priced "versions" of their "flagship" varieties.
Nor should one underestimate, lastly, the "Two-Buck Chuck" phenomenon, focusing on low cost wines but nonetheless of appreciable quality, that highlights the desire among many American consumers to enjoy a good (generally red) wine at a very competitive price also at home and not only in restaurants.
"The U S market," said Luigi Castelletti and Giovanni Mantovani, respectively President and General Director of VeronaFiere, "still offers significant growth margins for Made in Italy products, which are very popular with American consumers. Yet more appropriate promotional policies are needed in order to win over the vast majority of U S consumers who do not currently drink wine."
"The experience gained in previous years on the U S market," emphasizes Giancarlo Conta, Counselor for Agriculture of the Veneto Region," is extremely favorable and the companies taking part in the meetings supported by the Region have achieved objective returns; in any case, the U S market is extremely interested in Italian products and the Veneto Region can present top level products at a very competitive price, despite the unfavorable dollar–Euro exchange rate."
The U S events are not the only stop in Vinitaly's international promotion of leading Italian wines and producers overseas.
In fact, Vinitaly China is scheduled in Shanghai for November 24 to 26, 2004. China is one of the world areas experiencing the highest development rates. VeronaFiere returns to Shanghai after similar events promoted in 1998 and 2002. Other Vinitaly China annuals were held in 1999, 2000 and 2001 in Peking.