As Managing Director Vinitaly International, Stevie Kim is the voice of Italy.
Vinitaly is an international wine competition and exposition that showcases over 3,000 wines from around the world. It is held annually in Verona, Italy.
And Kim is there fearless leader. The exposition is the largest it has ever been under her reign. She also started the Vinitaly International Academy with the aim of creating new ambassadors of Italian wine around the world.
And this December 6th and 7th , she is sponsoring her first Wine2Wine conference, where wine experts and retailers from all over will gather for two days to strictly talk about the business of wine. (Although we’re guessing that they’ll probably be drinking some too.)
Yet in the midst of all this, she took time to talk to us.
1. How Does a Woman from Korea, who Lived in New York, End Up As Managing Director of Vinitaly?
I was born in Korea, raised in America and have now lived in Italy for the great portion of my adult life.
I came to Italy on an extended holiday. I met my husband there and we started working together. Fast forward 15 years, after two children, the death of my best friend, and squillions of years of working together with the husband, I decided to investigate the idea of launching a wine investment fund in 2007. That’s when I met the people at Vinitaly.
The financial crisis hit and the fund never happened. But that terrible situation turned into now my current job.
In the beginning, having a Korean-American woman representing Italian wine was a bit controversial in the Italian wine community, to say the least. In addition, I knew nothing about wine. But the fact that I knew nothing about wine helped me to translate the complexities of Italian wine to make it accessible to the rest of the world.
2. What is the Main Part of Your Job?
The biggest part of my job is education — promoting Italian wines — which is hard because the wines are confusing.
That’s why I’m so proud of the Vinitaly International Academy. Ambassadors are trained and created through this program who can then go out with authority and teach others about Italians wines.
3. What Are the Roadblocks To Promoting Italian wines?
Italian wine is so complicated. There is so much work to do to simplify it all.
There are over 375,000 wine producers many of whom think that what’s inside the bottle should sell itself. So they don’t invest in the communication side.
The French actually are better at that... Champagne...Bordeaux... they do a much better job getting the word out about French wines as a group.
Because there are so many varietals in Italy and they all want to be individual so its difficult to promote.
It needs to be promoted as a lifestyle. La dolce vita [the sweet life]. The fashion. The cuisine... and of course the wine. What the Italians are really good at is making people come to their territory. Then once they do they fall in love with the place. Italians are unbeatable at hospitality.
4. What Should New Wine Drinkers Know about Italy?
We get that millennials are not interested in drinking what their parents drink but they shouldn’t be afraid to try the uncharted territories. Just because you can’t pronounce it or find it on wine-searcher, still be brave and discover new wines. And then lead others.
Prosecco leveraged Italian wine as a country and really helped with the younger generation. But try a Rossa from Etna or Agliancio is so hot right now. Try a Pinto Noir from Alto Alidge. And take recommendations from your sommeliers at restaurants, not from your phone.
We are also starting a Vinitaly Wine Club, an online platform for Italian wines — to make it more sociable and accessible.
5. What do you drink after a long day?
I’ve got a soft spot for the sparklers. Especially after a long day, the bubbles always do the trick. I’m partial to Franciacorta [a bubbly from southern Lombardia] and Trento D. O. C. [a bubbly made with Chardonnay and/or Pinot Nero grapes in the northern region of Trentino-Alto Adige, located at the base of the Italian Alps.] but nowadays many winemakers are venturing into producing their own “bollicine” [which translates to bubbles]. And my favorite food and wine pairing right now? “Bollicine” with anchovies and toast, never get tired of it.
Tracy Byrnes, former FOX Business Network anchor and host of “Wine with Me” for Foxnews.com, is editor-in-chief and chief contributor of The Sip.