Territory is one of the crucial elements that identify and characterize high-quality foods, especially wines. The territory, precisely, deeply influences the characteristics of the vines, which in turn transfer to the wine unique elements of quality [1
]. In fact, as we know, many characteristics of wines are closely linked to the territory of origin and cannot be replicated elsewhere, thus distinguishing a wine and its reputation [3
]. The link between wine and territory is indivisible, and winemakers gain a competitive advantage when they effectively manage territorial communication of distinctive elements to potential consumers [5
]. Wine encompasses a wide range of important symbolic elements that emotionally involve consumers in a hedonic experience [7
]. Each terroir is characterized by its own specific identity, which is an expression of a rich heritage of natural and socio-cultural characteristics which, over time, have been imprinted in the wine and recognized. Therefore, belonging to a specific terroir is an intrinsic competitive advantage for winemakers, both collectively and individually, in a globalized market [9
Some territories are considered “extreme” due to their unique morphological, geo-pedological, and climatic structure that make them unsuitable for farming practices [10
]. However, thanks to the farmers’ hard work and will to succeed, in some of these territories, some food products are grown, and, in few of them, particular wines with unique characteristics are produced over time and even commercialized in the market.
The viticulture carried out in these particular territories with extreme conditions is defined as “heroic viticulture” and it is a cultural element of these mountainous areas (such as Galicia and the Ribeira Sacra in Spain, the Douro Valley in Portugal, the Wachau of Austria, the Rheingau and Mosel of Germany, France’s Banyuls and Switzerland’s Canton Valais). Moreover, this type of viticulture is very important for the environmental safeguard of these geographic zones [11
]. In Italy, the “Centre for Research, Studies, Safeguarding, Coordination and Valorization of Mountain Viticulture” (Centro di Ricerca, Studi, Salvaguardia, Coordinamento e Valorizzazione per la Viticoltura Montana-CERVIM) provided one definition for the concept of “heroic viticulture”, establishing the criteria to identify territories wherein the so-called “heroic viticulture” is practiced. According to the definition, “heroic”, viticulture must be carried out in a territory where there is, at least, one of these conditions: ground with a slope of more than 30%; altitude of more than 500 meters above sea level; production system developed on terraces and steps; being located on small islands. The Italian legislative apparatus, which collects and unifies most of the various laws in the field of wine, is the Law 238/2016, usually referred to as the “Consolidated Wine Law”. Law no. 238/2016 has led, in particular, to simplification concerning aspects of production, marketing, Controlled Designations of Origin (CDO), geographical indications, and traditions. Article 7 of this Law is entirely dedicated to heroic or historical vineyards and provides for their protection, including through interventions such as restoration, recovery, and the protection of those who persist in areas at risk of hydrogeological instability or with particular landscape value [12
]. In this Law, for the first time, the heroic viticulture was recognized as a particular system of cultivation of vineyards that, for its specific characteristics must be safeguarded. Article 7 of the Law, in fact, states that “the Nation shall promote the restoration, recovery, maintenance and safeguarding of vineyards in areas subject to risk of hydrogeological instability, with particular landscape, historical, and environmental value, calling them heroic or historical vineyards.” Therefore, the term “heroic viticulture” refers to the type of viticulture carried out in areas where the environmental and working conditions are extremely difficult, but which, on the other hand, give the wines special characteristics, making them unique. Moreover, at the same time, maintaining agriculture practices in such extreme rural areas may definitely limit environmental degradation and the abandonment of territory by the indigenous local population [13
], this also gives a social value to the heroic viticulture.
In Italy, there is a great variety of territories, with particular environmental and pedo-morphological characteristics that can give exclusive elements of typicality to wines. Most of the main wine-producing countries have some extreme territories where heroic viticulture is carried out. In Italy, there are many territories where “heroic wines” are produced [14
], including, among others, the Valdobbiadene area in Veneto, Northern Italy (where the Prosecco wine is produced), the Langhe area in Piedmont, Northern Italy (which is famous for red wines), the National Park of the Cinque Terre, located in Northern Italy (Eastern Liguria area), the island of Pantelleria in Sicily, Southern Italy (where the Passito di Pantelleria wine is produced), and, again, in Sicily, Mount Etna region (where unique red wines are produced).
The Mount Etna region is an irreplaceable territory, because it consists of several terroirs
due to the presence of the volcano and its different soils, and to different climates, exposures and altitudes that make this area a real miniature of a continent. In fact, Mount Etna characterizes this territory and its landscape, giving the soils a particular structure and an impervious morphology. The Mount Etna area extends on the east coast of Sicily (Southern Italy), between the cities of Messina and Catania [15
]. It is located above the convergent boundary between the African plate and the Eurasian plate. Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and it is almost constantly active. Thanks to 2700 years of eruptive activity, it is the highest peak in Italy south of the Alps. It is currently 10,912 ft high, although this varies owing to eruptions at the summit, and covers an area of 45 km diameter (28 mi). These dimensions make it the most impressive terrestrial volcano in Europe and the entire Mediterranean area. The unique volcanic soil favors agriculture, with vineyards and orchards distributed along the lower slopes of the mountain and the wide Plain of Catania to the south, although the agricultural practiced are carried out with very special techniques. Thanks to its recent history and the nearby populations, Etna has been designated by the United Nations as a decade volcano (decade volcanoes are 16 volcanoes identified by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior as worthy of particular study, given their history of large destructive eruptions and high proximity to populated areas). In June 2013, Etna volcano officially entered the UNESCO World Heritage List [16
Viticulture on Mount Etna has had a special place in European winemaking for more than 20 years, even before being defined as “heroic”. The terraced landscapes, and the (sometimes dramatic) limited availability of resources, have guaranteed the existence of different productions that today are considered typical, and a living testimony to the local history and culture. In recent years, the ancient terraces of lava stone, characteristic of the agriculture of the area [13
] have been recovered and, at the same time, cultivation processes, both in fields and cellars, have been improved in line with the most modern oenological models. The peculiarities of the “extreme” territories of Mount Etna are, therefore, able to give the local CDO wines unique characteristics. These characteristics should be communicated effectively by producers to consumers, in order to enhance the distinctive features of the wines and to gain a competitive advantage in the international market [17
]. In addition, the proximity of places of natural beauty and cultural locations known all over the world, such as Taormina (ME) and Noto (SR), is an attraction for a large number of tourists, and makes the territory an exclusive tourist destination for foreign and Italian tourists and visitors.
Likewise, the island of Pantelleria is also another extreme geographic area in the Italian territory. Pantelleria, formerly named Cossyra or Cossura, is located in the Mediterranean Sea, in the Strait of Sicily, 100 km (62 mi) southwest of Sicily and 60 km (37 mi) east of the Tunisian coast, and it is characterized by an arid and windy climate for many months of the year. Administratively, Pantelleria island belongs to the Sicilian province of Trapani and its very small territory extends over an area of 83 km2
(32 sq mi); nevertheless, at the same time, it is the largest volcanic “satellite island” of Sicily [18
]. In order to cope with the difficult climatic and orographic conditions of this island, over time, particular viticulture and growing techniques have been developed in Pantelleria, such as the terraces (i.e., dry stone walls); these techniques allowed viticulture to be carried out on the island, despite the obvious natural problems. Specifically, for the cultivation of vineyards in Pantelleria, the “Alberello” system is used [19
], which is a rare method that is now protected by UNESCO and recognized as human heritage.
This great territorial variability leads to the production of wines that cannot be replicated elsewhere because of their unique characteristics. Wine-growing companies usually underline the close link between their products and the territory adopting the origin denomination (CDO) for their wines, when possible. In this case, the valuable wines produced are the “Etna DOC” (i.e. name of the Denomination, DOC means CDO) for the wines produced in the Etna territory, and the “Passito di Pantelleria DOC” (i.e. name of the wine, DOC means CDO) whose name “Passito” derives from the production method used, which involves withering of grapes in the sun (raisin wines produced in Pantelleria follows the Regulation (EU) No. 510/2006, relating to PDO, CDO and protected geographical indications).
These two territories represent a real “winescape
] because of the strong identity of the places and the local communities. In this context, communication may be a fundamental tool to make consumers aware of the difficulties faced when producing heroic wines and an opportunity for wine producers to have their wines properly appreciated by consumers. This awareness, together with the wine’s unique intrinsic characteristics, could become an additional element of appreciation for consumers and would allow producers to position these territories and wines differently in the market [21
Today, communication comes primarily from companies’ websites, which should provide information in the form of text, visual content, photos, and videos, and, to be effective, requires additional symbolic elements and emotional stimuli linked to the territory, regardless of the brands of the different wineries [22
]. In recent years, with the rapid spread of social media, websites have been used by wineries to transfer information and communicate the territoriality of wine, and this phenomenon has been studied by several authors [25
]. Recent studies have shown that websites, as well as social media (e.g., Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) are now the most effective communication tools for companies, because they allow them to establish a direct relationship with wine lovers, to provide information, and to receive opinions [28
]. Wineries can promote and commercialize wines using content that illustrates the history of the company, and its production techniques, and can link the company brand name to the wine and the territory of origin (“brand-land”).
In addition, the development of the Internet has also revolutionized the wine-tourism sector and websites and social media are used more and more to provide information to wine tourists [31
], - people who like to travel along the “wine routes” and visit wineries and territories, learn about landscapes and cultures, and stop along the way at wineries, wine relais, chateaux, etc. for a few days [35
]. Wine tourism is an activity with strong emotional and hedonistic components that influence wine lovers’ satisfaction and choices [7
]. Additionally, sensory marketing has become crucial in driving consumer choices [4
] and several contributions have supported the concept of customer experience as a lever to create value for businesses and consumers [40
]. Wine has specific characteristics that make it an information system linked to experiential components that involve consumers cognitively and emotionally, through the symbolic, hedonistic, and esthetic nature of consumption [42
]. Moreover, some authors have demonstrated the importance of the uniqueness of the positive experience of a territory or particular events that take place only in certain tourist destinations [43
] in the choice of a food product and how important can be an evoked emotion as reaction to perception of a relevant stimulus and its implication in product/food choice [43
] emotion as a reaction to the perception of a relevant stimulus. The island of Pantelleria is a good example of the power of experiential components in travel destination choices. In fact, in the past decade, thanks to the extraordinary communicative power of its territory, Pantelleria island became a destination for elite tourism; this enhanced the value of this island and, at the same time, of the raisin wine that became the oenological symbol of Pantelleria [45
Nowadays, communication through websites plays an important role in experiential marketing activities, therefore, it appeared interesting to analyze the effectiveness of online communication for the wineries located in extreme regions, in order to provide new elements for enhancing the competitive advantage of wine producers located in these areas.
This work aims to observe how wine producers located in geographic areas where heroic viticulture is practiced, use web communication to communicate their heroic wines to consumers; moreover, the objective is to ascertain whether the types of communication used are effective for adding value to the wines of the territory. This study also has the aim to advance the conceptual foundations of the AGIL (i.e., Adaptation, Goal-attainment, Integration, Latent pattern maintenance) scheme, previously applied in a pilot recent study, strengthening the method, and providing a generalizable model that could be applicable to other similar studies. Finally, this study tries to gain a deeper insight on the effectiveness of communication of wineries located in extreme regions. In particular, this paper seeks to observe whether the wineries in the Mount Etna region are capable and aware of exploiting the “heroic” nature of viticulture practiced through the evocative and emotional potential that the territory has, communicating the adversities of the territory in a consistent and conscious way through their websites, in order to give added value to their wines.
In the present study, the communication adopted by wineries in Mount Etna region and in Pantelleria island was analyzed through the observation of their websites. Specifically, the analysis of these wineries’ websites was carried out to determine whether, and how, the peculiarities and the harshness of the territory were communicated effectively to wine lovers. The first comparison between two very extreme territories (i.e., Mount Etna and Pantelleria Island) was made in this study. From this comparison, it was possible to generate new ideas for reflection on the effectiveness of a new type of web communication, for wineries, that uses the power of communication of the extreme territory to add value to high quality wines, regardless of the brand. This could allow the repositioning of these wines as a unique symbol of extraordinary territories.
By comparing the results obtained for the two extreme territories, it is possible to observe some interesting differences between the communication of the Etna and the Pantelleria wineries.
and Figure 3
show the mean values calculated for the dimensions and indicators to carry out a comparative analysis between the communicative approach of websites, both for Etna’s and Pantelleria’s wineries.
In particular, if we observe the scores obtained for each dimension, it is possible to understand that wine producers in the Mount Etna territory, although showing interest in communicating their wines through the website, do not appear focused on communicating the elements of uniqueness, individuality, and distinctiveness that their heroic territory have. Contrarily, in Pantelleria, wine producers appear more aware and use the territory to communicate their wine.
More particularly, the mean values of each dimension and indicator are discussed in the following way. The dimension Adaptation (A) represents the high contingency of action and high symbolic complexity. This dimension measures the persuasive ability of the website, in this case, and its value is obtained by the evaluation of a group of qualitative variables (i.e., indicators), based on visual elements that link the company and the territory. In this case, the visual elements on each website were evaluated with reference to the perceived communication skill of the website to tell the extreme territory (for example using the vine terraces on the slopes of the two volcanic territories, the landscapes), and describe the characteristics of wines with reference to the territory in which they originated.
For the Etna territory, the mean value of the scores obtained by the Adaptation (A) dimension Figure 2
) was 3.30 (out of a maximum of 5), Pantelleria, instead, obtained a higher mean value (3.39). For interpreting and understanding the meaning of this result, it is important to notice that this characteristic of the website is strictly connected with the talent of web designer and with the participation of wine producers to the creation of their website, because the ease of access and browsing in the website depends on its low complexity or on the experience of the web designer. Moreover, interpreting the result obtained for the indicators (see Figure 3
), it is possible to highlight that the communication of symbolic elements related to the extreme territory and wines depends on the participation of producers in the choice of visual elements and, therefore, on the awareness of wine producers of what they want to communicate. In this case, despite the low complexity of websites for Pantelleria, the visual elements on wineries’ websites appeared more effective to communicate both the beauty of the landscape and the harshness of the territory, including the terraces on which the vines are grown. As far as the websites of the Etna wineries are concerned, it turned out that the visual elements present were only beautiful images of the volcano’s territory, but not focusing on the heroic viticulture practiced there and the link between wine and heroic viticulture. Moreover, despite the fact that the Adaption dimension of Etnean wineries received a score (mean value) higher than all the other dimensions, this result relates more to the high contingency of action rather than high symbolic complexity. More particularly, the score of this dimension, for Etnean wineries, depends on the “Quality of site design”; in fact, it was observed that most of the Etnean wineries’ websites were designed by web professionals. On the other hand, the lack of communication between producers and web experts may be the reason for the low effectiveness of this dimension compared to the Pantelleria wineries’ websites.
The Goal attainment (G) dimension expresses high symbolic complexity and low contingency of action. The sub-dimensions (see Table 2
) concern text-based information about the producer, the wines, and the production processes; moreover, information about events and activities related to the territory (tourism, nature, gastronomy, sports) through thematic areas of the websites. Finally, the ease of access and browsing was also an indicator. Results show that (see Figure 2
), the Etna wineries’ websites obtained lower scores (mean value equal to 3.03) than the Pantelleria ones (mean value 3.21), highlighting that, also in this dimension, the producers are more interested in communicating by the use of the website because all information provided, thematic areas and pictures of the territory were highly coherent and consistent with the territory of Pantelleria and the Passito wine. This type of information is very important for visitors, because it helps them to contextualize the wine within a territorial context and a social context, and it is very important and attractive for wine consumers and wine tourists as well, because these elements contribute to consolidate the emotional bond with the wine and the producer.
The Integration dimension (I) obtained an average score of 2.88 for Etna’s vs. 2.81 for Pantelleria’s wineries. This dimension expresses the minimum symbolic complexity and minimum contingency of action, and it assess the integration degree between visitors and the website. The indicators used to measure this dimension were: communication style, number of foreign languages used, chat rooms, forums, social networks, etc. Moreover, the focus groups observed the number of interactive actions and their contents. In this dimension, the elements evaluated were the style of communication, the availability of webpages in different languages, number and type of social networks displayed on the winery’s website, i.e., the presence (number) of links to chats with producers or to other websites or to social networks (e.g., Instagram, Facebook, etc.) It is clear that this dimension is affected by the company’s ability to open up the website to foreign internet users and to establish direct relations with consumers. The analysis, carried out by the focus groups, shows that only a few websites among the Etna’s wineries have webpages with translation in more than other two foreign languages apart from Italian, and none of Pantelleria’s webpages use another foreign language in addition to English (and Italian) language. This reflects in some deficiencies, from the internationalization point of view that is accentuated by the modest use of the most popular social networks.
Finally, the Latency dimension (L) is characterized by the minimum symbolic complexity and the maximum contingency of action, and it evaluates the identity profile of the website through the sub-dimensions related to sharing aspects. This dimension obtained an average score of 2.98 for Etna’s and 3.15 for the websites of wineries in Pantelleria, and it is conceptually based on the identity and originality of the website, as well as on the consistency between the text and the related images. This dimension also takes into account the structure of the website and the layout of each webpage. In this dimension, collaboration between the entrepreneur and the web designer during the creation of the website is very important. Specifically, the wine producer should work together with the web designer in order to highlight the concept of a “wine territory coherent with the products”. This concept should be easily decoded by the website’s visitors through images, text, and other communicative elements. The importance of this dimension is, therefore, to grab the user’s attention through the originality of the structure of the site, which is necessarily related to how the website may be identified uniquely among other similar websites. Only in this case would website visitors be able to recognize the producer and the wine by unique elements of the website. The Etna’s websites obtained good scores in this dimension, except for one indicator closely related to the coherence of communication (3.54). This indicator, however, appears to be more related to the ability to communicate using the evocative power of a territory.
As we said, in this study, the interest was to analyze the objective(s) of the visual representations, and specifically the ability of pictures and contents to recall the characteristics of heroic viticulture and communicate them to visitors through understandable representative contents. Therefore, a deeper analysis of each indicator was made.
By observing the mean values assigned to each indicator of the four dimensions, it is possible to highlight that, interestingly, the highest scores given to the dimensions, in the case of Pantelleria, are due to the scores given to the indicators that most express the uniqueness of the territory, the identity of belonging to it, and the consistency in the communicativeness of these symbolic values, i.e., the effectiveness of communication of a heroic viticulture in an extreme territory through the use of the communicative power of the territory itself, evoking it by the coherent use of images and contents linked to the wine.
Contrarily to Pantelleria’s wine producers, the communication of Etna wineries through websites appears to be more focused on other elements than to the heroic viticulture and extreme territory. More particularly, (A) “Quality of website design” (3.59 Etna vs. 3.10 Pantelleria); (G) “Quantity of information about the link with the territory” (3.17 Etna vs. 3.00 Pantelleria); and “Number of foreign languages used” (2.38 Etna vs. 1.72 Pantelleria) (see Figure 3
However, all the indicators related to the ability of the websites to communicate the heroic viticulture are higher for Pantelleria’s wineries. Specifically, these indicators are: (A) “quality characteristics of pictures of the territory” (3.40 Pantelleria vs. 2.49 Etna); (G) “quantity of information about touristic information and other activities linked with the territory (culture, wine and food activities, nature, sport, art, folklore, etc.)” (2.70 Pantelleria vs. 2.32 Etna); (G) “number of pictures evoking the extreme territory” (3.90 Pantelleria vs. 3.60 Etna); and (L) “coherence of communication (images, contents, texts, evocation of the territory)” (3.54 Pantelleria vs. 3.09 Etna). The selection of images to communicate the heroic nature of the viticulture practiced in the extreme territory would seem to be a skill of entrepreneurs than of website designers. Therefore, it will be interesting to know if there has been collaboration between entrepreneurs and web designers. The results of the discussions of the three focus groups on the criticalities that emerged, and their possible causes, can help answer this question.
With regard to the analysis of the communicativeness of each winery, the authors grouped the observed wineries’ websites in bands of scores with respect to the level of communicativeness. It was possible to observe that around 40% of the observed wineries received by the experts an evaluation that expressed “Excellent” or “Good” communicativeness (Table 4
, Table 5
and Table 6
). These wineries are aware of the added value that the terroir gives to their wines, and communicate through their websites the concept of heroic viticulture, succeeding in adequately transmitting to Internet users the difficulties in producing in extreme conditions and how this terroir is, along with the work of the producers, representative of a unique value of Etna CDO wines. It is interesting to observe that the wineries whose websites received the highest scores (“Excellent” communication) well known on the national, and international wine market. In addition, these wineries are in the territory of Mount Etna from decades and generations, and over time have grown, both in terms of production and sales. These companies, compared to the others, appeared more marketing-oriented than others and, therefore, their websites are more effective in conveying their values and the heroic territory, as the strength for the differentiation of their wines, and by doing so, they are more easily distinguishable by consumers. These wineries, in recent years, have also invested in the Etnean territory thanks to their increased notoriety, funding all types of communication, because these producers are aware of the importance of link between a wine and its terroir.
In summary, it is possible to observe that the power of the communicativeness of the territory is not effectively used to tell visitors the characteristics of the viticulture practiced in the extreme territory of the Mount Etna. The websites of wineries in the Mount Etna region are more complex than those in Pantelleria, and are structured to attract the immediate attention of visitors using specific website structuring, brand recognition, and interaction with users.
Contrarily, the websites of the wineries of Pantelleria have a greater amount of contents and information about the territory and its activities, and the pictures strongly evoke the island landscape and the heroic characteristics of viticulture practiced on the island linking them uniquely to the “Passito di Pantelleria” wine.
The analysis of the focus group results for the wineries in the Mount Etna revealed five main issues that apparently came out from free and deep discussion of experts’ opinions, with regard to the topics established in the question guide they followed during focus groups:
poor communication of the heroic nature of viticulture practiced in the territory,
lack of coordination between the entrepreneur and the designer of the website,
a lack of strong identifying elements that allow visitors to properly distinguish the winery from others, except through the brand name,
a lack of information on activities that affect the territory of origin,
limited use of foreign languages.
With regard to the wineries in Pantelleria, the issues highlighted by experts’ discussion were:
small dimension of firms and territory dedicated to wine production,
lack of funding for territorially coordinated communication activities,
limited use of foreign languages.
Overall, all focus groups agreed about the good standards of the observed websites, and the interest of wine producers in having a website with basic information about the winery and the wines produced.
About the effectiveness of communication applied by the websites, the results highlighted that only a low percentage of companies’ websites were evaluated as having little or no communication, with reference to heroic viticulture. A substantial percentage demonstrated paying sufficient attention to communication and information regarding the territory as a whole (culture, gastronomy, tourism, sports), although, considering the huge variety in the Etna territory, the information communicated in the wineries’ websites was limited with regard to the companies’ activities related to the promotion of the region and territorial integration. Such activities, however, have been shown to support a territory, adding value and creating notoriety, and linking it to typical food products on the basis of the “brand-land” union, which can, therefore, provide added value to companies and products, particularly to wines.
The results obtained show that the wineries of Mount Etna are less communicative than those of the island of Pantelleria. The reason could be the interest of producers in communicating their own brand rather than the evocative potential of the heroic viticulture practiced in that territory, possibly because they are not fully aware that this could be a competitive advantage to enhance the commercialization of their “Etna DOC” wines. However, the Etna wineries’ websites, despite their good structure, provide little information about the local context. On the contrary, because the dimension of wine firms in Pantelleria is very small (except one case), producers have generally less funds to finance web marketing (only two wineries assigned to web marketing agencies the task to design their websites–information resulting from the analysis of the website). Nevertheless, in Pantelleria, wine producers probably take a personal interest in the communicative characteristics of their websites and particularly in the communication of the extreme territory and the heroic viticulture. Therefore, in Pantelleria, wine producers “use the island” more than the brand-name to give to the passito wine uniqueness, and to attract wine lovers. The intensity of the emotions that the landscape can convey to visitors is evoked by tasting the wine produced in this extreme territory. In agreement with other authors, in this case, the territory and its product (the Passito di Pantelleria DOC wine) become a just “one” product [62
] for consumers and visitors/tourists. Similarly, the volcano, the landscape, and the difficulties of a heroic viticulture could and should be conveyed to add value and distinctness to the “Etna DOC” wines and increase consumers’ willingness to buy and pay for them. In fact, the presence of the volcano gives the area a unique perspective, which can be used to represent the key element of communication in wineries’ websites. This, especially in relation to sensory marketing, could add value to the wines Etna DOC [44
]. In fact, according to previous marketing studies on consumer preferences, the results highlight the importance of the different characteristics of wines in consumer choice; in particular, the results confirm the crucial role of marketers in highlighting the strongest and most attractive product attributes for the consumer in order to guide their purchasing behavior [66
]. In addition, according to eminent studies, consumers tend to reduce the risks of buying a complex product such as wine by relying on their direct experience [66
]. Therefore, an effective communication, appropriately conveyed by wineries through guided video visits in the winery or in the territory or other digital tools available today, through their websites, can contribute, on the one hand, to evoke previous experiences experienced by wine consumers as tourists/visitors of those extreme places/territories such as Pantelleria or the Etnean territory, and on the other hand, it can contribute to make the curious consumer live a complete, albeit virtual, experience [66
]. Finally, according to other previous studies on the consumer’s perceived quality of wines, also in this study it was observed that the quality rating of a winery is influenced by its terroir, and that in a wine region the qualitative level of the produced wines is higher if wineries focus on wines with territorial brands [3
]. Therefore, one of the most relevant findings of this study is the high importance for the extreme wine territories of enhancing autochthonous products as “territorial brands” - in this case the Passito di Pantelleria DOC wine for Pantelleria and the Etna DOC wines for the Etna wineries -, i.e. brands that identify and represent a territory.
The results of this study can provide valuable support to guide companies’ communication in all areas where heroic viticulture is practiced, allowing them to gain a competitive advantage.
Although the potential of the web as a relational tool is now well known and widely used for marketing purposes, the wineries of the Mount Etna region demonstrate only a modest ability to use this tool to transmit to potential consumers the communicative power of their territory, which is distinguished throughout the world and recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Most wineries in Pantelleria rely on the territory as an essential element of communication, probably because producers are aware that the powerful beauty of this island and its landscapes are very attractive to consumers/visitors and tourists, and that these elements are the only strength of the territory.
Despite the difficulties that the territory imposes, both in the field and in the winery, and which strongly affect the wine uniqueness, producers of the “Etna Rosso DOC” wine do not exploit the combination of wine-vine-territory-Etna, but they always exclusively combine the wine with their brand. Therefore, their websites should improve their symbolic complexity by using images related to the characteristics of the extreme territory.
Therefore, the results show that the Etnean companies, unlike those in Pantelleria, do not exploit the potential of the territory to promote the heroicness of their viticulture.
The producers in the Mount Etna and in the Pantelleria island can contribute to the sustainable development of the economy of the area, taking full advantage of the opportunities offered by agricultural policy and its financial contribution to heroic viticulture.
Moreover, the controlled denomination of origin (CDO) certification, can help to maximize the benefits of the heroic territory through the enhancement of their wines and in synergy with other economic activities, such as cultural tourism, environmental awareness, and food and wine production, only if a good communication is applied.
In summary, the AGIL scheme can be considered as a valid tool to measure the effectiveness of communication trough the websites; moreover, this methodology that combines it with focus groups appears robust and can be applied to other similar studies to have more insight on communication strategies of wineries in other extreme territories, or where quality wine and territory are strictly connected.