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Wine to 5: Ursula Thurner, public relations professional, specialising in wine

Inside a professional's everyday life, Decanter speaks to public relations professional, Ursula Thurner.

How did you end up here?

I arrived in Tuscany in 1988. I wanted to get to know Italy better and study the Italian language. I heard that the Chianti Classico consorzio was looking for a PR person, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to optimise my stay in Italy. I never thought that wine would become my life!

For nearly 10 years, I promoted Chianti Classico all over the world. Wine promotion was in the fledgling stages in those years. Then, in 1997, I realised that producers had different needs – that they needed to promote their brand, not only their regional denomination, and so I founded Thurner PR. Together with my team, I work on communication strategies, international PR and social media.

What’s the best thing about your job?

I love to be part of the wineries themselves and their interesting projects, where I can bring in all my creativity and international experience. I love to be in contact with nature and love meeting people… there are so many interesting personalities in the world of wine. And of course, I am lucky that I can visit wonderful places and taste a lot of fantastic wines.

And the worst?

Probably when I have to deal with people who aren’t really passionate about wine.

What’s the most common misconception about your job?

It’s not all events, travelling, meeting with people, visiting fine restaurants, and tasting great wines. There is also a huge amount of researching, writing, correcting, reporting, and finding diplomatic solutions. Sometimes I feel like an emergency service.

What advice would you give someone who wants to succeed in wine PR?

First and foremost, you need to love wine, and food, then you need to know languages. You should be curious, creative, willing to improve, always, and have good writing skills. You need to be a problem-solver, sensitive and diplomatic, and without the need to be centre of attention. Sometimes I say, slightly tongue in cheek, that more than communications one should study psychology. And, no shortcuts please. To establish good, long-lasting relationships with both producers and press you must be reliable, transparent and honest, a true ‘partner in crime’.

What was your greatest moment?

One of many special memories is from the end of an international press event that I organised at the Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence. After a tasting of the most magnificent wines, the patron of the Enoteca, Giorgio Pinchiorri, opened a magnum of Château d’Yquem 1928. Happiness, pure emotion!

And your greatest mistake?

Perhaps that I and my team never devote enough time to promoting ourselves. All our energy and passion is focused on ‘our’ clients.

What’s the one wine you recommend most often to friends?

Professionally I was born in Tuscany, and Sangiovese is always in my heart. But the list of grape varieties and styles I love is long. Above all, I love wines that speak of their growing areas, and this is the advice I give most often.

Born in Austria, Ursula Thurner is the founder and owner of Thurner PR, a Florence-based communications strategy and international PR agency that will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year.

Her agency, made up of eight women, works with leading names in the Italian wine industry, including Pio Cesare, Ornellaia, Masseto, Ricasoli, San Leonardo, Giodo and Tasca d’Almerita.

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