To say that wine is in Emiliano Villanueva’s blood might be considered hyperbolic, but for the Eastern Connecticut State University business professor, that’s about as true as it gets.
The Argentinian native, born and raised in Mendoza and now living in Hebron, is a specialist in the wine business. He holds a doctorate in economic history from the University of Barcelona and wrote his thesis on the international wine trade. He also holds a master’s degree in wine management.
Growing up around winemaking, Villanueva said, he took the wine world for granted.
He said his travels around the world helped him appreciate what he had in Mendoza, especially after living and working in Dubai for seven years, where the predominantly Muslim culture has limited alcohol permits. .
“You’re out of your comfort zone and can’t actually engage in conversations,” he said.
Mendoza has always been the largest wine region in the Americas, Villanueva said, until California recently overtook it.
“It has increased in terms of quality,” he said. “In terms of quality, the Malbecs and all those beautiful reds come from Argentina.”
Villanueva said her family has always been into wine, with her father and grandfather both being winemakers.
“He got into running big vineyards in Argentina back then,” he said of his father. “For me, wine has always been there. My parents, they had small wineries and vineyards. It was always the family activity, not only for fun, of course, but also for work.
Villanueva, however, chose to leave Argentina and move to Europe to study business. But even then, he couldn’t leave any wine behind.
Villanueva said he used his training to manage wineries in Spain and Argentina.
His experience in winemaking and his history have given him an astute awareness of the evolution of the wine industry around the world.
“What’s interesting is that it was always France, Italy, Spain and the fourth Argentina,” he said. “But now the United States is fourth in terms of wine production and Argentina is fifth or sixth.
“The industry is growing a lot,” he said of the wine industry in the United States. Now, it’s a product that’s almost mainstream.
The mainstream wine he referred to is primarily California wine.
As for Connecticut wine, he called it “rara avis,” Latin for “rare bird.”
In California and Mendoza, he said, wines are a robust business with harvest festivals and lots of community involvement.
“Wine is literally part of the culture,” he said. “It’s a very different perception of wine. Wine is life. Wine is cultural. Wine is history. Wine is a tradition. Wine is church. It’s part of you. It’s very idiosyncratic.
Wine in the United States has also become more democratic, Villanueva said.
“When you see the evolution of consumers, in terms of demographic and behavioral profile here in the United States, you see the change over the past 40 years from elite consumers of an elite product to a mainstream democratic dominant,” he said. noted. “Everyone has access. It’s affordable and people are getting into wine, which is good news. They understand the differences and see how enjoyable it can be.
The culture of wine drinking has also changed around the world, he said. While France, Spain, Italy, and Argentina are decreasing the average daily consumption of wine instead of low-alcohol beverages such as beer, the amount of wine consumption has increased in the United States and in China.
Locally, he said, Connecticut wine has not developed into a national market, with more than 90 percent of local wine being sold in the state.
“I researched the wine industry here in Connecticut,” Villanueva said. “I have three papers that I have published…academic papers regarding wine tourism in the wine industry here in the state of Connecticut.”
Villanueva said Connecticut’s wine industry is still very young, with about 50 wineries across the state.
He said tourism is what will make the local industry profitable.
“It’s only grown in the last 10 to 20 years,” he said. “It is little.”
With most wines sold locally, Connecticut wineries tend to focus on showcasing their products at catered events, he said, and weekend wine tastings.
“I find it very interesting,” he said. “That entrepreneurial spirit is about bringing a good product and trying to get people to know about a product. It’s about getting people into the wineries, enjoying that product, and learning more about the Wine Wine tourism is essential in Connecticut.
Bryan Hurlburt, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, echoed Villanueva’s thoughts on local wine.
“There are 45 licensed wineries in the state,” he said, along with other wineries that are not affiliated with local farms.
“Most of the sales are direct to consumers visiting the vineyards or are purchased from local parcel shops for gifts or for home consumption,” he said.
“One of the things we’ve been working on is making sure people know that wineries are a component of tourism,” he said.
Hurlburt said local wine tourism allows people to experience a vineyard first-hand, where people can see the actual vines that produce the grapes for the wines, watch the making and hear the stories of local farmers and their employees.
“It’s a much more robust experience than just sipping a glass of wine,” he said. “It creates a very nice atmosphere to get out of the house and enjoy what Connecticut has to offer.”