Do you prefer a glass of bold-flavored red wine with good legs or a white wine with tropical notes? Would you opt for a light sparkling Muscat, with fruit-driven scents or an intense sip of a full-bodied Chianti with high levels of tannins? How could you define a high-quality and “balanced” wine? Well, the students of the Master’s English for International Business and Global Affairs know all the answers. Whether you are a simple wine enthusiast or wish to work in the wine industry, you might be interested in getting to know how to distinguish between flavors and aromas and choose the right wine for your evening meal where you invited all of your colleagues. Or again, you might become able to propose, with the right words that underpin professional knowledge, the right combination to a prospective customer at a wine fair, and to negotiate a satisfying offer for both parties.
On a warm Friday afternoon at the onset of autumn, the group consisting of Master’s students and professors met at Verona Fiere for a wine-tasting experience and an insightful, dynamic lecture held by Managing Director of the brand Vinitaly International Stevie Kim. The experience gave the audience a real taste of how the wine business operates globally and what it means, what is needed to work in the wine industry as a specialist. Kim, a leading figure in the Italian wine industry, provided an overview of this fast-changing and constantly growing global market, moving from an introduction to the key players and the importance of fairs, to the illustration of the main marketing and international business communication strategies. The teaching session ended with a concrete experience of “palate” training – accompanied by a thorough explanation of the terminology behind it – and the simulation of business negotiation at major wine exhibitions.
The dynamic teaching and learning environment offered by Stevie Kim and her team – right in the place where such business is conducted and with the marketed goods in the students’ hands – offered prospective professionals the opportunity to build specific knowledge and international communication skills in a market that can only grow, since wine is associated with tasteful and vibrant food experiences all over the world. The students were all impressed and enjoyed this experience “in the field”: according to Dafne, an industrial engineer from Honduras, this engaging class and entertaining instructor opened her mind and convinced her to become more familiar with the wine industry and make marketing an asset in her job. Elettra and Lillian, similarly, found the class enlightening and the talk by the professional extremely effective. This module provided insights into the real and exciting world of wine and enabled all our students to understand how wine tasting is not only a human need that can be met at the supermarket, but it is indeed a passion and may become a job.
What was learnt during this class was that at the core of the wine industry is not only wine, but also people, with their tasting preferences and pliable minds: this is why developing the right set of interpersonal and intercultural, globally-oriented skills in presenting, in a convincing and persuasive way, an accessory – but seen as essential – product such as wine is key. For its tangible nature, wine can become a source of profit – both for the seller and the buyer – when concretely experienced beforehand. This is what happens at fairs, where sales representative and importers or distributors meet to find new “tasty” solutions to their business, mostly in hospitality: be it a restaurant, a luxury retail wine shop, five-star accommodation or a typical rural B&B. But this type of event requires online and offline promotion that cannot be run without specifically targeted activities. We could say, then, that in the wine industry events that host tasting experience work hand in hand with marketing efforts. So, let’s have a look at these two aspects in detail and find out what professional careers are available and might be best for you.
Wine tasting and fairs
If you work in this business, you will have to attend exhibitions to either taste wine or promote yours. Verona Fiere, for example, owns and hosts Vinitaly, a yearly event that gathers specialists from all over the world who exchange knowledge and wish to get familiar with new types of wine for their business. To be competitive and survive in this environment, wine marketers – but also wine tasters – need to develop specific knowledge. This involves an awareness of wine properties and the process of wine tasting, which allows individuals to recognize and evaluate the qualities of a wine without being influenced by personal taste or subjective preferences.
Wine tasting is a refined art that needs to be learned and practised. The tasting techniques which you need to be trained in all revolve around one human property: the senses. Sommeliers and professional wine tasters become able to evaluate the wine by responding to specific stimuli – in this case, visual, olfactory and tasting ones – and recognize, associate them with previous experience and categorized knowledge. Perceiving wine quality through the senses and recognizing colors, smells and flavors is called “organoleptic analysis”, and allows professionals to choose good products that may satisfy and meet the expectations of their prospective clients of their business. Therefore, practice and memory are fundamental to become an expert in this field, along with a predisposition towards human contact. Indeed, in these events marketers need to be able to find the right customers that might appreciate or be interested in what you are offering as well as communicating the quality and validity of their wine. Professional networking should be accompanied by skills in business negotiation and customer relations: all of this in English, the lingua franca of international business. Learning the specific terminology in English and communicating the properties of your wine to the customer are therefore necessary in this business.
Marketing strategies: storytelling and online promotion
If you want to make your wine known and highlight its unique nature – to increase not only your sales but also its prestige and brand loyalty – you need to master storytelling techniques. To differentiate your offer from the others’, in fact, it is crucial to create value and valuable information for the customer: it is not sufficient to know the qualities and attributes that make your wine “the best” and to convince the customer to purchase it. Brand positioning must in fact be accompanied by the design of narratives that appeal to the customer’s imagination and focus on the brand’s mission and beliefs. Research shows that people are more attracted to – and remember – wines whose tasting experience or discovery on the web is accompanied by the illustration, either visual or textual (or both), of a story of the winery, its tradition along with its challenges and achievements, rather than the mere technical description of its properties.
But how come storytelling works so well and is so easily remembered? The answer is simple: because it triggers emotional response and creates personal connection, which concerns people and therefore relates to people. It adds value to the offer by making it different and unique compared to other products. It is crucial to understand that customers do not only buy the product, but also the experience and the feelings, vision associated with it. Storytelling, in fact, works on building emotional response and identification through the description of a story around the winery and the “plot characters” which is conveyed as authentic, personal and familiar, to which anyone can relate and in which consumers may find themselves. This is achieved by sharing stories on the history, heritage, or family tradition of your winery, the challenges faced when building the business, the experiences of passionate and dedicated employees who believe in the mission of the company they work in or of satisfied customers. Each story is unique, and that will make your brand and wine unique.
To maximize the value of your brand you need to make your story effective for your target customer. This means that you have to identify the key attributes of your product and story and craft it in an appealing and relatable way for them. You have to know who your customers are – their age, gender, location –, their lifestyle and what influences them when purchasing wine. For example, young audiences – according to Wine Intelligence’s 2018 US Portraits report – are either “engaged explorers”, who seek actively wine experiences and experimentation and are the highest spenders, or “social newbies”, who are less experienced and interested in wine and might be impacted by your stories if accompanied by recommendations. Mid to older-aged consumers instead can be very knowledgeable but less prone to spending (like the “premium brand suburbans”), or people who don’t drink much but are looking for hedonism and luxury, and are ready to spend (“contented treaters”). Based on the audience you want to target, you’ll have to choose different storytelling strategies and focus on different aspects. For example, you’ll want to approach contented treaters with content emphasizing the quality and breadth of your oenological traditions.
Finally, you have to be familiar with the technological tools and digital platforms that work best with your audience and convey a coherent, consistent and gently pervasive message through an integrated e-commerce and marketing strategy (for an overview of digital marketing and e-commerce, have a look at our previous blogposts at https://bit.ly/3bgVLeD; https://bit.ly/3ElqVhi). If you want to target older groups, you might want to use platforms such as Facebook (and boost SEO rankings, by making your website more trackable and visible) and create compelling written content that drives engagement through the stimulation of conversation. Instagram, on the other hand, by being image-based, works better with younger and distracted audiences who wish to be impressed and convinced through emotion and imagination.
In conclusion, we might say that the wine industry is an exciting and enriching opportunity for all wine lovers who wish to transform their passion into a professional activity. Working in this type of industry will allow you not only to taste wine coming from each part of the world, learning its properties and to pair it with the most disparate events and food, but also to travel, get to know people, and conduct business negotiation, building loyalty and care for your business. As mentioned throughout the article, you will, however, need a set of skills to be attractive and competitive in this environment and to be successful in this job: you need to refine your interpersonal communication skills and master the art of international – and therefore English – business negotiations.