Cevola’s argument is that Italian wine will continue to flourish because Italians are very good at building relationships.
No, I really think many of my Italian friends in the wine trade in Italy aren’t thinking about the transaction as much as the need to transform the hearts and minds of Americans (and other nationalities too).
The Italian approach to relationships is not transactional but genuine. Relationships are established not for the sole purpose of selling wine but for the purpose of sharing wine with those who appreciate it.
I think he is right about the Italian approach to relationships although I doubt it’s unique to Italy. I’ve encountered this sheer delight in sharing wine in most of the wine regions I’ve visited. But it is perhaps more prevalent in Italy or more central to the idea of what it means to be Italian.
Nevertheless, I think he hits on something important about what winery’s are selling. They are selling wine to be sure, and they are also selling context—wine embedded in a story about geography, culture, and history. This is a key part of their brand. But Cevola suggests that successful wineries take geography, culture, and history and graft it to an authentic personal connection.
Making wine involves is a giving of oneself, not only one’s time, labor, or money but one’s passion, intensity and sensibility. Drinking wine is a shared appreciation of that passion, intensity, and sensibility. The commercial transaction brings people together but what is then created—a sharing of one’s essential being—means more than the commerce as if the wine is a means toward that larger aim of friendship. It’s not sufficient to have a story to tell. The story must be offered in friendship if it is to leave a lasting impression.
There is irony here. The best branding is not about branding at all.
Obviously, this is easier for small wineries to accomplish. It is one reason why small wineries capture the imagination of wine lovers.
Is this personal connection between winery and wine lover an aesthetic relationship or is it solely an ethical bond? This is actually a deep question for which I don’t quite have the answer. But there is little doubt that our aesthetic appreciation of a wine is affected by our understanding of the sensibility and commitment that go into its production.