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Wine shops are a growing business in 2022. The “Best wine shop merchant in Italy” contest is back

AEPI - Association of Italian Professional Enotecas, together with Vinarius - Italian Wine Association organized the contest
The “Best wine shop merchant in Italy” contest, by AEPI and Vinarius, is back

Italian wine shops are now experiencing a great period recovery, and, net of the many difficulties they have to deal with, so is the wine market, in general. During the Covid emergency, which was a very challenging period, wine shops, however, reinvented themselves and often, since restaurants were closed, were a sort of “territorial fortress” where producers and consumers could make contact. And, in the context of insiders’ estimates indicating around +20% increases in volume and value, compared to 2021, while waiting for more precise data, the “Best wine shop merchant in Italy” contest is back. The contest has been organized by AEPI-Associazione Enotecari Professionisti Italiani, and presented to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Sovereignty by Francesco Bonfio, president of AEPI, in the presence of Minister Francesco Lollobrigida.
This is the second edition of the contest, organized in collaboration with Vinarius - the Italian Wine Association. It was created with the view, emphasized the president, Bonfio, of “ensuring greater public and media attention to the wine shop, which deserves recognition for the extremely important role it has played in the wine and agri-food chain. Only sommeliers and wine merchants have a direct relationship with the consumer, in the wine supply chain. We, therefore, want to enhance their role and their professionalism”, president Bonfio added.
Minister Lollobrigida also spoke of the wine shop’s “central role” within the wine supply chain, highlighting, most of all, the role of guarantor of the quality products the category sells, “the interpersonal relationship between the wine shop merchant and the customer is very important”, the Minister observed, “because in that relationship there is a guarantee for the customer, which is the guarantee of a quality product. In other places, however, one could find counterfeit products or products that in any case do not correspond to what is described on the label”. The Minister also insisted once again on the issue of alcohol-free wine, “that causes concern”, and he reiterated, to the audience’s enthusiastic applause, that in his opinion, “wine can and must contain alcohol. No one is forced to drink it or not to drink it. Life is too short to drink bad bottles of wine. Alcohol-free wine is not wine, it is something else, so call it by another name”, and the Minister added, “one cannot call wine what is not wine”.
In terms of improper names, there is the problem, as President Bonfio told Winenews, that in Italy even a place that is not an Enoteca is called an Enoteca. Plus, it is not possible to know the exact number of wine bars in Italy because there has never been a census. “I understand that this is a difficult job”, the president of AEPI observed, “because the term wine shop cannot be registered, and so it is not “protectable”, which means that the greengrocer who keeps six different bottles on a shelf, alongside oranges and fennel, and writes Wine Shop outside, does not sustain fines, because no law forbids it. We must also add that in Italy there is a lack of consideration on the consumer’s part, who reads Wine Shop outside the greengrocer’s and thinks it really is a wine shop. In France this could not happen, as the French consumer recognizes that the term “caviste” is only for professionals”.
In any case, according to AEPI, there are around 1600 wine shops in Italy, “worthy of being called Enotecas with a capital E”. “There are 1000 wine bars, and 600 take-away wine shops”, Bonfio told Winenews. “Business is doing well and we believe we will maintain the percentage increase in sales registered in 2021”.
The “Best Enotecario d’Italia” 2023 competition will be divided into a series of phases, as described by the president of the jury, Stefano Caffarri, a profound connoisseur and communicator of Italian food and wine. Registration for the contest opens today, both for wine merchants working in bottle shops, where take-away sales are offered, and to professionals working in wine bars, where their service is provided, and it will close in February 2023. After which, the first selection process will begin, curated by the jury, and then, the two technical tests that must be passed in order to decree the finalists. There are also two special prizes: the Best Under 30 Wine Merchant in Italy and the Best Italian Wine Merchant Abroad. The contest also represents an opportunity for professional growth. The Comité de Champagne will be present as trainers, and for the second consecutive year, will offer the finalists the opportunity to experience an exclusive four-day full-immersion in Epernay.

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