Allegrini 2018

Reflections from “Wine2Wine”: on wine journalism, communication, and other stories

The reflection of the sector press on a profession that evolves from paper to digital, to social media, and thinking about its role and credibility

The story of the wine that must be almost “evangelical”, and speak more and more not of what is inside the glass, but around the bottle, in the territory and in its stories, where the beauty of wine resides; a sector press that reflects the world of production, often too self-referential, economically supported by the object about which it speaks itself, that is wine, and that is by the investments of producers (an eternal theme that brings with it the eternal question of authority and independence, and a common problem, however, for the specialized press of many sectors, in addition to wine); the evolution of the profession of the journalist and the communicator of wine, from Soldati and Veronelli to Tik Tok, with everything in between: here are some of the ideas that emerged at “wine2wine”, the “Business Forum 2022”, on stage today and tomorrow at Veronafiere, in the session on “Wine journalism. Exists? What is that? How does it work? What is it for?”, dedicated to the quality of information and communication on wine today, with the director Alessandro Regoli (his full speech here), Luciano Ferraro (“Corriere della Sera”), Alessandro Torcoli (“Civiltà del Bere”), Alessandro Morichetti (“Intravino”), Marco Tonelli (“Divine Spirit”), Fabrizio Carrera (“Cronache di Gusto”) and Fabio Piccoli (“Wine Meridian”), moderated by Chiara Giannotti. With reflections, case stories, and autobiographical notes, such as the one told by Luciano Ferraro. “We started talking about wine 20 years ago, with “Le vie del gusto”, - said Luciano Ferraro, who is deputy editor of “Corriere della Sera” - and perhaps we were the first of the major newspapers to dedicate a fixed page, per week, to wine and food. Then in 2013, we created a guide, then events, the Trentodoc Festival, recently, and opened the editorial office of “Cook”, which makes digital content and a monthly magazine, mainly about cooking but also about wine. It is a phase of transformation from the domination of the printed editions, which, for wine, was made up of specialized guides and magazines, to a more digital world. There are no frivolous channels: it is the content that counts, not the channel, so it must be aligned with the languages of that kind”.
“The point - said, for his part, Alessandro Torcoli, director of “Civiltà del Bere” - is the dispersion of messages, the multiplicity of channels, of voices, which leads to disorientation, and it is difficult to reach the large audience because everything is pulverized. The legacy of “Civiltà del Bere” and of my grandfather, Pino Khail is the professional, journalistic approach that can make a difference. The difference is in the target, in the approach”. “In three minutes, which is the time of this intervention, it’s hard to make the communication - added the WineNews director, Alessandro Regoli - we cannot tell how is seen the communication of the wine of the future in just a few minutes. In 1999 we were a communications agency, we reconverted everything and in 20 years we reached 3.1 million IP addresses served per year, and 150,000 followers on social networks. We are not a powerful platform like that of the “Corriere della Sera”, nor a historical magazine like “Civiltà del Bere”. I consider myself a sort of “wine country priest”, a sector that, as it is, must not be full of just so-called “wine influencers”. I am a great wine lover, the beauty of wine is not inside the bottle, but outside: long live the territories, the monuments, and also the languages that are not technical. Even the posts on social media, which seem like a great novelty, were the photo news in the 1980s. To create content you need professionalism, ideas, and imagination, you need a team, which today is better than me, and today Winenews, which - with Irene Chiari - in 1999, I, however, conceived, created, and developed, has it. Today the contents are more and more out of the bottle: this does not mean doing the reviews, which must have their “altar”. Our contents are for all those who want and perseverance to follow us, each tool - the website, the web TV, the newsletters, the social networks - have their function, and each content is adapted ad hoc. But the real innovation is in the tools, in techniques, which were not there when we started working in wine & food in the 1980s. At that time, we did press offices, and to arrive in inserts such as “Andata & Return” of the newspaper “L’Unità”, which had incredible print runs, which many of you will not remember, where were writing Folco Portinari and Carlo Petrini, was a point of arrive. I love common language, with which many things can be said, we must go outside our world, evangelize, sow interest, find followers”. But there are also those who, by legitimate choice, do not give up on modern times, as explained by Marco Tonelli of the monthly “Spirito di Vino”: “we are in a new” Far West”, we must communicate to a lot of people, through multiple channels. We are classic, almost feudal, we do not have a site, we remain totally faithful to the paper. It’s tiring, I don’t deny it, to do quality work you need old publishing tools, a graphic designer, different photos, and the awareness of being in a niche. We go on pure communication, riding a niche that is that of the story, without too many technicalities, which are part of a more Anglo-Saxon culture. We - added Tonelli - come from Veronelli, from Soldati, who privileged the story, the atmosphere, the story not that of wine, but of an environment, of a story, of something not focused exclusively on wine. You need to be aware of being a niche, speaking to those who read us, with a correct, non-trivial Italian, without giving up Italian terms in favor of the English ones, trying to make a communication that can also be considered old, but it is not necessarily. There is, however, a fundamental problem regarding the category of wine journalists: before often someone who had a journalistic background, but not strictly related to wine, began to deal with them. This does not mean that those who do it today are not prepared, but let’s say that they started with a journalist tout court and then came to the food and wine world, and not the other way around”. Net of everything, however, said Fabrizio Carrera, director of “Cronache di Gusto”, “never has so much been written about wine as in recent years, there was no such attention. First, because certain journalism has noticed the value, even economic, of wine, and because the conditions have been created for there to be so many disseminators. However, the fact that we are here to ask ourselves if wine journalism exists, means that there is a problem. I believe that journalism exists, declined in a certain way, on a certain topic, but the job is increasingly difficult because you are confronted not only with other tools but also with other figures such as influencers, who seem to do the same work as yours, even if they actually make another one. The contents make the difference: reliability, timeliness, and impartiality, which do not mean being deployed, but not being biased, are fundamental. Criticism remains a different, important job, even if today criticism has perhaps taken over the news. I say: fewer scores and more news, fewer votes and more scenarios and analyzes”.
Basically, wine communication, added Fabio Piccoli, head of the online newspaper “Wine Meridian”, is nothing more than the mirror of the production world. Many years ago, at the end of the 1980s, at my first ProWein, we were 3 journalists and 60 wineries, today there are dozens of journalists and more than 1,800 Italian companies. The question is that the world of wine is “product-centric”. It is true that there is beauty in telling what’s out of the bottle, but producers always ask “talk about my wine”. And then, just as in the world of production, which fails to team up, so it is in the world of journalism. Years ago, there was already talk of the need to create a sort of Italian “Wine Spectator”, but we have never succeeded. The individualism of the producers is the same as that of the journalists, you can’t make a team, you need investments. We are investigating how much companies spend on communication, the research is not yet finished, but it emerges that, however, it is not enough to support a strong wine publishing system, often everything is spread like rain, even without meritocracy”.
A different voice, outside of the chorus, also because comes from a world different from that of publishing tout court, is that of Alessandro Morichetti, one of the founders of the blog “Intravino”: “I immediately admit that here I am the most impure, I do not live writing, I am a salesman, I sell wine. Then, for passion, together with others, we carry on a blog, which is the synthesis of the structural problem of the sector. Wine journalism does not exist. Because the world of wine stands with the money of the producers, they are the only ones who keep things going, except in very rare cases, there is no one who stands with the readers’ money. A world that stands with the resources of the object in question, and therefore - Morichetti argues - cannot be independent journalism. Coming down to dialogue with companies means making compromises that we are not willing to accept. But it’s hard to find journalistic content, 90% are scores, there are prizes upon prizes, and prizes are liked by everyone, but all being awarded is like no one being awarded. On the scores, then, we went from cents to 110, and so on. It is excessive. And then we have to say less rubbish, like the ones I have read, by the millions, about alcohol and health. We like wine because it is good because it is history because it is culture, but it also contains alcohol, which is toxic, and if someone goes to the crusade on the fact that wine is good for health, they have lost from the start”.

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