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The wine market is changing, but brand and terroir always have great value

From the world of wine and spirits distribution, the analysis, to WineNews, by Luca Cuzziol, president of Excellence

Generalizing, in the world of wine, is a wrong analysis strategy, especially in this historical period of great changes, from climatic ones to the consumption-related part, where not everyone is proceeding at the same speed. From large-scale distribution channels to the horeca, the wine product, in distribution, is evolving differently, as are its types, which see reds losing ground in favor of whites, and, above all, bubbles, increasingly in tune with the new choices of wine lovers who seem to prefer a wine with a lower alcohol content and better able to approach the “out-of-home” consumption that has taken off. But even for red wines, the issue should not be generalized, because appellations that rhyme with history, blazon and recognizability are still able to express an important appeal in those who seek a quality product. The horeca, in the first 9 months of 2023, had recorded positive trends as opposed to the volume of wine sales in the large-scale retail trade (-3%), without forgetting that, in the period January-September 2023, in Italy, retail recorded a value of wine sales of 65 billion euros, up in value on the same period 2022 due to inflation, but still in the red in volume. The choice of a wine, when we are in front of the shelf, is also increasingly conditioned by what is written on the label, the first contact with that “sustainability” increasingly sought after, in fact, passes through here, a detail that is changing the showcase of products offered to the public.
From the state of health of large-scale retail distribution and horeca, passing by the new increasingly “healthy” trends of young people, to the “stock market” on red, white and sparkling wines, WineNews talked about it with Luca Cuzziol, president “Società Excellence”, which brings together 21 of Italy’s leading wine and spirits distribution companies (Sagna Spa, Gruppo Meregalli Spa, Cuzziol Grandivini srl, Pellegrini Spa, Balan Srl, Sarzi Amadè srl, Vino Design srl, Teatro del Vino srl, Proposta Vini sas, Bolis srl, Les Caves de Pyrene srl, Premium Wine Selection Pws srl, Ghilardi Selezioni srl, Visconti 43 Spa, Première srl, Agb Selezione srl, Apoteca, Ceretto Terroirs, Philarmonica srl, Spirits Colori srl, ViteVini) for a turnover of more than 330 million euros, a reality of 354 employees and 2. 045 agents operating throughout Italy and representing 2,185 companies, two-thirds foreign and one-third Italian, 23,487,769 bottles distributed (+0.38% over 2022). And which has recently changed its legal form, with a new name and a larger board of directors, and the birth of “Excellence Srl Sidi Società Italiana Distributori e Importatori”, the new corporate name that, since the beginning of the year, has led to the start of a new phase for this group of companies, which becomes a corporation. A name change that also certifies a new step in the development process that, with the expansion of governance (the board of directors rising to 7 members), strengthens the synergies and skills of the partners.
Speaking of the state of health of Italian wine in the horeca, for “Company Excellence” president Luca Cuzziol it is definitely positive, “albeit consistent with a macro-economic situation that is what we know, the United States is in difficulty, the British market is in great contraction, Germany is in recession. So we have, at times, a surplus of supply, however, however, the Italian market is growing and moving toward quality”. But if the Italian wine seems, however, to hold in the horeca channel, while in gdo some “jarring bells” came in 2023, the effects do not affect the “Excellence Company” concentrated “in the market-premium, “super-horeca”; the average price 2023 was 13.39 euros net of VAT, so it is obvious that large-scale distribution represents for us a small part and in a very high context, therefore, the contraction of gdo did not affect, essentially, the members of the company “Excellence” and our company”, Cuzziol continues. For the evolution of the market, and therefore the consumption of wine in Italy by type, Cuzziol, on the other hand, points out that "the market has changed very sharply, and this is due to changes in climate and customs; people drink more outside the home, white wine is going for the most compared to red wine, and bubbles are leading the way. But the way of drinking wine has also changed: 30 years ago people drank a glass of red when they went out, today they drink a glass of white or sparkling wine. I think white wine represents more than 50%, compared to red, net of sparkling wine, which has a huge market, just look at the numbers of Champagne in Italy which are just under 10 million, so it’s quite clear that the market goes according to this total change in consumption towards white wine and less towards red wine. I think it represents at least 60%, white wine”. Sparkling wines that are increasingly the protagonists of Italian glasses, an exploit generated by “the change in consumption, the fact of having these aperitifs-dinners, these long aperitifs, of staying outdoors, has changed our drinking system. Covid then exasperated it, people in November, December, January, continue to stay outside, in that case drinking sparkling wine, which I am convinced”, adds Cuzziol, “will continue to persist and perform”.
But the novelties are also a sign of the times, of demand for products closer to the concept of “health” and “sustainability”, of a growing attention of consumers to these issues. Driving the change are the new generations and, therefore, “young consumers. They are much more attentive, they are looking for wines produced in a respectful and sustainable way. But this I think is part of the cultural change that has now arrived in Italy and in the world and essentially concerns wine as well”, is the opinion of Cuzziol, who is convinced of the strong value that the brand and the great wine territories have in the eyes of the consumer. “The brand always has a great value, it is a kind of comfort-zone, the known product makes the consumer more comfortable in choosing it. And the same thing concerns the big appellations, if this is reputed and known, and, I would add, if it also has an aspect of wine tourism, and in any case of linking what is produced in that territory, it is even more so”. For payment times, on the other hand, the “Excellence” president explains that “for our society, they are correct, but especially after Covid the situation that was there before has changed, we are finally becoming a modern country, but I say this as a citizen, not as someone who works in the world of horeca and wine, certainly the situation has improved”.
But wine distribution, in addition to training, means logistics. Especially in premium wines how is it going, are there new needs to improve service? Company Excellence president Luca Cuzziol says that “it’s a fact: ours are companies that select treasures, that go in search of territories, talk about the important things, go in search of the slightest comma in a specific territory. However, in the end, let’s remember, we serve restaurateurs, we need to be present with bottles at the right times. We are modern, logistics companies that also have this “old”, but positive, part of the wine markets. So, yes, a selection, but attention to logistics, to sales management with computer systems in support, certainly first-rate”. And on the project, born years ago, “Modena Champagne Experience”, the most important event for industry professionals and enthusiasts in the Belpaese, President Cuzziol confirms the great value of what is "the most important event in Europe concerning Champagne: having more than 170 producers, but we could have perhaps even fewer, but segmented by geographic area, has been the winning key, and this is thanks to the strength of “Società Excellence”, which first put its best Champagnes, its best men, and brought to Italy a series of contents that to date really represent a unicum. We are proud to have invented “Modena Champagne Experience”, convinced that it is an event that serves everyone ...”.

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