Interview with Alessio Planeta, manager and owner with his sister Francesca and his brother Santi of the family company Planeta which was one of the first in Sicily to attract international notoriety.
The concept of 'Made in Italy' often runs on the edge of three 'Es': emotion, experience and expression. Wine is for sure one of the fields in which 'Made in Italy' is brought to fulfillment through the emotions inspired by tasting, travelling experiences among the amazing sights of the vineyards, and understanding the expressive power of the grape in the hands of the wines' producers.
The Italian wine experience is more and more appreciated by foreign markets which in the past usually sought French wine, due to historical and commercial reasons. So it’s not surprising anymore that for example the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair which is currently taking place in China has a significant delegation of Italian wine producers, with the presence of two of the Italy's major consortia, Chianti Classico and Brunello di Montalcino.
To deeply understand what is going on in the “new international markets” of wine, we spoke (on his way back from Canada) with Alessio Planeta manager and owner, along with his sister Francesca and his brother Santi, of the family business 'Planeta'. Planeta was one of the first in Sicily that attracted international notoriety. Thanks to the quality of its wines and a strong connection to the lands and the estates from which it drew its product, the father of Alessio, Diego, is recognised as a protagonist of the Sicilian wine renaissance of the last forty years.
As a protagonist of the internationalisation of Italian wine, from your point as a privileged observer, what is the current perception of Italian wine and in particular Sicilian wine in “new markets” such as Far East and South America?
The perception is positive, as far as there are some Sicilian wine companies that are part of the customers' consciousness of quality Italian wine. Sicily has made many efforts recently to enhance its reputation as a unique place of viticulture, and it's now starting to compete with the most important regions such as Tuscany and Piedmont. I think that in foreign countries the perception is that the quality of wine is moving towards the concept of quality associated with “Made in Italy”. If you drive or wish to drive a Ferrari or a Ducati, sooner or later you will also feel the desire of enjoying a Barolo!
There are young people in these countries who are following Italian wine with great enthusiasm: people in their thirties, people who are hungry for knowledge, a new generation of sommeliers and enthusiasts who search for information to understand what they drink. Just as happened in the U.S. and in Canada over the past few decades, now we find the same passion for wine in the new markets. French wines have a strong presence in emerging markets, but as Italy has been able to reach the same popularity in the U.S. and in some cases to overcome them, now the challenge is the same in these countries.
What kind of feelings do you have about the future
of wine? What are the most important challenges?
As far as we are concerned, the feelings are very positive and they are supported by evidence: +35% in emerging countries (China, Japan, Russia, Brazil) in the last years.
According to our commitment as “vignerons”, the biggest challenge for us is the search for old Sicilian varieties and to enhance a more modern oenology through a process of personal growth based on environmental sustainability. For this reason, Planeta adheres to an important environmental sustainability programme called SOStain (http://www.able2sustain.com - http://www.planeta.it/pianeta_terra.php)
What are the key elements to communicate in the “new
markets” and in your opinion, the key success factors?
Without a doubt, the future is in these countries. There is hunger for Made in Italy: fashion, quality food and wine characterise an "occidental-European style”, strictly connected to a strong perception of quality of life in its whole. Those who buy brand clothes from Italian fashion houses want to feel part of a style, and adopting a preference of food and wine is an essential part of that style.
Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong have taken over London and New York, and are the new trend cities at the moment. The evidence is that right in Hong Kong we have the only Italian restaurant outside Italy with three Michelin stars: Otto e Mezzo Bombana.
I love to say that the "New Wave" Sicilian wine is from central-western Sicily, and then Menfi and Sambuca and are the places where in 1985 experimentation started that today has sees Sicily what it is today: an extraordinary island where Nero d'Avola and Syrah, Grecanico and Chardonnay have different roles but a common goal. Spreading the beauty of Sicily to the world.
Planeta's vineyards (surroundings)
Interview by: Chiara Giovoni