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Stories from VINO 2011

It’s Day Two back home, away from VINO 2011, also known as Italian Wine Week and the amazing blizzard of Snowcopalypse 2011 that turned New York City into a winter wonderland and La Guardia Airport into a near-deserted ghost town.
Actually, it wasn’t all bad, since this country boy thought all that snow muffled much of the incessant noise of NYC and softened all the angles, making the architecture and the shapes stand out against the big city background.
The Italian Trade Commission did a great job of seminars, trade discussions and tasting opportunities during the four-day fest, which I attended as a guest of the ITC. A working guest, that is, spending countless hours (well, i could count them, I suppose, if I really wanted to remember all of them) getting to know Italian winemakers large and small.
So many stories to tell, so few words. I ran each day into winemakers who took one look at my badge (“journalist” it reads, taking some liberties for a guy who’s nothing more than a reporter) and immediately started badgering quizzing me about finding them an importer. I really couldn’t help them, although I also spent hours badgering quizzing importers about what they were looking for in the way of new wineries and wines.
I mentioned this on the second morning to blogger extraordinaire Alfonso Cevola and he mentioned he had written about that very topic just before arriving in NYC. So I read his well-considered and finely balanced advice and went out to tell those winemakers they, too, should heed Alfonso’s words.
He’s right, you know. I also know Strappo (see the comments at the bottom of the “How to sell…” blog) makes a good argument, and to a certain point I heard similar comments from other small importers. But listen: Ace is right when he says there’s more than just having a lovely wine and the desire to tap the American pocketbook.
I tried some fantastic wines, whites that were light and fruity and sharp with plenty of acid to balance the palate and intense red wines with brooding depth and heft and heavyweight knockouts.
“Quanto di questo si fa a fare? (That’s supposed to mean ‘How much of this do you make?’ ” but my Italian sucks, I know.
“Umm, circa 18,000.”
“Cases?”
“No, bottiglie.”
Ugh.
Talking to a small importer (meaning not Republic National or Glazer’s), I asked if he would take a delightful vermentino from a family-operated winery.
“Yeah, but I already got one vermentino, I don’t need two …”
How do you tell a delightful young couple to go back home to Italy and build their fortune there?
“… unless you are willing to sacrifice your first born to come to America, to become an American and work and live and make it happen, don’t dream any further.” Those are Cevola’s words, and he speaks with experience.
I can only hope those were snowflakes melting on their cheeks and not the tears of disappointment.

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