Friday, August 7, 2015

How important is the importer?

The subject has come up in our wine classes time and again. Sometimes by the instructor or one of our staff members but more often than not it is just a simple question from a student attending the event.

"How important is the importer to the quality of wine I am purchasing?"

A very simple question with a long and convoluted answer. I am going to give it my best shot at making it as simple an answer as I can...

First, Many vineyards produce great wines. In great vintages, when everything goes right and the is good quality and abundant fruit, the challenge is not to screw it up. Sometimes that is harder than it seems. Usually it works out and we get lots of great choices. Tuscany 2010 has been like that and no matter where you turn for a 2010 Brunello it is going to be hard to make a mistake. In this case I recommend trying multiple labels and be damned the importer. It is just that good a vintage!

That is one side of the coin...

Now lets get in to the importer.

Good importers have long standing relationships with their vineyards and the ones that do it best seek out producers that are passionate about their wines and work to make up for some of mother natures short falls in lesser vintages and have the fortitude to sell off fruit or "drop fruit" in order to keep their own standards. A good importer has respect for this passion and isn't trying to meet last years numbers. They are trying to bring the best of what is available that has their name on it to market.

Lets look at a favorite importer of ours from Italy. VIAS Imports works with the likes of Dal Forno, Produtorri, Damilano, Camigliano, Salvioni, and on and on...
Theirs is an impressive portfolio of carefully selected producers that are making some of Italy's best wines. If you are in a shop somewhere and you aren't sure which bottle to choose, flip it over and look at the back label for the importer. If you are in the Italian section and it has the VIAS name on it, choose that one. More times than not it will be the right choice.

Another name that makes sense for us wine geeks is Kermit Lynch. Once just a small retail shop owner with discerning tastes and a passion for balanced and esoteric wines, He has made a name for himself both in France and Italy and is a very careful importer with a lot to say about the way wines are produced for him. As the world gets back to traditional wine making and away from big overblown wines, he continues to chart his steady course of balance. All of the vineyards that he works with are small, organic (Not always certified but using the practices), and willing to work with his ideas of low alcohol, and un-manipulated wines that show terrior and varietal to its best ability. If you are looking for wines that fall into that genre, ask for a wine from this importer.

Neil Rosenthal has made quite a name for himself and his portfolio through the years by doing some very similar things. Selecting great producers. Keeping relationships in tact and placing his wines in good shops. With names like Crochet, Peyrassol, Jean-Marc Pillot, La Manarine, Monpertuis and many, many more in France, and other counties to a lesser degree. He has earned a reputation for great quality wine when his name is attached. Once again, if you are in the French section of a store and you are unsure of what to choose, flip the bottle over and look for the importer name. If it has then name of one of these people on it, buy it.

I said that I would try to keep the answer as direct as possible so I will stop there. When you are shopping in the wine section of our store, get the attention of one of our staff and ask them what they suggest. When we make our recommendation to you it will have consideration for what you are looking for, Country, Varietal, Vintage, and is also very often a selection that is being offered because of the importer and our confidence in them.


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