Interview | Giampaolo Cherubin

Giampaolo Cherubin, Eagle Eye Brands&Estates (Chicago)

Which is the potentiality of the Italian wine in your market?

Italian wines that have great quality-price ratio and very good eye appeal can still be a hot commodity and every market reacts differently to different types of wines. When working on a National scale, one is faces with different sets of opportunities and challenges in each Region of the US. Every market is different and not every wine works everywhere, The Midwest for the exception of IL (Chicago); Michigan & Minnesota is dominated by domestic wines, mainly California Cabernets, Chardonnay – Oregon Pinot Noir and Washington state Syrah and blends. The east coast mainly New York; Washington DC and Boston are great market for Italian and european wines in general but they are also the most saturated and competitive. The West is more of more of an open market share and although also very competitive it still offers discrete possibilities in particularly in states like California; Washington; Oregon; Colorado; Nevada (Las Vegas) & Texas. The South is similar to the Midwest and for few exceptions it is more chain- big brand dominated. Could you tell me which is (are) the new popular wine(s) in your market? (Italian or not) Indigenous varietals from Italy at good prices are better and easier sales thaninternational varietals produced in Italy. Wines form the coastal areasand theSouth of Italy, including the islands are gaining morepopularity,although some classicvarieties like Soave, Amarone, Barolo and Brunello and still riding high,especially if they have received some recognitions. These are wines that Italian restaurants are increasingly more looking for since they are switching to all Italian wine lists. For the rest, californian and Oregon Pinot Noirs (value based but good), California Petit Syrah; French Côtes Du Rhône , Chenin Blanc (Vouvray); Cabernet Franc from various countries; Vermentino; New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Most difficult sales from Italy are wines form Umbria.

Which is the main sales channel in your Country?

Wine publication wise: Wine Advocate; Wine Spectator and WE. Otherwise it is pretty much still old fashioned work of going out and opening up bottles with customers.

How do you think the Italian producers could improve the perception of Italian wine in your market?

Italian producers ought to think a bit more about the total appearance of their product as a whole. From including UPC Codes, to possibly have stelvin closures, have attractive labels that are easly understood. Those are just the outer appearences. From a perception point of view. Italian wines and producers have to promote a bit more the regional uniques of their wines! What do you think about wine rating in the main guides.

Could it helps to sell the wine? Absolutely What about the wine knowledge of consumers in your market? Which is the trend?

That is a tricky question because the markets in the various Regions of the US are so different. Some consumers might not know all about Italian wines, their regions and history, while other may know just a few popular variety. Most consumers though are savvy enough to recognize if the wine id worth the price it is asking.

Which are the main mistakes of the Italian producers?

Where to start: False expectations in terms of sales, wrong pricing structure and market approach; unrealistic time frame to achieve goals. Often producers listen to too many sources of information and change their mind too fast as well as impulsively change importers at the first discontent rather than investing the time invisiting various markets in the US and surveying stores large and small to study what truly is working and what is not. A visit to New York, S, Francisco; LA; Chicago or Miami for a series of wine events hardly qualifies and can give a very distorted idea of the true potential of the US market in general. Often wineries would make considerable improvements to their properties/cellars and expect to amortize the cost of their investment in 3-5 years in the price of their wines. This is a tactic that does not work in the US. Every wine has a framework in which it need to fit in order to sell. Wines that fall outside ofthose boundaries end up not selling. Gold medals received at various competitions or other achievements received in Europe are meaningless in the US How popular and at what prices wines are selling in other European countries also does’t resonate with buyers and consumers in the US.

Do you have any suggestions for new producers that aim to introduce their wines in your market?

This question is closely related to the previous. Knowing the mistakes, will naturally guide to the right approach in the market. I would suggest to any new producer to do their homework, find out what your pricing would be both fair and also make their wines competitive and sellable. Investigate who the competition is and how they are selling, have a clear marketing & sales strategy. Don’t be in a hurry.

Which is the wine Country with the strongest growing trend in your market?

Spain is still going strong, Germany and Austria have also made a strong come back in the market with more affordable quality/price wines; Portugal is up and coming as well as Slovenia; Croatia and Serbia. Argentina and Chile are still holding a good market share, but becoming saturated.