This September saw the incoming program of the Vinitaly International Academy (VIA) welcome 12 Italian Wine Ambassadors and 3 Italian Wine Experts for a series of visits, tastings and masterclasses to better understand the history and diversity of the Bolgheri region in Tuscany. The visit encompassed trips to prestigious wineries (Poggio al Tesoro, Tenuta di San Guido, Tenuta Argentiera, Tenuta Guado al Melo, Michele Satta, Oliviero Toscani) as well as the opportunity to be hosted by the Bolgheri DOC Consorzio.
One of the core values of the Vinitaly International Academy is its commitment to bringing qualified Ambassadors and Experts back to Italy for educational tours. These trips not only increase knowledge and build relationships in the territories (forming professional connections that aid the sale and promotion of Italian wines globally) but also foster the growing VIA community, providing an international network of dedicated wine professionals that support and encourage each other.
The foundation of the trip was predicated on a series of masterclasses led by vine geneticist and VIA Chief Scientist Attilio Scienza. They were designed to give the incoming Ambassadors a detailed understanding of Bolgheri, in particular to demonstrate the way that the varied geology of the region impacts vines and thus the resulting styles of wines. In order to cement this knowledge Scienza took the group directly into the vineyards, to witness the change of soil composition, sun exposure, wind direction, and landscape. As VIA Ambassador Jennifer Burgess commented, this was a “tremendous opportunity to learn out in the field with our fingers in the dirt” and truly discover the terroir.
Having this hands-on experience generated not only a strong base of understanding, but also an infectious enthusiasm, that carried into the following days. It was particularly useful for the tasting masterclass that followed on Day 3 with the Bolgheri DOC Consorzio. Introduced by the President Federico Zileri Dal Verme and led by the Director Riccardo Binda, this was a unique opportunity for Ambassadors to try 30 Bolgheri DOC wines, first tasting the Rosso and then the Superiore. Overseen by Prof. Scienza, this event allowed students to contextualize the landscape from the previous days and truly understand how it is expressed in the glass.
The VIA incoming program is a cornerstone of the VIA Ecosystem and is only becoming more significant now that the Educator Program has been launched, allowing VIA Ambassadors to become certified to teach the intermediate Maestro course. Certified Educators are given priority onto the trips so as to build material and resources to pass onto their own students. Participating in this trip were not only Gill Gordon-Smith, Italian Wine Expert and co-lead of the Educator Programme, but also Emilia Marinig the first Certified Educator to qualify through the program. Marinig commented specifically during the trip on the value for this experience as an educator of Italian wines:
An incoming program like this one […] gives us the opportunity as educators to get as much first-hand knowledge (about wineries, about appellations, about wine styles) as possible, as tools that we can use to teach our students.
Thus, Marinig demonstrates the value that the VIA incoming program has not only for those who are able to participate, but also for the broader Italian wine community.
The next edition of the VIA incoming program will take place in October, bringing Ambassadors to Sicily to participate in a scholastic tour of Etna. Meanwhile the Vinitaly International Academy is preparing for the upcoming Ambassador Certification course that will take place in Hong Kong from the 3rd to the 7th of November 2019.
Vinitaly International Academy (VIA) aims to be the gold standard of Italian wine education. It offers a complete educational path with standardized courses that will teach professionals and educators to master the diversity of Italian wine in a rigorous, organized manner. VIA’s main objective is to foster a global network of highly qualified professionals such as Italian Wine Ambassadors and Italian Wine Experts: in turn, they will support and promote Italian wine throughout the world. VIA was founded by Stevie Kim, Managing Director of Vinitaly International. The new VIA ecosystem avails of the guidance of Italian trade associations Federdoc, Federvini, Vignaioli Indipendenti FIVI, and Unione Italiana Vini as members of the Institutional Advisory Board. Italian vine genetics scholar, Prof. Attilio Scienza, oversees VIA’s scientific and educational direction as the Chief Scientist. VIA Faculty Sarah Heller MW and Henry Davar teach the flagship Italian Wine Ambassador course. The following trade associations in the Italian wine industry have also joined as VIA Supporters: Italia del Vino; Italian Signature Wines Academy; Le Famiglie del Vino, Wi-Fi Wine from Irpinia, Consorzio di Tutela Vini del Trentino; Consorzio di Tutela Sicilia DOC; Franciacorta; Consorzio di Tutela Vini d’Abruzzo. To date the VIA community comprises 202 certified Italian Wine Ambassadors and 14 Italian Wine Experts. Since its foundation in 2014, over 560 candidates from all over the world have taken VIA’s courses.