Wine In University and Vinitaly International: a love affair from online to offline

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Vinitaly International tightens the ties with China with a new initiative addressing Chinese millennials. The “Italian Wine Month” was held in April 2016, in partnership with Wine In University (WIU), the largest league of Chinese college students interested in wine, including many future oenologist of the PRC.

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In one of my trips to China I noticed a Wine In University WeChat post go incredibly viral - says Stevie Kim - I was intrigued and I wanted to know personally the creator of this project. This was a university student in love with the wine.

Vinitaly International tightens the ties with China with a new initiative addressing Chinese millennials. The “Italian Wine Month” was held in April 2016, in partnership with Wine In University (WIU), the largest league of Chinese college students interested in wine, including many future oenologist of the PRC.

The world of wine is increasingly looking at East. Vinitaly International is orchestrating a wave of initiatives in line with its mission in China, where it acts as a bridge between the key players in the market and Italian wine makers, always focusing on how to communicate.

This new partnership, conceived and promoted in order to educate the Chinese to Italian wine, lays its foundation back in time. Stevie Kim, Managing Director of Vinitaly International, has always been a great supporter of the use of Chinese social media platforms, Wechat in particular. "I don’t speak Chinese," Ms Kim admits, "but I use Wechat every day to communicate with my staff or just for leisure."

WeChat can be described as a combination of a messaging app and a social media: with a strong "sharing" inclination, it gives special emphasis to the images and it can count on nearly 700 million active users. (SOURCE: http://www.statista.com/statistics/255778/number-of-active-wechat-messenger-accounts)

"The best thing about Wechat is that just looking at the photos and the reactions of the people you can get an idea of the trending topics, without clashing with the Chinese characters," explains Stevie Kim, revealing that "it was just through WeChat that the link between Vinitaly International and Wine In University was created."

Built on WeChat, Wine In University is a platform that provides students of nearly 30 Chinese universities with the opportunity to keep up with the news about the world of wine and participate in wine tasting events.

"In one of my trips to China I noticed a Wine In University WeChat post go incredibly viral," says Stevie Kim, "Yang Lu, Italian Wine Ambassador of our Vinitaly International Wine Academy and Director for Shangri-La Hotel, responded personally to questions of hundreds of students. I was intrigued and I wanted to know personally the creator of this project. This was a university student in love with the wine to the point of wanting to share his passion with all its peers."

Ms Kim immediately ensured that Ted Zhang, the founder of WIU, had the opportunity to go to Italy to learn and be seduced by Italian wine, totally immersing himself with an internship in the Valpolicella vineyards in December 2015.

The foundations of the partnership between Vinitaly International and WIU were therefore built during the last edition of wine2wine, where Ted held a workshop in which he presented his project, along with Lingzi He, the first Chinese Italian Wine Expert of the Vinitaly International Academy.

"The trip to Italy was my first outside of China, and it was great," says Ted. "I wanted to bring home what I learned, but I and Vinitaly International did not stop here." The second step saw WIU as a technical partner for Vinitaly China - Chengdu 2016, where they provided translators for producers, announced the event on the platform and held a joint press conference during which the Italian Wine Month was launched.

Italy was chosen as the first partner country for this kind of initiative. The pilot project has since materialized in various online and offline activities.

As for the first part, WIU has organized a series of four lectures on Italian wine topics, which were held by the Italian Wine Expert Lingzi He. The interest was very high, as evidenced by Ted: "We are very happy, the lectures were attended by more than 500 students and then read or downloaded by up to 8,000 students!"

At the same time, a series of 16 tastings were organised in over 10 different Chinese regions, involving some of the major importers of Italian wine and producers who participated in Vinitaly China - Chengdu, coordinated by Vinitaly International for the supply of wine during the events.

Therefore, on the one hand Vinitaly International is continuing to focus on the major promotional channels with established events like Vinitaly Hong Kong and Vinitaly China - Chengdu. On the other, it expands the boundaries of penetration in the Chinese market by not focusing exclusively on professionals but also with an eye on the general public, through B2C initiatives such as Vinitaly China - Shanghai (for the second edition of the Shanghai Wine & Dine Festival, scheduled for September 23-25, 2016). Other cross-cutting activities for the training and promotion of Italian wine among Chinese millennials, like this important partnership with Wine in University, are also in development.

LIST OF UNIVERSITIES
Beijing:
Peking University

Shanghai:
Shanghai Jiaotong University

Chongqing:
Chongqing University
Sichuan International Studies University

Sichuan:
Tianfu College of SWUFE

Hubei:
Hubei University of Economics

Shaanxi:
Northwest A&F University

Shandong:
Shandong Agricultural University
Qingdao Agricultural University
Shandong Polytechnic University
Binzhou Medical University

Jiangsu:
Huaiyin Normal University

Ningxia:
Ningxia Technical College of Wine and Desertification Prevention

Gansu:
Gansu Agricultural University

Liaoning:
Shenyang Pharmaceutical University

Hainan:
Hainan University

About:
Veronafiere is the leading organizer of trade shows in Italy including Vinitaly (http://www.vinitaly.com), the largest wine and spirits fair in the world. During its 50th edition Vinitaly counted more than 4,100 exhibitors on a 100,000+ square meter area and 130,000 visitors from 140 different countries. The next edition of the fair will take place on 9 - 12 April 2017. The premier event to Vinitaly, OperaWine (http://www.vinitalyinternational.com) “Finest Italian Wines: 100 Great Producers,” will unite international wine professionals on April 8th in the heart of Verona, offering them the unique opportunity to discover and taste the wines of the 100 Best Italian Producers, as selected by Wine Spectator. Since 1998 Vinitaly International travels to several countries such as Russia, China, USA and Hong Kong thanks to its strategic arm abroad, Vinitaly International. In February 2014 Vinitaly International launched an educational project, the Vinitaly International Academy (VIA) with the aim of divulging and broadcasting the excellence and diversity of Italian wine around the globe. VIA this year launched the second edition of its Certification Course and today counts 54 Italian Wine Ambassadors and 3 Italian Wine Experts.

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Francesca de Stefani
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