In her 8 years at the helm of Vinitaly International, Stevie Kim has launched and now coordinates a series of new initiatives connected to the brand. Ahead of this year’s main event, she tells us how embracing internationality, digital marketing and education are laying its path to success.
Coming from such a strong wine-producing nation as the US, what led you to settle in Italy and become passionate about Italian wines?
I get asked this all the time, why am I in Italy? And the extremely skinny answer is actually not that original, not original at all…My original sin (i.e. husband) is Italian and can be characterised as a Veronese DOC in every aspect, so that’s the reason why I’ve settled in Italy.
After meeting my first and still only husband (I wanted to qualify that because that is no small miracle in itself), I started my first company in Italy working with him. To salvage my marriage—too many years working together as a couple—I accidentally ran into Vinitaly.
You have led the modernisation of Vinitaly, launching new initiatives and channels of communication. What innovation has had the most impact on your mission to promote Italian wine?
What I’ve done and am still trying to do every day is to embrace digital marketing and social media in general. Vinitaly is such an original gem of its own kind and all I’ve done is to unveil its “chaotic charm” by using a closer and more personal communication approach to connect with the rest of the world.
I’m very proud of OperaWine, the super-sexy and glam premier event with Wine Spectator, just because it was the one of the very first projects I was fortunate to launch. The educational megaphone Vinitaly International Academy is also close to my heart because year after year we were able to gain some critical mass into the community which promotes Italian wine. For this project I am thankful to the commitment of Veronafiere which owns the brand Vinitaly.
Also, I have great fun doing wine2wine every year in December. It’s the only time when you have all the Italian wine professionals actually come and sit and listen to the 100 plus speakers that we have. It is very Italian in that sense, but the speakers come from all over the world.
WSET is the gateway to understanding wine and communicating in the same language with other professionals.
I’m not sure you can call it innovation, but I think what we’ve done as a “gruppo di lavoro” in general is that I was able to create a diverse and truly international team, something unusual around here. I think setting up an international work environment that embraces diversity translated into facilitating a more effective international communication.
I reckon when Veronafiere took a chance with a Korean-American to lead the international communication for Italian wines 8 years ago, that was an innovative move in itself at the time.
What role do you think education plays for individuals and companies looking to promote their wines on the global stage?
In my entire life, I’ve embraced an educational-approach to work and living and I’m completely committed to education. Vinitaly International Academy is all about forming highly qualified and specialized Italian Wine Ambassadors globally, currently totalling 131 Italian Wine Experts and Ambassadors to date so I’m pretty confident of this trajectory in covering the territories abroad.
WSET is the gateway to understanding wine and communicating in the same language with other professionals. At the same time if you look at the raw numbers, Italians are way behind in terms of WSET studies—in Italy the count is around 700 students compared to almost 13,000 in China—and student numbers should be increased.
Any Italian trade professional can leverage WSET courses to increase their knowledge about Italian wines and more importantly all wines in general. These courses also force them to improve their “wine English” so that they can learn how to communicate more effectively and efficiently to their potential suppliers and colleagues at an international scale.
We work with WSET regularly for collaborations around Vinitaly and wine2wine, and run courses through our WSET Approved Programme Provider, Italian Wine Academy in Verona, hosted in Vinitaly International’s headquarters wine2digital.
What are you most proud of achieving in your time with Vinitaly and what are your hopes for the future?
I’m at a point in my life where I’ve chosen to be happy and I’m grateful to all those who’ve given me the opportunity to promote Italian wine and have great fun doing it at the same time. I’m mostly in front of the spotlight and most don’t realise that I’ve got a fantastic crew behind me and now I feel like I can conquer the world with this group!
WSET courses are available through 10 Approved Programme Providers in Italy. Find your local provider here.
WSET will be at Vinitaly 2018 for four days of tastings, masterclasses and networking. Details of WSET’s stand and masterclasses are on the event page here.