Consorzio Collio 2024 (175x100)

Wine entrepreneurs, creators of a “dream in a bottle”, telling the world about Made in Italy

Reflections from Riccardo Cotarella, Antonio Galloni (Vinous), Brunello Cucinelli and the Minister of Agriculture, Francesco Lollobrigida

The world of wine needs enologists who become more and more entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurs who put the dignity of work even more at the center, with higher salaries but also with workplaces capable of giving well-being to those who work and of stimulating their skills and creativity. Entrepreneurs who, as has always been the case, must continue to beat the markets, to be present and in the forefront, in constant contact with the trade and with consumers, who, through wine, seek a piece of that dream, of that Italian lifestyle made of conviviality, beauty, history, landscapes, art, and quality in general, which in the world is loved more than sometimes, in Italy itself, we can understand. A wine that, moreover, needs to see its economic, social, environmental and cultural value reaffirmed even more, in order to defend itself from the increasingly strong wave of “neo-prohibition”, which, together with a struggling world economy and a geo-political and moral climate undermined by the many wars and tensions that are experienced every day, is experiencing a major drop in consumption, which seems increasingly structural and is not easy to manage for a sector that lives, on average, on lower economic margins than other sectors. Synthesized message coming from the Assoenologi Congress, staged in Cagliari, “signed” in four voices by the president of Italian and World Enologists, Riccardo Cotarella; entrepreneur-humanist and wine producer Brunello Cucinelli; journalist Antonio Galloni (Vinous), considered one of the world’s most influential wine critics; and the Minister of Agriculture, Francesco Lollobrigida. “Wine is an across-the-board love. It is a symbol of our country and our land. We must be aware that we enologists”, said Riccardo Cotarella, “have professionally led a revolution in wine, with a view to quality and sustainability. But we cannot live off the land, on the contrary. We need to be even more precise, more present, willing to make more sacrifices, and we need a visceral knowledge of the market and its changes. Our wine must be successful in the market, or it has no value. We are born technicians, but we need to grow, broaden our skills. We have to become entrepreneurs, though, and that is difficult, because the entrepreneur is multifaceted. He must have a 360-degree culture, scientific but also humanistic. We have to know how to tell about wine by fascinating people; we cannot talk about pH. We have to know the changing market well. We must recognize that today we produce too much wine compared to what the market demands. In 2023 we produced, in Italy, 12 million hectoliters of wine less than the average production. But even with less produced, wine prices have not increased on the market. This clearly tells us that we need to revise many things, focusing on lower production and greater valorization of our wines”. A valorization that also passes through the story of the identity of Italian wine, the valorization of its peculiarities, its biodiversity and its quality, to be communicated by telling the Italian way of life, the Italian dream that wine encloses in the bottle, with the wine medium of the territories, of their beauty, their history and culture, and not only. As recalled, Antonio Galloni, reporting from Los Angeles, one of the most important cities in that U.S. which is the first wine market in the world and the first foreign landing place for Italian wine. Who looks at this moment of impasse with a certain serenity. “It is a peculiar time, but I have learned over the years to give in less to easy enthusiasm when things are going well, but also to be less pessimistic when they are going badly. It is true that consumption has changed. People buy wine differently, maybe they no longer buy a 6-bottle case of one wine, but 6 different wines. Consumers are less tied to individual companies or brands, and also many don't even have where to store it well, so compared to the past maybe you buy a bottle at the time you want to drink it, and you don’t do much “cellaring” at home anymore. People talk about disinterest on the part of younger people”, Galloni said, “but I don’t believe that so much. In the events, tastings and courses that we do, there are a lot of 30-year-olds, who are interested in wine, and who are starting to make their professions, through which they will have a good spending capacity, and they will also buy a lot of good wine. This is a type of consumer that we need to cultivate. But they have a different approach than in the past, they want to experience tastings, experiences, they don't just want the glass, they want to experience the context of wine, and we have to adapt, but I am very confident about the future. Then there is no doubt that people are looking for fresher and lighter wines than in the past, and this is happening hand in hand with a change in eating styles. And companies must be able to adapt, but without becoming too much of a slave to the market. An approach must be found that reconciles the needs of the market without disrupting what has worked to date. This is your job as winemakers: sometimes there is a lack of trust in some of your territories, and in some of your grape varieties. We need more emphasis on terroir, and on native grape varieties, from the combination of which come wines that express the identity of places, which is the strength of Italian wine. Which is an important piece of the “Italian dream” that so many Americans, and others, have, who look to Made in Italy as an expression of the “dolce vita”, fashion, cinema, art, design. Italy has this unique strength, the strength of a “dream” that needs to be put a little more into the bottle as well. And it must be told, with the entrepreneurs, the producers, who must be more and more present of the market, participate in more events, do more promotion, also thanks perhaps to the Ocm vino funds, which help from an economic and fiscal point of view, and which must be used well”. With the entrepreneur, the wine producer, then, who must make himself the narrator of a liquid dream, wine, which encompasses so many elements. But which holds when everything is in balance, as recalled by Brunello Cucinelli, humanist entrepreneur par excellence, king of cashmere and wine producer, in his Solomeo, in Umbria, with the wine direction of Riccardo Cotarella himself, interviewed on the stage of Assoenologi by the “Tg1” journalist, Anna Scafuri (and named “Personality of the Year 2024” and Honorary Member Assoenologi, ed.). “Today there is a lot of talk about sustainability. Which is a complex thing, though. There is climate sustainability, but also economic sustainability, which is only possible when the work is remunerative. There is cultural sustainability, but also spiritual, technological, moral. And man, in every field, is at his best when everything is in balance. Today there is a lot of talk about Artificial Intelligence, a few days ago I hosted the top management of companies like Microsoft, Apple, Ibm, Google ... over a good plate of pasta, a glass of wine, under the stars, however, they were not talking about technology, but about ideas, about spirituality. Artificial Intelligence scares, but it will help us a lot too, and it will not replace man. We are facing a new Renaissance. Provided, however, that we put the dignity of work back at the center, which is a fundamental issue. In the 1960s, parents were pushing their children to be laborers. Not today, it is almost a “disgrace”. But we need to restore dignity to blue-collar labor, which is fundamental, for agriculture, but also for fashion. Otherwise in the future the problem will not be who to sell our wines, our clothes to, but finding who will hoe the vineyard, the olive trees, or who will produce a jacket or a sweater. And then we as entrepreneurs have to create different working conditions, be more generous with wages, creating better workplaces, and, of course, looking for the right profit, because we are businesses, and, in my opinion, the right profit is around 10% of turnover. The rest of the profits should be redistributed. And we need to enhance our products more, including wine. Even with a little more aesthetics, with better storytelling. And we must not be afraid to raise prices when there is quality. We must have the courage to tell our stories, to tell our stories, we must believe in great values, and transfer them to the product and to the market. Most importantly, we must not lose the will to live and joke. We must follow three simple rules that have been valid since the time of the Roman Empire: work honestly, create no harm for anyone, and to each his own. From the world we Italians are seen in a special way, as journalist Antonio Galloni said. We need to realize this and enhance this aspect”. And what makes Italy special, in the world, is also wine, as the Minister of Agriculture, Francesco Lollobrigida, once again reminded us. “God, for those who believe, or nature, for everyone, gives us grapes. The winemakers of give us the excellence of wine, which consumers want to know more and more. Wine is the center of the table in catering, it is the pillar of promoting Italian quality, it is an element of identity that makes Enotria the center of wine culture. Wine is a suggestive emblem of our model of life, linked to territory, beauty, art and culture, and we must think about its value but also about the risks it runs, because there are those who attack it and those who belittle it. There are, for example, those who have a positive opinion of wine, including for health, and those who consider it a mere alcoholic beverage, although we have stressed many times that wine also contains a minority part of alcohol, by the way not added from outside, but it is also much more. On labels, which should be as detailed as possible, to simplify I would write, “look at how an Italian eats and follow his example”: we are the longest-living population together with Japan, and wine has been an element of our cultural and food identity for thousands of years. Wine, according to many, again if drunk in moderation, is also good for the body. But it is certainly good for the mind and for conviviality, which soothes. And perhaps, in hyperbole, if conviviality fails to prevent wars and conflicts, it can lead to good treaties. But without wine,”, Lollobrigida said, “it is difficult to think about conviviality. Wine is linked to the land, to grape varieties, to tradition, to the preparation of those who have put together wisdom over time, and this is summed up in the PDO and PGI. Italy is strong on quality, not quantity, although sometimes the quantity of product is excessive and more work should be done on value. PDO and PGI are a model against standardization, which economically, on the other hand, would be advantageous for those few who would have the power to reduce costs and concentrate supply chain management in the hands of a few.”. Of course, one cannot miss a look at the future of the European Union, in view of the upcoming EU Parliament elections. “I would like a Europe that puts agriculture back at the center, as it was when it was born. It is fundamental. United Europe came into being to avert the danger of reliving the wars that ravaged the continent in the first half of the 1900s, but also around agriculture. They wanted to have the guarantee of access to food, because many had known starvation, and the guarantee of the preservation of territories, because the founders, including Italy, understood that uncultivated territories would become depopulated, and degraded. The CAP, Community Agricultural Policy, was born to guarantee income for farmers. Here, today I would like to see a Europe that puts agriculture back in the picture, without which there is no food security. Covid”, Minister Lollobrigida said, “taught us that freedom can be lost even without having committed crimes. We learned that if energy is in the hands of dictators, we are not safe. And food security can also be at risk if we do not return to investing in agriculture as a priority. Europe must become proud again of its products, of their value, starting precisely with wine”.

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