On the second day of its 50th Edition, Vintaly hosted Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Founder and Executive Chairman of the Alibaba Group Jack Ma for a tête-à-tête on the role of e-commerce in the diffusion of Italian wine and food abroad. Mr. Ma announced the launch of Alibaba’s first ever “Wine Day” on September 9th, which will mark a turning point for Italian wine in China.
The Alibaba Group today is the premier e-commerce platform in China, with over 400 million users and 120 million clicks per day. It includes a consumer-to-consumer portal Taobao similar to eBay, and Tmall, its online retail platform which already hosts more than 90 Italian brands. Alibaba’s “Singles Day” – a day of e-commerce focused on unattached Chinese consumers – on November 11 2015, brought in over $14 billion.
After an introduction by Minister of Agriculture Maurizio Martina, Mr. Ma announced that “Wine Day” – the first ever Tmall Wine & Spirits Festival – will launch at 9am on September 9. “Nine means ‘wine’ in Chinese, so 9-9-9 means wine-wine-wine,” explained Mr. Ma. The event’s objectives are to introduce more international wines to Chinese consumers, and to make it easier for small producers to launch in what can be a challenging market. The goal is to make 9/9 into an international day of wine.
“I’d like to take the model of “Singles Day” and use that to promote Italian wine,” Mr. Ma told the Italian wine producers present. “Right now, 6% of the wines we sell in China are Italian. We want change that 6% into 60%, and help you sell as much Italian wine in China as possible.”
Prime Minister Renzi echoed the importance of e-commerce, and agreed that Alibaba’s Wine Day could mark a turning point for Italian wine in China. “The future of Italy and of Alibaba are interconnected. As the world’s biggest e-commerce platform, Alibaba can radically transform our society. If we don’t maximize technology, we have no future.”
“The Chinese love quality Italian products. You have incredible products, but you need to use the power of the internet,” agreed Mr. Ma. “We can’t bring all the Chinese to Italy, so we bring Italy to them. Alibaba wants to be the gateway of quality Italian products in China.”
China represents a crucial market for the Italian wine sector; Chinese sales of wine and spirits are projected to reach nearly 8 billion euros by 2017. Mr. Ma’s visit highlights the opportunity this provides for Italian winemakers. “Despite the slowing Chinese economy, Jack Ma’s presence at Vinitaly creates a burst of interest in China for the Italian wine community and the future of Italian wine in China,” said Stevie Kim, Managing Director of Vinitaly International. “This creates an emphasis on the marketplace in China – which is a very tough market to penetrate. We have to channel all our efforts in a unified way to represent Italian wines abroad, especially in China, because unfortunately Italian wines are still largely unknown and unrepresented there.”
The visit by the Prime Minister elevated the importance of wine in the Italian national story. “What a historic day for all of us at Vinitaly, and what an honor it has been. It’s exciting that Prime Minister Renzi is here for the third time –,” said Kim. “This gives real weight to Vinitaly’s 50th and definitively shows how important Italian wine is for Italy – for its politics, its economy, and its culture.”