Alessandro Angelini, a globe-trotter in the wine business, pays more than lip service to the Italian lifestyle.
Based in Trento in the Italian Alps, Angelini is vice president of North America and national key account manager for Ethica Wines, an Italian wine specialist that has an annual turnover of $25 million. The company represents a diverse portfolio of Italian producers in 19 markets across North America and the Asia-Pacific region.
“Depending on the particularities of the market, Ethica Wines are either importers or agents,” he says. “In the U.S. we are importers with a portfolio of premium and commodity wines.”
Growing Ethica Wines
Angelini joined the company in 2012, when the new CEO Francesco Ganz had been appointed to put the Ethica Wines back on its feet.
“He asked if I and my colleague wanted to join, and we decided to buy the company in 2016,” says Angelini.
Since then, Ethica has expanded.
“We took our destiny into our own hands and opened the door to producers from other regions,” he says. “We invested every single dollar we made into strengthening our ranks. We now have more than 25 people, almost all Italians. But I’m the only one still left in Italy, all the other people are based across the world.”
The importance of an Italian wine ambassador
Logistics take up most of Angelini’s time.
“Since I live in Italy, I’m in charge of all the incoming activities,” he says. People come from Canada, China, India, Thailand, Australia and America. And I’m in charge of planning and taking personal care of these groups when they come. This means driving, picking the right spots to stay overnight, having a nice meal, [though] not necessarily a two-Michelin-starred restaurant. [That] is actually what people don’t want. They want real Italian fare. When they go home, they take something back that is worth a hundred times the actual cost.”
“They become the best ambassadors of our wines,” says Angelini. “We believe in bringing our business partners to Italy and showing them not just the wineries—we could do that on video—but giving them a feel of the Italian lifestyle.”
Angelini is on the road for two thirds of the year: one third is spent traveling outside Italy, and another third is spent taking business partners around Italy. Therefore, the time he can spend at his desk in Trento is precious.
“I… keep myself up-to-date,” he says. “It’s important for our partners to come and see our wineries in Italy, but it’s as important for me to do the same thing. I need to go and find out what is what and who is who.”
Angelini’s days start at around 7 am. “I am morning person and love being up early,” he says. “I walk very early in the morning. On the way to the office, I stop at a bar to have a cappuccino and a chitchat. I take 15 minutes of my early hours to socialize while having coffee.”
Different time zones also govern his day.
“Italy being pretty much in the middle means I can communicate with my Asian colleagues in the morning,” says Angelini.
When lunch time arrives, Angelini prefers a walk to food.
“I walk along the Adige river and get back to the office more recharged… Around [3 pm] I start communicating with my North American partners and never know when the day will end,” he says, citing the nine-hour time difference between Italy and America’s West Coast.
“Sometimes my workday lasts until midnight, but I like to take a break at 7:30 pm to have dinner with my wife. She appreciates that and it’s a very important part of Italian life.
“My wife is a very good cook,” Angelini says. He does note that they take turns in cooking.
“It’s very important to have a healthy balance, and wine is part of that because you also need to have fun in your life.”