We have spoken before about how the wine industry is currently exploring a new frontier as it expands into the Asian market, particularly in China where red wines from both Italy and France have become extremely popular. Though this is, in part, due to the fact that the colour red has various positive implications for many Chinese people, the fact that these wines have continued to grow in popularity means that many in the country are now looking to expand their horizons even further and start exploring the many other vintages that are available to them that they may not have tried yet.
In short, the Asian market is becoming increasingly educated when it comes to Italian wine, so it was only a matter of time before an organization dedicated to spreading the word about these types of wines would open in China.
As of April 2nd, that organization will exist. Known as Taste Italy! Wine Academy, the organization will be stationed in Shanghai and will provide a school that is dedicated to the craft and ingenuity of Italian winemakers, allowing Chinese enthusiasts to attain a better understanding of both the wines that they drink and the work that goes into their creation.
The announcement for the school was made at the Chinese Wine Summit in Shanghai, with the existence of a summit in the first place going a long way towards demonstrating just how popular Italy’s best import is becoming in the country.
The event was attended by the CEO of the Florentine Society, Silvana Ballotta, in addition to Jancis Robinson, who is a wine critic of some repute and has written pieces for the Financial Times.
Ballotta spoke about the importance of the internationalization process that the Italian wine industry is still undergoing, pointing out how expansion into the United States had an enormous effect on the industry as a whole before noting that the same effect could be achieved through the continued popularity of wine in Asia. He commented: “From the US to emerging markets, the internationalization processes of Italian wine have passed and continue to pass through to consumer education.
“We must propose a long-life education system to the final consumer. We must not forget that to entrench the culture of wine and in particular the Italian one, you have to engage ordinary people with simple and effective information, leaving the technicalities to the experts.”
Jancis Robinson has similar sentiments and was invited to provide thoughts at the roundtable that accompanied the announcement of the wine academy: “The attention of Chinese consumers has shifted from hard liquor to lighter products such as wine. Today we face a new generation of consumers, young people, more and more self-confident and selective in the choice of wines; our task is to give them the tools to make these choices with awareness and maturity.”
The school has been sponsored by Ismea and located in the district of Xintiandi, which is one of the most populous areas of the world and has already been noted as having been touched by a variety of Western influences already, offering a different setting for the school than might have been found in any other region of China.
The academy is not looking to offer an easy course that doesn’t reflect the hard work that goes into the wines that their teachers will be talking about. Courses are offered for both Wine Lovers and Wine Professionals, with each designation having two courses that can be taken to achieve a greater understanding of Italian wine and how it relates to the Chinese way of life.
The courses will cover everything from the approach that a person must take to each wine that they consume, through to how to properly taste the wine and appreciate the culture that allowed that wine to be created in the first place. Furthermore, the teacher of the courses held at the academy will be Sam Chen, he is a certified Sommelier and has already spoken at a variety of Italian wine events in China. He is also a well-known brand ambassador for a number of Italian wineries and has played a fairly large role in helping to expand the popularity of wine in the country before assuming this position at the new school.
The CEO of the Florentine company that attended the event added their own thoughts to the proceedings, adding: “In China there is a desire of Italian wine. It also shows by the numbers of entries to the Academy, sold out until September. To intercept this interest it takes a widespread strategy, promotion, testing of integration mode of Italian wine with Chinese gastronomy and to the knowledge of the Chinese market. Among the initiatives that we have in the field for 2016 at Vinitaly we will present a survey of Chinese consumers with a Nomisma focus on the 20-35 age group, peers of American Millennials.”
The Final Word
As has been indicated by the final words of Silvana Ballotta, it appears that this new academy is already a practically guaranteed success, with each of its courses having achieved full attendance right up until September. This is made even more remarkable by the fact that the new academy has yet to even open, which just goes to show how much many Chinese people want to learn more about the wines that they have started to drink.
The key for Taste Italy! now is to ensure that they deliver an experience that is befitting of both the demand for their services and can live up to the traditions, history and quality that has already been established by the Italian wine industry. Failure to do so could lead to interest in the school waning, which may have a negative effect on the Italian wine industry in the years to come.
At Xtrawine, we are delighted to hear about the opening of this new academy and we wish it all of the success in the world, with the hopes that increased education will make Italian wine even more popular in China than it has already become.