Valentina Zanella worked in marketing for the diamond industry before gravitating to her “true calling,” which is wine. Valentina started in the export department for Zonin1821 in Vicenza, which is the largest privately owned producer in Italy. It was not long before her managers discovered that she had the aptitude for much more than sales.
Valentina transitioned to a role as a wine industry event planner, in which she organizes high-end events for top sommeliers and journalists from around the world. The program involves either a four-day gastronomy trip and pairing wines with regional cuisine or a sommelier luncheon that also emphasizes food and wine pairing. The guiding principle of the program is to promote the wines by promoting the region.
Wine Tourist Magazine believes that Valentina is a rising star in the wine world, so we recently caught up with her and asked a few questions.
WTM: What is the last wine you tasted?
Valentina: There were two sparkling wines by Marco Buvoli, an Italian vigneron based in the province of Vicenza (in Veneto, Italy). Both were 100% Pinot Noir, Rosé de Saignée, champenoise method. One rested three years on its lees, the other one for seven years. They totally stole my heart.
WTM: What do you love most about your work?
Valentina: A lot of things, but the most important is the possibility to be in touch with the best wine professionals in the world. I can learn so much from them every single day and this, to me, is invaluable.
WTM: When you started working as an event planner in the wine industry, what surprised you most?
Valentina: The human factor. Let me explain this. I work mainly with the highest end of the on-trade market and international journalists from all over the world. I have the chance to meet Masters of Wine, DipWset, Master Sommeliers, buyers from International groups and so on. If there’s one thing they all have in common, it is the level of passion and enthusiasm that drives them. The attention to detail, the study and the effort they put in their everyday life still strikes me even after years. And even if some of these people have reached the highest positions, titles or prizes in the industry, they still are incredibly humble and down to earth. I love this.
WTM: Who has had the most influence on you in your current career?
Valentina: The first and biggest one is my closer group of colleagues. We all share the same passion for communications (whether it is PR, social media or events) and we constantly exchange ideas and new points of view on many topics, which keeps us creative and motivated.
The second influence is more recent and he probably doesn’t even know it. Adrian Smith, on his blog “sypped,” is a UK journalist I met thanks to @thewineysoul (the Instagram and Facebook accounts I run). He’s incredibly fun, charismatic and able to share informative contents with a one-like-no-other tone of voice. I work everyday to become a unique voice like his. Eventually.
WTM: What advice can you give someone thinking about getting involved in the wine industry?
Valentina: You think you’re done once you get your degree? Forget it! Be willing to always explore new regions; to keep wandering in search of something new to try; to read books and news and articles not only on wine, but also on the trade. Be ready to be called a “wine geek.”
WTM: What was your most memorable wine-travel experience?
Valentina: Ok, I don’t mean to sound cocky here, but it was the last trip I organized for my company. It was a three-day trip with a group of nine of the best somms in Europe. We flew them all to Rome on a Monday morning and then in the afternoon we flew together to Bangkok. We landed, showered and ate a Thai Breakfast at a private museum with a tea tasting and Thai dancers. Then there was a tour of a food market in the city; dinner at the Michelin starred restaurant “Paste” with a blind wine tasting followed by the return flight. Wednesday morning we landed back in Rome. This was truly unforgettable!
WTM: What do you consider the most interesting but unexplored Italian wine region?
Valentina: Marche and Abruzzo have great potential that deserve more attention from the public. Also the Etna region in Sicily has very high potential that has just recently been unveiled. I’m really curious and excited to see what is going to become of these regions and if they’ll be able to grow as they deserve
WTM: Is there a wine tourism destination outside Italy that really excites you?
Valentina: Besides the very classic Champagne and Chablis – which are definitely my favorites – I’d say the cool climate regions of Australia, specifically Margaret River and Clare Valley. I’m a sucker for Riesling and Chardonnay.
WTM: If you could have any job you wanted, what would it be?
Valentina: I’d love to grow my @thewineysoul and travel the world’s wine regions telling their stories through my articles. Or else, I’d love to be a Brand Ambassador for a Champagne house. Krug, Dom Perignon, Moet&Chandon… can you hear me?