When I think about all that has happened in the world of wine and food in Italy and the rest of the world my head spins. Everything has changed. Much of this was due to with the economy. The crisis in the West, the tumulus growth in China, India and Brazil. Italy has remained behind because of its damn vice of being unable to look beyond its own borders, even if there are some legitimate, emblematic exceptions. Many wine producers are a little unprepared, having entered the sector on the wave of their enthusiasm, at times a little naïve, and now find themselves on the sidelines as it gets harder and harder to stay on the market. Initially it was easy to sell everything and with a good return.
Today it's a different story, organization and expertise are needed. It is no longer enough for a wine to be good nor to win a prize or some other recognition, and saying this is someone who has probably assigned more prizes than anyone else in Italy. It is almost more important to have figured out how to sell the wine even before a single bottle comes out of the winery. Not doing this means it will be harder to sell to a buyer who can pick and chose from a vast supply, sometimes dictating prices, conditions and terms and schedules of payment. And what was created with enthusiasm, hope and great expectations risks becoming a bottomless pit into which a lifetime of savings can disappear. Many Italian wineries today are struggling, banks have either cut off or drastically reduced credit. And this at a time when it would be best to go on the counter offensive, conquer new markets, even small ones, by investing something, that something that has dramatically disappeared. The latest bad news is that starting next October VAT on wine will rise from 21% to 23%, something that at another time would not be a big problem. Now it risks coming down like a sledgehammer on budgets and on sales because, obviously, it will hike up retail prices for customer well over 2%. For sure the increase was necessary and not limited to the wine sector. A crisis exists for everyone everywhere. However, some sectors are more fragile than others. And the risk that one will throw out the baby with the bath water is more evident and real than ever.
In a few days in Verona Italy's most important wine trade fair, Vinitaly, will open, an event that is also a 'first day of school' for the world of wine. There are some signs of a recovery, more on an international level than an Italian one. This could represent and opportunity to expand in China. There is an American saying that 'it can't rain all the time'. But a change in mentality is needed to help the skies clear. Preparation is needed to present a product at the fair, and this without the illusion that a Chinese or Ukrainian importer will show up ready to buy up everything at top dollar. It could always happened, for sure, but the odds of this are the same as winning the lottery.