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Allegrini 2018
INTERVIEW

From Italian wine to the USA, from digital to the future of critics: at WineNews, Antonio Galloni

The founder of Vinous: “by now there is great quality in all regions. And at competitive prices. E-commerce and digital will remain even after Covid”
ANTONIO GALLONI, critics, ITALIAN WINE, USA, VINOUS, WINE, News
Antonio Galloni, founder of Vinous

The great potential of Italian wine, by now capable of expressing great quality at every latitude; the recovery in the USA, a strategic market for Italian wineries, where confidence and optimism are in the air; the legacy of the pandemic in the wine market sector and critics, between growing e-commerce and digital events that, at least in part, will remain in the future; the critics themselves evolving, launching products and services for the trade that make us think. Topics that Winenews discussed with Antonio Galloni, founder of Vinous and one of the most authoritative voices of international critics, and a great connoisseur of Italy. Starting from the States, where Galloni lives, and where the restart, between vaccination and reopening of restaurants and economic activities, proceeds at full pace.
“In New York, it is established that, from the beginning of July, almost everything will reopen, the vaccines are there, there will be a great restart because we are all fed up with the year and a half we have been through, and I am very optimistic”. The great reviews on the great latest vintages of Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino, territories that remain at the top, have made headlines in recent months. But there are many important territories of Italian wine in terms of quality, but also of the market, Galloni underlines.
“In Italy, by now you can find quality wine in all the regions, it’s a strong point. Obviously, there are Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino in the spotlight, but I am also thinking about Alto Piemonte, which has great charm both for its history and for what young producers are doing. In Tuscany it is not a secret, I have been writing for some time, that Chianti Classico is an area with fantastic soils, but this year I was also very impressed by the wines of Montepulciano, and then there are areas that I do not cover anymore, but my collaborator Erik Guido does, but that are always in my heart, from Alto Adige to Veneto, from Friuli Venezia Giulia to Campania, to Sicily, where my family comes from. So I think that Italy has the potential to make great quality everywhere. On the market, maybe for some territories it is more difficult, because they need great visibility and producers who can be leaders in their areas, and not all territories have them. But this can be an opportunity for young producers, who can take this role, this leadership. The perspectives for Italy are very important, wines offer great quality at more affordable prices than other areas, they go very well with food, in particular with food, for which today we all look for more lightness and quality of the raw material, rather than complicated and heavy preparations. There is an incredible potential”.
A potentiality which will have to be developed in a world which, in many aspects, has been changed by the pandemic, and which will be different from the one we knew. Including the world of wine criticism, tastings and events, which has lived with so much digital, remote tastings and so on. “A lot of things will go back to the way they used to once the pandemic passes, but others will remain. People will continue to do digital or virtual tastings because the whole world has changed. People used to go to the movies, now people want to watch on Netflix the movie they want at the time they want. We are also seeing this with our tastings: there is a great demand for virtual events, live events are done, then they are recorded, people can watch them in another moment, even many times. I believe this will remain in some way. I'm not saying it’s necessarily the best thing for wine, but, for example, there are also these little bottles that you can send out for tastings, and maybe that will continue to be done as well. Obviously, a lot of things will go back to in-person, in-person, but people are looking for more and more flexibility. And the real challenge for companies is to communicate more and more with the end customer. It’s very difficult, there is a lot of potential, we see it with distribution that has moved a lot to e-commerce, which has created much more direct avenues than in the past”.
Speaking of e-commerce, one thing that has been disrupted by the pandemic, lockdowns and restaurant closures has been the market, with a shift in consumption to modern, online distribution. “E-commerce will continue to grow”, Galloni stresses, “you have to adapt to a world that changes very quickly. The winning weapon is to see things positively, e-commerce opens many channels, even for less structured companies, technology has this power. This does not mean we will no longer go to restaurants or choose a bottle on the shelf of a wine shop, however technology has changed our whole life, not only in wine, and it is a change that will accelerate even more, and it must be fully exploited”.
Coming back to the subject of criticism, in these days the launch of the new service of Vinous, “Vinous Preview”, has made a lot of discussions, especially in the US, among wine experts, which, from what we have learned, allows subscribers, who can be producers or distributors, to access scores and reviews 48 hours before they are published on Vinous, as well as accessing the editorial calendar in order to better plan promotion or communication campaigns. “Vinous Preview is a natural evolution in wine critics - underlines Galloni - it would have happened sooner or later. We see a very active sector, much more technological than when I started 15-20 years ago. There is an important spreading of scores and reviews, through the internet, email, social media, with a clear commercial purpose. We realized we had different users, consumers and professionals. And we wanted to create this specialized product for professional users. “Vinous Preview” is not focused on wine producers, on this we must take a distance. We do not take advertising from producers, when we make events, wineries do not pay to participate, unlike other magazines. I am saying this just to explain our point of view, not to criticize the choices of others, every magazine must make the choices it thinks are right. We have followed the path of creating different services. “Vinous Preview” is oriented to importers, distributors, wine shops, the sales channel, not the production channel, and there are various things, such as the access to the editorial calendar, and the possibility to have reviews 48 hours in advance”.
So, then, if a distributor learns of a positive review of a product in its portfolio before it comes out, it could, for example, develop a social campaign at the same time, maximizing its effect. “Scores and reviews - underlines, however, Galloni - could be higher than expected, but also less, because our editorial work does not change at all, we do the same articles as always, we taste the same wines we have always tasted. Only, some will have the chance to see these reviews two days before they come out. About this there was some confusion in the last days, but I want to emphasize that the editorial work will be the same as it has always been”.
Another rumor bounced in the past days, is that Vinous would accept wines for tasting only of the ones who have a subscription to a “Pro” level, but Galloni denies it: “subscription is not needed to have access to our tastings, it is needed for the ones who want to use our reviews for a commercial one, and for this reason, it happens that many wineries have a subscription. And the same rules are valid for importers and distributors. One thing we do not accept, however, are wines sent without having had a first contact. Because otherwise, it would be impossible to manage the volume of samples”.

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