Italy is rich in both native and international grape varieties – which can be both a blessing and a challenge. Drinks Retailing caught up with Cecilia Pasqua, third generation family member and export manager at Veneto-based Pasqua Wines, to talk grapes, trade organisations and the drinkers of tomorrow.

Drinks Retailing: What are the main challenges for Italian wine in the UK off trade?

Cecilia Pasqua: Getting the consumer over the obstacle of unknown varieties. Italy is rich and diverse in varieties and styles – which is both a fantastic opportunity to engage with consumers, and at the same time a challenge to demystify and help them navigate the choice and breadth of wines.

Brexit is certainly part of the challenge, especially the timing of getting the goods into the UK and competing with other countries that might be able to enter the market faster and cheaper.

DR: What can be done to overcome these challenges?

CP: The Italian wine industry could benefit from working together with a dedicated, generic marketing body or campaign; bringing everyone together to help get the wines of Italy and its variety into the minds of consumers. The message should not be intimidating, but rather help them to embrace the diversity and encourage them to try different varieties. We produce a number of styles within Valpolicella and Soave, for example, and I believe that the richness of Italian wines lies exactly there.

It’s also important to differentiate yourself in a crowded market. We have been actively communicating to consumers in a different way in the last few years to go beyond traditional messages and I think this is the right way to go. For example, taking inspiration from other industries, such as fashion we’ve put social media and digital at the heart of our campaigns, focusing on artistic collaborations, working with influencers, and even embracing the world of TikTok. We need to be talking to the wine enthusiasts of the future.

DR: Which grape varieties and regions are the most exciting for UK retailers at the moment and why?

CP: Most recently, the Primitivo grape from Puglia and wines from volcanic soils such as Soave, or Etna in Sicily, have been proving popular with retailers. In general, I think they are looking to add uniqueness and breadth to their wine offering which is great for Italy; wines with stories and interesting backgrounds are what interests the consumer most.

DR: Any up-and-coming grapes or regions that you think will become big news in the next few years?

CP: I think more than a region and a variety in particular, the attention will be towards sustainable wines/wineries and cool climate. With the challenge of global warming, we are trying to adapt and make wines that can show freshness without overpowering alcohol levels.

We’ve joined the Equalitas Certification programme in Italy, and in May 2021 officially commenced with the Unione Italiana Vini towards organic conversion and certification – this year we will launch our first 100% organic wines in the UK.

DR: What advice would you give to retailers that want to explore Italian wine more?

CP: They should help the consumers navigate the shelves within the stores with clearer signs. For example, indicating regions/varieties and style of the wines, looking at ways to encourage them to explore more – for example: ‘if you like this, try…’

DR: Do you have any brand activity or new launches in the UK off-trade that you can share?

CP:  We are launching two new wines along our Primitivo range from Puglia, these are a rosé – a blend of Primitivo and Negroamaro – and a Chardonnay/Fiano later in the spring.