Italian Wines and Wine Competitions with Vinitaly’s Stevie Kim

Jun1st

Introduction

How can you learn more about the diverse regions and styles of Italian wine? What’s the difference in impact between wine competitions and critic scores? And how do they influence the wines you buy and drink?

In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with founder of Vinitaly and host of the Italian Wine Podcast, Stevie Kim.

You can find the wines we discussed here.

 

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Highlights

  • How did Stevie end up living in Verona, Italy?
  • Which rosé wine piqued Stevie’s interest in diving into Italian wines?
  • What was the inspiration for creating Vinitaly?
  • How did Stevie adapt her business during the pandemic?
  • What is Vinitaly?
  • Who is Vinitaly geared towards and what kind of experience should you expect?
  • What is OperaWine?
  • How do wine competitions compare to wine scoring by critics?
  • What makes the OperaWine rating process so selective?
  • How does the individualistic nature of Italians show up in Italian wine?
  • Why are Italian wines sometimes confusing for consumers to navigate?

 

Key Takeaways

  • I was fascinated with her points on the differences in impact between wine competitions and critic scores.
  • The range and diversity of Italian regions and wine styles can seem overwhelming. I love Stevie’s approach to making them accessible and memorable.
  • I’ve added several more obscure Italian wines to my list to try next.

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About Stevie Kim

Stevie Kim was born in Korea and raised in the United States. Today, she lives in Verona, Italy. She attended the New York University – Leonard N. Stern School of Business. After settling in Italy, she obtained an MBA at Bocconi University, School of Economics and Management. Later, she achieved a postgraduate specialization in Wealth Management at the University of Pennsylvania – The Wharton School. Stevie is currently studying for her WSET Diploma, from the Weinakademie Österreich in Rust, Austria.

As Managing Director of Vinitaly International, Stevie has launched and now coordinates a series of new initiatives connected to the Vinitaly brand. As a Professional Wine Groupie, Stevie is always seeking innovative ways to communicate Italian wine – with a strong creative emphasis on social media and educational platforms. In 2017, Stevie produced the Italian Wine Podcast, the first podcast in English dedicated exclusively to Italian wine and its personalities. Now in its fourth year of regular broadcasts, the show published its 770th episode on January 31, 2022. She also carries out various editorial projects, one of the latest being The Jumbo Shrimp Guide to Italian Wine and The Jumbo Shrimp Guide to International Grape Varieties in Italy. The books are reference guides, designed to simplify the complex world of Italian wine. Last year, Stevie started her On The Road Edition travels to wineries and regions across Italy, airing every week on the Mamma Jumbo Shrimp YouTube channel.

 

 

Resources

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  • You’ll find my books here, including Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines and Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass.
  • The new audio edition of Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass is now available on Amazon.ca, Amazon.com and other country-specific Amazon sites; iTunes.ca, iTunes.com and other country-specific iTunes sites; Audible.ca and Audible.com.

 

Transcript

Stevie Kim 0:00
Italian wine is just like the Italians. They are incredibly creative and imaginative. It’s not by chance that they excel in cuisine in fashion and design.

Natalie MacLean 0:12
Gucci.Versace. Cars.

Stevie Kim 0:15
They’re completely individualistic, and fragmented..

Natalie MacLean 0:19
Is that a history of kingdoms?

Stevie Kim 0:21
I don’t know. But Italians are incredibly individualistic. So that means that you have so many denominations and so many different grapes. So we’re talking about 600 odd grapes and 400 plus denominations

Natalie MacLean 0:38
Denominations meaning little regions or designations.

Stevie Kim 0:42
Yeah the appellations. So that is very difficult to wrap your head around when you are a wine lover. And that’s one of the reasons we’ve been making small booklets to make it a little bit more digestible and approachable.

Natalie MacLean 1:03
Do you have a thirst to learn about wine? Do you love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places, and amusingly awkward social situations? Well, that’s the blend here on the unreserved wine talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie Maclean. And each week, I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now pass me that bottle please. And let’s get started. Welcome to Episode 183. How can you learn more about the diverse regions and styles of Italian wine? What’s the difference in impact between wine competitions and critic scores? And how do they influence the wines you buy and drink? You’ll hear those stories and more in our chat with Stevie Kim, the managing director of the Vinitaly International, the world’s largest trade show. Now on a personal note, before we dive into the show with the continuing story of publishing my new wine memoir Wine Witch on Fire: Rising from the Ashes of Divorce, Depression, and Drinking too Much. I love reading the ways famous authors keep themselves writing. Thomas Hardy roped himself to a chair. Ernest Hemingway ended each day’s session with a sentence to start the next day. While I don’t equate myself at all with those greats, I do have my own techniques to keep writing. I make a calendar appointment with myself every morning that I don’t miss any more than I wouldn’t miss a meeting with someone else. That’s also when my brain is most creative. On days I don’t feel like writing I do less creative tasks like organising my notes or editing what I’ve already written. The point is to make that morning session sacred. What are your techniques for doing what’s most important in your work life? Let me know. Maybe there’s a tip I can use. I’ve posted a link to a blog post called Diary of a Book Launch in the show notes at Natalie MacLean.com/183. This is where I share more behind the scenes of the journey of taking this memoir from idea to publication. If you want a more intimate insider seat beside me on this journey, please let me know that you’d like to become a beta reader and get a sneak peek at the manuscript email me at [email protected] Okay, on with the show.

Stevie Kim was born in Korea and was raised in the United States where she attended New York University after moving to Verona Italy, she obtained an MBA from she can correct me on this by Bocconi University.

Stevie Kim 4:26
Bocconi. Bocconi. Thank you, Stevie. Italian sees a ha that is two CC’s together. Good lesson.

Natalie MacLean 4:32
You’re already imparting your wisdom. All right, good. Later, she had postgraduate specialization in Wealth Management at the Wharton School, very prestigious at the University of Pennsylvania. She’s currently studying for her WSET Diploma in wine. As Managing Director of Vinitaly International, Stevie has launched and now manages social media and educational platforms to promote the world’s largest wine trade show. In 2017, she launched the Italian Wine Podcast, which is now past its 775 episode. Wow. As well as the Jumbo Shrimp Guide to Italian wine and international grape varieties of Italy, as well as the Mama Jumbo Shrimp YouTube channel, and various media outlets associated with that brand. Welcome, Stevie. I am so glad to have you here with us.

Stevie Kim 5:22
Ciao, Natalie, ciao. I love that. How’s your Italian?

Natalie MacLean 5:28
What’s the opposite of bueno? Mauvaisio? Yeah. Malo. Mucho Malo So, this is the end of the Italian segment.

Stevie Kim 5:38
I though this is going to be in Italian. Yeah, no. Okay.

Natalie MacLean 5:42
You got the wrong memo. Ready? All right. So Stevie before we dive into wine, let’s find out a little bit more about you. You grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where you were cheerleader in high schools.

Stevie Kim 5:53
Oh my god. I’ve been no, no. Stop, stop. Where did you get this? Where did you get this stuff? Nobody knows this stuff.

Natalie MacLean 6:03
I have people out there. No, just kidding. I don’t want to be paranoid at the beginning. I do my research. So were you or were you not a cheerleader in high school?

Stevie Kim 6:11
Okay, I confess to that, but that was like squillions of years ago when I was in high school.

Natalie MacLean 6:16
I mean, you’re an advocate. You were always outgoing, even in high school?

Stevie Kim 6:20
I suppose if I were to choose between an introvert and extrovert, definitely more leaning towards the X.

Natalie MacLean 6:27
Cool. All right. So is that how you happen to meet your husband who I understand is Veronese? DoCG.

Stevie Kim 6:35
He is very much Veronese. And I went to Brooklyn Tech, and he was nowhere near that. So okay, no, I met him here. Do you really want me to tell the story? It’s not that original. That’s okay.

Natalie MacLean 6:48
I love love stories.

Stevie Kim 6:49
So I was on my sabbatical. I was working for Price Waterhouse. It kind of dates me, obviously, because it was only Price Waterhouse. And I took a year off because, I don’t know about in Canada, but in stateside you really get just two weeks of holidays a year. So I used to come every year to Europe, and particular Italy, because I just love Dolce Vita you know, and I had friends here, but I just thought two weeks wasn’t enough. So I took a year off. And then I went sailing for two months in Greece with some professional sailors from Austria. That was actually the last of my sailing career by the way parentheses. Sounds beautiful. Yeah. Yeah. And then I met my husband because in theory, he’s a doctor, medical doctor. In theory? No, I actually that’s kind of a crazy story. Because in Italy, everyone is a dottorato or dottoressa if you have a college degree. Oh, I didn’t know that. Yeah. So it’s kind of confusing. So whereas in stateside, can you say, doctor for medical doctors. So anyways, to make a very long story short, he is a medical doctor, and he specializes in eating disorders and obesity. So he started the first inpatient treatment in Italy for that, and cognitive behavioural therapy. So that is the reason I’m here. And the reason I met him because a friend of mine who owned a language school, she tapped me because she said, I have this doctor. He has to do his first presentation at Cambridge and Oxford and he’s English is a bit lacklustre. He had never presented in English before. So it was just kind of a favour I was doing for my friend. And that’s when I met him.

Natalie MacLean 8:41
So you’re helping him with his presentation? Yeah, yeah. Oh, wow. It went over there.

Stevie Kim 8:46
It’s not sad. Original, you know, I took full advantage of, you know, my professorship for that moment. And then that’s it. That was pretty much.

Natalie MacLean 8:56
Oh, wow. So you travelled to Verona to help him with his presentation. Is that how it worked?

Stevie Kim 9:01
No, no. I was already. Oh, you were already there? Yeah, I was already in. Okay, Europe, and I stopped in Verona because, you know, the world is wonderful. Because when I was working at Price Waterhouse, my best friend was going out with this Italian girl from Verona. So we all became friends. He discovered he was gay afterwards. And that was tragic for her, but you know, whatever. So that was kind of his outing. But he introduced me to this Veronis community and I stopped in Verona that was kind of the reason.

Natalie MacLean 9:34
Oh, wow. Well, Verona is the city of love and tragedy, you know, with Romeo and Juliet with the balcony and everything. So you’re right on theme. Right on brand.

Stevie Kim 9:42
That’s true.

Natalie MacLean 9:44
That’s great. And so did you also create a programme for him as well to train doctors on obesity and eating disorders?

Stevie Kim 9:51
So to make a very long story skinny, I decided to stay in Verona because I think in general, women are much more apt adaptable. And they have much more skills to adapt to a new environment. Whereas first of all, he was a medical doctor. He couldn’t practice in New York, for example, right. So it was easier for me to stay and also what I believed what he was doing is very innovative and important. So I said, how can I help him? How can I help this man? So I started a publishing house, and I started doing books about eating disorders, mostly self help books. I’ve translated some of them and I had him write a couple of books. But you know, Italians, they’re like, the last place in terms of readership amongst Western countries I believe. it’s really sad. You know, you know in how like I grew up in New York, and when you go to New York, or any place, everyone has a book, you know. They’re reading in the subway or wherever you go. It’s not like that everyone is reading, like, you know, it was before internet and they are reading, you know, like the sports magazines or whatnot.

Natalie MacLean 11:00
That surprises me, because Dante is Italy, the father of literature.

Stevie Kim 11:05
The crazy thing is the very few who read, they read a lot. So they kind of make up for like this.

Natalie MacLean 11:10
Sounds like the wine industry, but yeah.

Stevie Kim 11:15
Yeah so, it’s actually kind of similar. And so I said, why don’t I do some courses? Because it was their self help books. So they were both for the therapist, as well as the patient. So I said, why don’t we train the doctors, so that doctors and psychologists so that they can use basically the books. I was doing a course based on the books, how to use the books, and it became hugely popular. So I started the first master’s programme in the medical field for eating disorders for cognitive behavioural treatment.

Natalie MacLean 11:51
Wow. So you’ve always been into teaching and sharing knowledge so I can see the threads coming together in your current career. Do you remember the first memorable Italian wine you tasted?

Stevie Kim 12:02
You know, I mean, paradoxically, I grew up in New York, and I didn’t really have access to wine until I started working. And then there were like business lunches. And there were basically, I hate to say it, but Bordeaux wines or Champagne, those are kind of the two things. I think we’re kind of the same generation. I can say. Yes. So back then, Italian wines weren’t considered as prestigious as now. And I think the technology has advanced so much, especially in the winemaking, and the vineyard management. Now, every Italian wine is basically good, right? But I couldn’t have said that in the past. So I hadn’t really been exposed to Italian wine until I would say, in a significant way until I moved to Italy.

Natalie MacLean 12:49
Right. And so was there a bottle or a wine that sort of said to you, oh, my gosh, this wine is great.

Stevie Kim 12:55
So first of all, when you move to Italy, you’ve been to Italy, right? So in Europe in general, the wines. I’m not saying they’re super cheap, but yes, they are very affordable when you compare it to a New York, for instance. And what I’m talking about is very good quality wine. So Verona is between for your audience, I don’t know what your audience is like, but it’s between geographically located right in the middle between Milan and Venice. And it’s near this lake called Lago di Garda near there. It was summer months, and I was exposed to this drink called I had my first glass of Caretti which is a Rosé wine. Ah, okay. So even the concept of Rosé wine was not something that just was really I didn’t have a huge, I would say expertise or knowledge or had tasted a lot of Rosé wine. I mean, in America, there was this huge thing with the Mateus. You know, I know that funky bottle. Tried to forget that. Yeah. Yeah. That was the only thing I knew about Rosé because Provence wasn’t that big as it is now. So I tried the Caterrti and I was like, it was summer and it was just so refreshing. So I said, you know what, I kind of could get used to this. And then in Italy, you can also purchase wine at supermarkets. So then I grabbed a few bottle and I was like, this is delicious. So that’s kind of like how I started paradoxically with the Rosé wine in Italy. But I live in a wine country. So of course I live near Soave, Valpolicella. I mean, there’s not very far Franciacorta. So, yeah, everything is accessible.

Natalie MacLean 14:44
Wow, that sounds like a wine lovers candy store just sounds amazing. So let’s talk about Vinitaly. When did that start? It’s quite historic. What is it and when did it start? Obviously, I think it’s headquartered in Verona where you are so I’ll tell us more about that.

Stevie Kim 15:01
So it started – believe it or not –  this will be the upcoming Vinitaly will be the 54th edition by four. And that’s if you consider we didn’t do it for two editions. So 2019 was the last edition and then because of COVID, right, or just the nature of the exhibition business, we had postponed it until this year. And it’s going to happen in April.

Natalie MacLean 15:26
Oh so you’re going full fledge full forward? In person?

Stevie Kim 15:29
Yes. Of 56 years. It’s been going crazy.

Natalie MacLean 15:33
That is crazy.

Stevie Kim 15:34
Have you been?

Natalie MacLean 15:35
I have not? No, not? Yeah.

Stevie Kim 15:37
Oh, my God, what’s going on? You have to come over. I think I’ve been invited you to be a judge.

Natalie MacLean 15:44
You have. You’ve done your job, but I’m just a bit of a hermit. But you know, it intrigues me. But tell me first about COVID. How did you adapt it to use the overused word pivot? I mean did you just do everything online? I mean, how did that go?

Stevie Kim 15:59
Well, first of all, I run a media agency. So yes, we do event management. And most people see me with a glass of wine and, you know, doing events, but what we really do is communication. So it really depended on your category. But the communication business was considered essential. So I never had to close up the office. And let me tell you, that was kind of, I think, a saviour a Godsend, because we had about 40 people in my team. And Italian culture is all about the Aperitivo culture, especially the younger generation, right? So the fact that all the bars were closed, and the restaurants and all the social gatherings, it create a lot of stress, especially with my team. So basically, I didn’t have to close up the office. But with social distancing, if when you come you will realize I have a huge office is 2000 square metres. It’s open space. So we were able to socially distance and I basically had an open bar. So that kind of kept everybody safe. Okay, in a way, paradoxically. So I mean, there’s so much wine here. So I think that really helped us to cement the team. One of the things that I’ve done, which I’ve implemented was to accelerate all of our digital products and services. So like the podcast when we start in 2017, like, you know

Natalie MacLean 17:34
When did you start? End of 2018? Yes.

Stevie Kim 17:37
We started in 2017. We only had 23,000 listens, right? We used to do two episodes a week. We used to record two times a year and just like dole out all the episodes, and then during the lockdown, we used to use Zoom. But didn’t you use Zoom before the pandemic? Yeah, I did. I think you and I were like, very few amongst Zoom.

Natalie MacLean 17:58
Well, I came from the world of high tech. So yeah. Oh, yeah,

Stevie Kim 18:01
That’s true. Right, right. So with the Zoom and everything we’ve accelerated all of our activities, we transform them into a digital platform. So we started doing four times a year. And now we’re up to seven to nine episodes a week. So it’s become almost like a radio. Yeah. So a lot of people. A lot of things to do. And I created also Tik Tok channel. So Mama Jumbo Shrimp so that it was kind of a team building in a way so that I didn’t want people to go crazy. Because the nature of our agency work was such that we used to travel all over the world. And a lot of especially the millennials, the Gen Z’s, they love to work for our company, because they got a chance to travel with us. And we had a rather significant expanded entourage. And because they couldn’t travel, they were absolutely climbing the walls. So we created more activities for them, like Tik Tok all the different even the dances, yes. And I discovered this new technology, which is called Automobile, like a car. So we actually drove and we went into different winery regions to visit in Italy, which we hadn’t done. And that’s how we started also doing some videos we were documenting. I’m interviewing producers, and so yes, and then everything else, we had a hybrid format. So whether it was the wine competition, whether it’s the wine business conference, whether it was the tastings. Of course we started doing the mini bottles, etc, etc.

Natalie MacLean 19:42
For samples. Yeah. Okay. Wow. Cool. Okay, so you’ve done that. But let’s go back to Vinitaly itself. This sort of what it was it is. How many producers attend when it’s fully fledged like in person kind of event.

Stevie Kim 19:57
So this year we will be back to having about 4000 producers.

Natalie MacLean 20:02
Wow. OK. And attendees?

Stevie Kim 20:04
Yeah, we’re not talking about just like little booths. Okay, we’re talking about like huge, huge live. Sometimes they’re a castle so some some of their buildings.

Natalie MacLean 20:14
Actually their booth is a castle? Like what does that look like?

Stevie Kim 20:15
It looks like a miniaturized castle on different floors. Yeah. Oh wow. So you have to come to actually see this in person to really get the look and feel of what Vinitaly is all about.

Natalie MacLean 20:32
Sure. Oh my gosh, and how many people attend?

Stevie Kim 20:35

In the past, they’ve gone as many as 150,000. Wow. Yeah. And there was a good number of also like the quote unquote the wine lovers. Now the organization has scaled back a bit. And actually, on the end of March, the Italian State was to lift the state of the emergency status. But it’s been just extended till end of April. So, because Vinitaly will happen from the 10th to the 13th of April, the social distancing and the mask mandate and will still be in effect. So probably about that will go down to hopefully about 90,000 in four days.

Natalie MacLean 21:18
Still a lot of people, and you said the wine lovers. So there’s the consumers. But then there’s what we call the trade which is writers or media, their restaurant buyers who buy wines, sommeliers and so on. So is it still an event where consumers would get something out of it by tasting at the workshops?

Stevie Kim 21:37
First of all, the consumers are allowed to enter just on Sunday now, okay, so it can only come on Sunday. And then there is another event called Vinitaly in the City. So everything happens, there’s kind of a sprawl of different foods and different events happening in the city of Verona, which will showcase wine as well dedicated to the consumer, so that they don’t have to come into the exhibition halls. Right. That’s kind of a compromise.

Natalie MacLean 22:05
That makes sense. Like, I think the consumer experience would be better at a restaurant anyway. Because the trade shows can be overwhelming if you’re not a professional who’s out there to taste 30 wines or whatever, while spitting, of course, whatever their goals are. And so how large is Vinitaly itself physically? Like if you were to compare two football fields or something?

Stevie Kim 22:26
Yeah, so I know you guys are into like, I can’t remember what the feet or the yards or whatever that is, but it’s 150,000 square metres. Okay. I’m just trying to equate that. Yes. So like how much you say, like a football stadium?

Natalie MacLean 22:42
I would not know that. I am not a sports person.

Stevie Kim 22:45
I think someone told me it might be around 7000 – 8000 square metres. So that would mean it’s about at least the net size would be about 15 times as much. And then 15 football fields, like football stadiums. And then,

Natalie MacLean 23:05
Holy smokes.

Stevie Kim 23:06
The gross would be actually more like 20.

Unknown Speaker 23:10
Oh my gosh. Wow.

Stevie Kim 23:11
So it’s huge. And yeah, and understand it until you come here. So you gotta come?

Natalie MacLean 23:17
Well, I will. I will. I think I need a game plan, though. How big that is? Because I mean, where do people start? I guess they make appointments and have an agenda of who they want to see. And…

Stevie Kim 23:28
Yeah, absolutely. I mean it is primarily a B2B event. Business to Business. Yep. Right. So it’s based on the appointments and, you know, it’s been going on for 54 – 56 years. So there is a long tradition of kind of a place to be seen and place to do business. So, you know, of course, things have changed since the pandemic, but it is very much a place to be if you are into Italian wine of course.

Natalie MacLean 23:57
Yes. Well, it reminds me of the book fairs like in London and Frankfurt. I mean, it’s just where people go to sell and make deals and all the rest of it. If you’re in the book trade. What is Opera Wine? Tell us about that.

Stevie Kim 24:09
So Opera Wine is the kind of the premier opening event to Vinitaly. And what I mean by that is when I first started, actually, I started this with Wine Spectator. And I asked them can we do something like Wine Experience? Have you been to Wine Experience in New York?

Natalie MacLean 24:28
I have in New York City. It’s amazing. Like all the prestigious winemakers are there and you can taste and workshops and yeah.

Stevie Kim 24:35
So it’s exactly like Wine Experience. And Wine Experience, you have 300 wineries from all over the world. And we work with the same team, but we just do it for Italian wines and it’s 100 wineries. We just had our 10th anniversary, and this year we’ll have 130 wineries and it’s the principles, they choose one wine and their library wines is very much a sexy and glamorous opening to Vinitaly. It usually happens in the heart of centa at the Pavilion but because of the pandemic and social distancing regulation, we have a big space but a beautiful, more like an industrial space but very beautiful space just in front of the exhibition centre.

Natalie MacLean 25:23
Okay. Did it used to take place in a coliseum type thing? Or?

Stevie Kim 25:28
Yeah, kind of like just in front of the Coliseum in the heart of centre? You’ve been to Verona, right? Yes, I went to the balcony Coliseum. There is a building just in front. And we used to do it in the front. And because of the pandemic, you know, situation, we can’t have bunch of people in the same space in a tight space lecture.

Natalie MacLean 25:48
Okay, so you get all the Rockstar showing up like Angelo Gaja and all that.

Stevie Kim 25:53
Yeah, yeah. Angelo will not be joining us. But yeah, we have like Piero Antinori all the principles behind the scenes and it’s actually a really fun moment also for the producers because they get a chance to see each other especially now. I did actually to the Opera Wine in June, we did kind of a, it was a smaller version. But we did a celebration edition celebratory edition for the 10th edition in June. So we kind of had a makeup edition ad hoc in June of last year, so but it will take place the day before. And we used to have like really the crazy rock stars coming from all over the world from China from Singapore in their private jets and crazy stuff like that. Wow. But of course, you know, now, Asia is you know, because of their quarantine measures still. And of course now Russia.

Natalie MacLean 26:45
That was a big market for you before wasn’t it?

Stevie Kim 26:47
Yeah. A huge, huge market for Italian wine. Yeah, it’s a crazy situation now.

Natalie MacLean 26:54
Yeah, with the things going on with Ukraine. You host a wine competition? And I’m curious about that, because there are many wine competitions around the world. Obviously, you believe in it. But what do you think, are the differences between wine competitions and seeing the medals for consumers buying wine versus scores given from critics? Do you think they’re of equal weight? Or what is your opinion?

Stevie Kim 27:19
I think there are different things. So let me tell you the one big difference between our competition, it’s really called a selection because it’s not a competition because it goes into a guidebook. We select the wines, any wine that is 90 points and above, it gets included in the guide. But the best bit is that these wines, you should appreciate this, you’re a geek. So with the beacon, we inserted into the catalogue and on the app. So the competition, the selection happens few days before, so we then instal all of the awardees into the app into the catalogue so that when a buyer goes nearby, then it gets alerted, like awardees are in this area with the wines. So it’s just another tool. I don’t see it as you know, all or nothing kind of situation. But I do see as an additional value add to help promote the Italian wine producers. It’s pretty simple.

Natalie MacLean 28:21
So do you give out like gold, silver, bronze medals? Or is it just every one that gets 90 or above?

Stevie Kim 28:27
Yeah, so it’s not gold, silver and bronze. It’s just five stars. Okay, and it’s 90 and above it receives the five star status.

Natalie MacLean 28:36
Okay, so it’s not ranking these wines. Now, everybody? Okay, gotcha. Okay, cool. Because the criticism of someone competitions, which is not exactly how yours is structured is that everybody who enters goes home with a prize, like kindergarten or something.

Stevie Kim 28:53
Well, I have the other problem the other side, the other spectrum, rather, because we don’t give out too many five stars. So the producers will participate, and then they don’t get 90 points, then they kind of fizzle off in a way. So that’s another problem I have to address. We’re exactly the opposite. Opposite of most one competition. Some of the competitions give out, you know, like, it’s everybody generous with their awards, where as we have in the beginning, the first edition was horrible. It was only 13%. So it was the mess. Okay, everyone was calling me, I don’t want to talk to you anymore. You know, what do you what’s going on?

Natalie MacLean 29:36
They’re calling me I don’t want to talk to you.

Stevie Kim 29:38
We’ve received, you know, gold medals from here and there and what do you guys think you are, you know, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So then now we’re kind of up to like, I think like 23 – 24%

Natalie MacLean 29:52
That is a low pass rate so to speak.

Unknown Speaker 29:54
Now,

Natalie MacLean 29:56
Well in terms of selectivity. So from a consumer’s perspective, yeah.

Stevie Kim 30:01
But we really wanted to make a difference, right? Because a foreigner comes and I mean, there’s choices of wine during Vinitaly. It’s so vast, it’s overwhelming, right? So we want to help them identify perhaps some new wines that they can take into consideration with these added value and so forth.

Natalie MacLean 30:25
Sure, sure. And that sort of ties into my next question. I mean, Italian wine is so vast, it’s also complex. Like, why is it so complex Italian wine? I mean, at least for us in North America? What is it about it?

Stevie Kim 30:39
Italian wine is just like the Italians. They’re incredibly creative, and imaginative. It’s not by chance that they excel in, you know, cuisine in fashion and in design.

Natalie MacLean 30:51
True, Gucci, Versace, Yeah. Cars

Stevie Kim 30:53
Exactly. Like, the Italian in a way that they’re completely individualistic. And fragmented.

Natalie MacLean 31:01
Is that a history of kingdoms? Like it was a collection of kingdoms or whatever, and they were all you know.

Stevie Kim 31:06
I can’t tell you because maybe Attilio Scienza, who’s our scientific director, he knows everything is like a walking Wikipedia of vine genetics and vine history, but I don’t know. But I don’t know what the deal is. But Italians are incredibly individualistic. So that means that you have so many denominations and so many different groups, right? So we’re talking about 600 odd grapes and, you know, 400 plus denominations.

Natalie MacLean 31:36
denominations meaning little regions or designations, yes?

Stevie Kim 31:41
Yeah so that is very difficult to navigate and wrap your head around when you are just a wine lover, wine Enthusiast, right. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve been working to train highly specialised experts through the Vinitaly International Academy programme, and making small little booklets so that they can like into bite sizes, so that we can help the wine lovers to make it a little bit more digestible and approachable. Sure.

Natalie MacLean 32:20
Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed our chat with Stevie. Here my takeaways. Number one, I was fascinated with her points on the differences in impact between wine competitions and critic scores. They really do have quite a bit of influence on the wines we drink and buy. And two, the range and diversity of Italian regions and wine styles can seem overwhelming. But I love Stevie’s approach to making them accessible and importantly, memorable. And three, I’ve added several more obscure Italian wines to my list to try next. In the show notes, you’ll find my email contact, the full transcript of my conversation with Stevie, links to her podcast and website. How you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class, and where you can find the live stream video version of these conversations on Facebook and YouTube Live every Wednesday at 7pm. That’s all in the show notes at NatalieMaclean.com/183. Email me if you have a sip, tip, question, or want to become a beta reader of my new memoir at [email protected] You won’t want to miss next week when we continue our chat with Stevie. In the meantime, if you missed episode 164 go back and take a listen. I chat about Southern Italy’s wine food and flavour with author Robert Camuto. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.

Robert Camuto 33:47
Wine back in the day wasn’t something that it is now. It was an accompaniment. It wasn’t the star on the table. When you look at Southern Italy there’s so many darn flavours there and so much delicious spicy food and fresh tomatoes, peppers, greens, artichokes, maybe it’s a little more difficult for wine to be the standout star of that

Natalie MacLean 34:12
because the flavours are so intense.

Robert Camuto 34:15
There’s so much else going on at the table, so much other intensity. Everybody loves Burgundy. But what does one eat in Burgundy? There’s some nice beef Bourguignone. There’s some nice snails. But it’s not the same thing as having pasta with sea urchins and clams and peppers and all the different sauces. They drank it as a food as a very simple pairing and did not save their wine to the extent that we do today.

Natalie MacLean 34:49
If you liked this episode, please tell one friend about it this week, especially someone you know who’d be interested in the wines and stories we discussed. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week. Perhaps a full bodied Italian red wine.

You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full body bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at NatalieMaclean.com/subscribe, Meet me here next week. Cheers.

 

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