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Allegrini 2018
BEYOND COVID-19

Wineries, distributors, wine shops and restaurateurs: teamwork is essential to start again

The reflections of Maurizio Zanella (Cà del Bosco), Carlo Cracco, Luca Cuzziol (Club Excellence) and Andrea Terraneo (Vinarius)
CA' DEL BOSCO, CLUB EXCELLENCE, CRACCO, CUZZIOL, MAURIZIO ZANELLA, VINARIUS, WINE, News
Wineries, distributors, wine shops and restaurateurs: teamwork to start again

Work together concretely, between operators in the supply chain (wine producers, distributors, agents, wine shops, restaurateurs), to find solutions to the crisis “inside” the system, rather than waiting for the complex and slow ones that will have to come from the institutions. Seizing, perhaps, the opportunities for the evolution of the professions that, in some way, the pandemic has imposed. Looking at the digital and e-commerce of which so much has been talked about, which will be increasingly important but which can never replace human relationships and intermediation, especially when it comes to high-quality wines, which, to be sold, must be known. With the awareness that we need, however, more unified representation of the different sectors. Which, all things considered, is already a reality in the distribution of wine and among wine shops, almost a utopia, instead, looking at the very fragmented reality of wine production, but also of catering. It emerges from “Vino dal Vivo Pro - Ripartiamo insieme, eticamente”, a webinar that has compared great names in the restaurant industry such as the Michelin-starred chef Carlo Cracco, in wine production such as Maurizio Zanella, at the helm of the brand symbol of Franciacorta Cà del Bosco, the world of distributors brought together by the Club Excellence (a reality that brings together 18 of the most important Italian Distribution and Importation of fine wines and spirits, such as Agb Selezione, Balan, Bolis, Cuzziol Grandi Vini, Ghilardi Selezioni, Gruppo Meregalli, Les Caves de Pyrene, Pellegrini, Philarmonica, Première, Premium Wine Selection, Proposta Vini, Sagna, Sarzi Amadè, Spirits & Colori, Teatro del Vinio, Vino & Design and Visconti 43), represented by Luca Cuzziol (at the helm of Cuzziol Grandi Vini), and again the wine shops, with Andrea Terraneo, President of Vinarius, and Antonello Marzolla, Secretary-General Usarci, the National Federation of Commercial Agents. The ideas and reflections that arrive while the world of Horeca, like so many other sectors, is still in the middle of a ford from which it will be difficult to get out, especially in the absence of certain indications that bring back confidence and courage, after a 2019 great start, before the lockdown.
“Beyond the needs from an economic and regulatory point of view, what is needed today is to regain confidence and courage, from everyone, that we can travel again, and also that companies can return to invest in events, in communication, in the presentation of new products,” stresses Carlo Cracco, who, with his Cracco Restaurant, a Michelin star in the heart of Milan.
“The world of fine dining is working all in all - he adds, many of the rules imposed today we had already put into practice for years, good habits that we have improved, there is even more service and customer care in the restaurant. What needs to be communicated is a bit of security, many people are still very afraid because in any case we must be careful, we see what there is around the world, there are many problems that will result in a lack of flights, tourists and so on. But it's not true that everything is stuck: I was in Venice, and there were tourists, maybe all Europeans. Everything has to be done in safety, and never before has an extra effort been made to give beautiful experiences to customers, both to build their loyalty, but also to transmit to them that desire to feel good, to have fun, to be in peace. We have to think about returning to normality where we don't have to go crazy to do even the simplest things.
On wine, moreover, consumption has not changed, quality always pays off. And by quality I don’t just mean expensive wines, but wines that tell of values, just like the cooking we all do. Everything that today represents quality and higher intrinsic value has no problem. What is missing is that extra bit of flow, the one that makes us earn. We’re working not to make money but to stand on our feet, to pay staff and suppliers, and to try to get out of this situation and fly again as soon as the conditions are right”.
A restart in which the whole world of wine is also hoping for, and in particular the many Italian wineries for which catering is the most important channel. And that sees the world of distribution as the link between the winery and the restaurant. A world that has experienced the same dynamics as restaurants: “we closed 2019 great, seeing important growth in the first two months of the year, and then came the Covid-19 - explains Luca Cuzziol - which hit us hard, but which united us even more, at least at the level of distribution and Club Excellence, which is not just an association, but a real company (overall, the club's companies, in 2019, had a total turnover of over 205 million euros, moving a network of 1,400 agents, editor’s note). We've never decided so many things together as we do now, and shared information. We decided to finance the market, to support agents, customers and producers, because this is our role too”. A role of contact between wineries, restaurants and wine shops, of which agents are the cornerstone, and which have suffered so much, even in the Horeca sector, “where orders have suddenly dropped by -75%”, said Antonello Marzolla, who stressed that in addition to support that does not arrive, there will also be the growth of online. “People are getting used to staying at home rather than going to the restaurant or wine shop, catering will have to be able to fit into this context, it is a front that must be protected. And more and more supply chain agreements will be needed, in every sector, to restart and regain confidence”. A confidence that, meanwhile, can be seen only by growing numbers, at least by the reduction of losses, as pointed out by Andrea Terraneo, president of Vinarius, which brings together over 100 wine shops throughout Italy: “in the first 15 days of the crisis there were losses between -70% and -90% for those who remained open, then after Easter, the damage returned between -30% and -50%, and I want to see it as a positive signal of the passage of this wave that will be very long, and will have to be managed. Investing so much in the formation and professional growth of those who do our work, something we have invested so much in through webinars and so on, because only by growing professionally those who have the role of knowing, telling and then selling wine, can get out of this crisis. It is essential, however, that the supply chain, or at least its sectors, find a more united and capable of being heard. Almost a utopia for wine, however, as Maurizio Zanella, at the helm of Cà del Bosco, pointed out, among the reference realities of Franciacorta: “in Italy, there are 19,000 wine bottlers, a huge fragmentation that is also reflected in a representation made up of 4-5 associations often in contrast with each other. In catering it is even worse, and the effects can be seen, because at an institutional level catering has been treated as worse it could not be. In the restaurant crisis, we who are very unbalanced on this channel, in April we did -88%, to say how important it is. In our world of wine, I have seen many different reactions, with many who have gone in an unbalanced way and without strategy to contact the end customer directly, but I don’t think that this is the way for high-quality wines, the “noble” ones, that have and will always need a intermediation, a story from professional people. Also because, we see it from the visits to the winery, despite everything in Italy there is still a lot to work on wine knowledge, many come more by fashion than by passion, unlike the visitors we receive from UK, Germany or Belgium, for example, who are often very well prepared. E-commerce will certainly grow, but for certain types of wines I think it will remain marginal, because restaurants and wine shops remain essential. We have made our small contribution with “Troviamoci”, an app to find the places that are open or that do delivery where our wine is also located. Not the solution to the problem, underlines Zanella himself, but a sign that wine is close to the restaurant, for a connection that will be even more important.
However, for everyone, the role of digital and e-commerce will be increasingly important. “For us, it has worked well and allows you to get in touch with millions of people”, Cracco points out, while, according to Terraneo (Vinarius), digital will never replace the wine shop, but “sites and socials will have to grow, which will never be just about sales, but also about communication and storytelling”.
A digital and e-commerce in particular that “is not a “moloc” to fight and not even the only possible future, it is a part of the future - underlines Cuzziol - because for certain wines you cannot disregard a sales network made up of agents, which, however, must evolve.

Digitization has to grow, but we have to look at the reality: in this period we have also acted as a cashier for many small producers with whom we work, and we cannot even think that a winery that invoices 200,000 or 300,000 euros per year has the strength to invest alone in an e-commerce structure and thus solve problems. However, in general, we need more professionalism and unity from everyone. In Club Excellence, in theory, some companies compete with each other, but we invest together in many projects, such as support for the University of Pollenzo’s Haute Sommellerie Course, which will start soon, because we need professionals to be trained to help everyone, producers, restaurants, wine shops and even agents. We must be united, firm in our rules and courageous in saying what’s wrong, at least between us. “We must shake up politics - adds Marzolla - all of us must set up a single working table to speak to the government as a chain because if we go on our own we receive different responses from unprepared people. And on e-commerce, I say that we need the same rules for everyone because the great world giants of e-commerce do not pay taxes and contributions as any normal business does”.
“I very much welcome this commitment to unite, but I see it as hard, as it is very hard to think of a single representation in the world of wine. However, I am willing to put myself into play. In Franciacorta, as a Consortium, we have succeeded in influencing the government of the territory on an urban, social and road network level, and therefore I believe in the possibility of influencing politics. But in order to unite the world of wine and catering, I fear that two more pandemics will be needed - Zanella exaggerates - and this is a bitter consideration, because going together to ask the government for simple and quick measures in a phase like this, for example, would have helped a lot”.

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