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American drinkers are turning on to the great wines of southern Italy

Colangelo & Partners is one of the most popular PR agencies in the USA. It is composed by an international team of wine and spirits professionals, providing market-moving advocacy for premium brands seeking to build their businesses in the US and beyond. 

Colangelo & Partners has believed, since the beginning, in the importance of enhancing the richness of southern Italian territories and their wines, and it has been supporting the activities of the Sud Top Wine competition for the past two editions.

We interviewed Gino Colangelo, the CEO of Colangelo & Partners, about the Italian and southern Italian wines and their promotional activities in the USA. Let’s see what he has to say.

What is the perception of southern Italian wines in the USA?
‘In the know’ American wine drinkers love southern Italian wines for their diversity and price/quality value. Less knowledgeable wine drinkers think of southern Italian wine as low priced and well made but they don’t have a great appreciation for estate producers making high quality wines.  Certain denominations – Sicilia DOC, for example – are doing excellent work promoting to Americans, turning even casual wine drinkers on to the great wines of southern Italy.  There are also leading producers, mostly from Campania and Sicily, who are building awareness for their wines and southern Italian regions through their own marketing and communications activities.  But there is still a lot of work to be done. 

In terms of imports, in what position are Italian wines today compared to the other European wines? 
Italy is still the leader among imported wines in the US with approximately 33% market share by volume.  This number has held steady over the past several years.  But there is a lot of competition for Italian wines, among European countries like France, Spain and Portugal but also from other wine-producing regions (i.e. South America) and countries (such as New Zealand).  

Do you think there is a potential for growth in the consumption of Italian and Southern Italian wines in the USA? If so, how can you explain the growing interest in little-known categories like these ones?  
There is a lot of room for growth, especially in wines priced $15 and above, which is where the US market is growing the fastest. Americans want to discover new Italian wine denominations from lesser known regions like Puglia and Calabria. As southern Italy grows in terms of a tourist destination, more Americans will discover the great wines of the regions. It’s very important for estate producers to capture information (e.g. email addresses) from American visitors and communicate with them once they’ve returned to the US.  There are new opportunities with digital communications and ecommerce for producers from small denominations to engage American wine drinkers and build their brands.  

What does Colangelo&Partners do to spread and enhance the importance of Italian wine territories and how much do you think a targeted and correct communication is important to properly convey the richness of these territories and thus facilitate sales in the US market? 
There is no single answer to brand building for fine wines in the US. A solid press relations plan including working with scoring critics and lifestyle press is fundamental.  Events are also very important, trade and consumer.  Having active social media pages – Facebook and Instagram, namely – is a prerequisite as is an informative, up-to-date website.  It’s also important to engage with gatekeepers – retail buyers, Sommeliers, educators – who make decisions about which wines end up on retail shelves and restaurant wine lists. Of course, visiting the US and working with one’s importer and distribution network is also fundamental. Building a brand in the US is a big investment of time and money but the pay-off is great for wine companies that make the right investments and stick with a long-term strategy. 

Which Southern Italian wine do you prefer to drink? 
I love to drink so many southern Italian wines.  I love many of the full-bodied white wine varietals like Greco di Tufo and Cataratto.  I also love big, complex red wines like Taurasi and Aglianico del Vulture. There are too many to list!