With close to an estimated 900,000 producers to choose from it’s not surprising Italy is seen as one of the hardest countries to source from. So news that what claims to be the country’s first full service Italian network of wineries, Vinità Italia, is launching in the UK, should be of interest to on-trade buyers, whether they are Italian specialists are not. We take a look at what it has to offer.
If you are looking to revive your Italian wine range then you might want to consider what Vinità Wines UK has to offer.
If you were writing a text book for an emerging wine country on how to capture more of the international wine trade and catch the eye of important trade buyers, then you would not be including many lessons to share from Italy.
For despite its incredible success in all the major wine drinking countries around the world it has got there by the sheer quality of its wines and dogged determination of individual producers, rather than any concerted, co-ordinated plan common with most other classic wine countries.
It is almost as if Italy has managed to gain international stardom and respect for its various wine regions despite itself. It’s certainly not down to any cunning plan.
Compared to other major wine countries, from both the Old and New Worlds, there are few official generic bodies to help bring producers together and make a combined noise in different key markets.
Instead they rely on major trade shows or wine distributors to do that for them. To be their champions and to help promote them around the world.
An Italian first
So it certainly makes a welcome change to come across a wine initiative from Italy that is looking to set the agenda and make the case for a group of wineries all under one collective marketing and distribution umbrella. This month sees the launch of Vinità Wines UK, which is the distribution arm of Vinità Italia, a full service network of Italian wineries, set up to help drive their collective exports worldwide.
When it was set up five years go it was the first of its kind in Italy. The central company and its Italian warehouse may be based in Verona, but it represents five core family-owned wineries across three key regions of Italy, Verona, Piemonte and Tuscany. It then has access to and works with a further seven wineries to be able to access fruit from right across the country.
Up to now it has concentrated its efforts on building up distribution in the United States and other key parts of the world, including Brazil. But now feels the time is right to concentrate on the UK.
To do so it has linked up with Navdeep Basi, a restaurateur in Scotland, and shareholder in Vinità who will help co-ordinate a nationwide sales team that is in process of being recruited for Vinità Wines UK.
The five core wineries in Vinità are Cantina Bassoli (from the region of Carpi), Villa Caplêt (Amarone della Valpolicella), Azienda Agricola Demaria (Piemonte), La Peschiera (Tuscany) and La Campigiana (Chianti). One producer for each of these five key regions.
All bases covered
With so many of the key regions covered it potentially provides independent merchant and on-trade buyers with a one stop shop to revisit their Italian range. The wineries have been chosen for the fact they cover a large variety of regions and styles, with both classic and modern wines in the mix. Crucially they also vary in scale offering both volume, commercial wines and niche, esoteric producers. Which is where the expanded list of 12 wineries come in to play.
Any group of this type needs a figurehead, an ambassador to set the agenda and drive the vision for the rest of the wineries. For Vinità Italia that is Guido Rambelli, the groups’ founder.
He says he has spent three years getting the right model and wines ready for the UK market. Testing and experimenting different wine styles and working closely with Basi to get its range right for this market.
He says the group’s wines are driven by three key factors: quality; fine wine; and constant innovation. But they know they can’t promote themselves effectively alone. Hence only by clubbing together can they have a chance to putting the right products in front of the right buyers in the key channels of that market. “Together we can create new value for the wine we are producing,” he told The Buyer.
A value that gives them international clout. He explains: “We have established Vinità to firstly provide overseas markets with Italian fine wines from high-quality producers, and secondly to provide an extended network of wineries able to meet the demands and needs of every trade customer whether this is branded wine or private label.”
He adds: “Together we have power.”
Rambelli admits it has not been easy as Italian producers are so used to working on their own and doing things their own way. “We have to have the same mentality as a big company if we are to succeed,” he says.
So why did he pick the core five wineries out of what are close to 900,000 producers in Italy?
For Rambelli it was a case of matching two key criteria: having the right range of quality wines; but arguably more importantly, having the same values, ambitions and mindset about how they want to grow internationally.
“We had to put personal egos to one side,” he recalls. “We could not think of ourselves as being the best producer. We had to get to know each other. It’s like a marriage.”
“Each winery has its own speciality, its own point of difference, so that buyers have a choice of producers from across Italy.
He adds: “In Italy is impossible to make a bad wine. We all have good machinery and equipment to help us. The difference is all in the mind.”
One stop shop
Essentially it is offering buyers in the UK premium on-trade a one stop Italian wine souring and distribution body. “We think we have the right quality of premium wines across our five core wineries, but then for other customers we have more market driven wines from our other wineries,” says Rambelli.
But crucially rather than the individual producers involved simply handle over all control to a third party distributor, which is normally the case with Italian wineries, they are looking to have their own ears and eyes on the ground. Be it through their own paid employees in the UK, based in Glasgow, Nottingham and London, going direct to customers, or through a network of smaller distributors in key cities around the country.
“We can then have our own sales team who can work with the individual distributors in their regions,” says Rambelli. “We can then prioritise which of our producers we show to different customers.”
All of which will be co-ordinated by Basi and his team.
That way it is claiming it can offer deliveries on a daily basis from Monday to Friday via warehousing and distribution points in several locations around the UK from London to Glasgow.
It also has an account with LCB, or if the volumes are big enough, wine can be shipped either from its central warehouse facility in Verona or direct from producers. “We look at the most cost effective route for each of our customers, be it direct or in the UK.”
It has already proved a successful approach for opening up new markets in the US and Brazil.
- UK buyers will be able to see for themselves what Vinita and its producers have to offer at a series of tastings being held across the country. They start in London on February 28 at London’s Washington Hotel in Mayfair, including a masterclass hosted by Walter Speller looking at Italian sparkling wines, to include Prosecco, Lambrusco, Lambrusco rosé and a unique, traditional fermentation Roero Arneis. The tasting runs from 11.30pm to 5pm with the masterclass at 10.30am.
- Then it is off to Nottingham on March 1, between 12pm and 5pm and the Doubletree by Hilton, Nottingham Gateway, Nuthall Road, Nottingham NG8 6AZ.
- And Glasgow on March 2, between 12pm and 5pm, at City Halls. Candleriggs, Glasgow, G1 1NQ.
- Click here to register for any of the events.