Samples of vino rosso & bianco from Calabria on the way!!!

One good things about importing the wines of Calabria into Australia is that there are so many good producers that do not have importers with Australia. This is in contrast to the North where many of the regions best producers secured an Australian importer twenty five years ago.

I have some samples of Greco and Gaglioppo from a producer which champions indigenous varieties and is based only in Calabria. The wines have received frantastic reviews so lets hope I like them!!

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Traversa: traditional wines and business done the old way…

Last year at Vinitaly, one of our goals was to find the ‘Benevelli’ of Barbaresco. What I mean by that, is a Barbaresco producer that made awesome wines at great prices and most importantly, is family owned and had values that we all shared. Much like our Barolo producer Piero Benevelli.

Whilst Mondo Imports represents the wines of Piero Benevelli from Monforte, Barolo in Australia, for me this is not a business relationship: they are family. Within a space of a few short years of meeting Massimo and Denise Benevelli and selling their wines in Australia, his family and my whole family now see each other as the same. Every second year I visit Massimo and spend a week hanging out with his family in Monforte, Barolo. This Massimo returned the favour and made the trek down under to complete the 2011 harvest with my family at our winery in the Yarra Valley. This is how it should be.

Speak to some of the best importers of Italian wines into Australia, like Trembath and Taylor, and they will tell you that most of the best selling wineries in their portfolio have been with them for twenty plus years (wineries like Speri and Pieropan). They will also tell you that they do not have a business relationship with these producers anymore, it is a relationship more akin to that of family.

However, Italy is changing. Sadly for me, too many wineries in Italy employ ‘export managers’ who only care about how many cases they can sell regardless of how and to who they sell it to. This makes dealing with these wineries, no matter how good the wines are; tough work. I would argue that whilst we also deal with some fantastic ‘export managers’ like Elisa from Passopisciaro that I deal with, they are few and far between.

This year, my brother Stefano and myself had Barbaresco on our mind. After day of tasting and talking to so many Barbaresco producer, we finally met Flavio from Traversa, and there was an instant connection. You could see the care and love of what he has for life mirrored in Flavio’s wines. Straight away Flavio informed Stefano and myself that he did not judge an importer by how many cases they could sell for him. If we were honorable people and only sold 10 cases of Traversa a year he would be happy. If he did not like or trust the way you sold his wines (even if you sold 1000 cases a year) he would have no hesitation in cutting ties.

These are the sort of producers (like Luca Roagna, Piero Benevelli, Passopisciaro and Pipoli, etc) that you love to represent. In our early days this was not the case. Some of our producers in our portfolio (now thankfully long gone) did not care what you sold the previous year or how you sold it, as long as you doubled sales the next year. Today, when we come across producers like this, we happily walk away.

Back to Traversa and the wines. Whilst we loved the wines at Vinitaly it was no small feat in getting them to Australia. Flavio refuses to do business by email. He prefers fax and phone. Imagine trying to organise back labels and Mondo Images via fax? Not the easiest way to do business!!

However in saying that, I respect Flavio for the way he does business. For him it is logical and whilst it takes a touch longer to get his wines to Australia, they are well worth the effort. Within three weeks of the wines landing in Australia, the 1800 bottles that we ordered initially are nearly all gone with some of the best restaurants and wine bars now selling Traversa Nebbiolo, Arnies, Brachetto, Barbera and Barbaresco by the glass. Flavio would be proud.

And it is so nice to actually pick up the phone and tell Flavio. Not some export manager who without a blink of an eye, asks if that means that we will double our next order.

Long live Flavio and the way he does business…..

#realitalianbeer and why it should always be the case….

It is like asking to go to Venice in Italy and instead been flown to the Venetian in Las Vegas. It is not the same.

Below is an article I wrote for  #brewedunderlicencefreemarch movement which we started to raise the issue of #brewedunderlicence beers in Australia. The movement worked in highlighting just how many ‘imported beers’ were actually brewed in Australia.

This was my take on it:

Being of Italian heritage, I love all things Italian. I ride a Vespa which I restored from Italy. I drink wine made in Italy, and importantly I like to drink beer brewed in Italy. I also love drinking Australian wines, German Riesling and so on. So much to my dismay, a few weeks ago, I ordered my favourite beer in the world, a Peroni from an Italian restaurant wanting to start the evening off on a good note. However when I tried the Peroni it tasted different. More like drinking a Crown Lager than the Peroni I have come to love.

Bizarre! How can a Peroni made and brewed in Italy taste like Crown Lager? Well after examining the bottle, it was revealed that this had been brewed under licence by Coca Cola! What shocked me is that I had no idea that my favourite beer in the world, is now made in Australia!! I felt cheated, like I had caught my wife in bed with another man!!

I posted this on twitter and much to my surprise over the space of a few days, fellow Peroni lovers had also been caught unaware by buying what they thought was the genuine Peroni brewed in Italy but had been given an Australian equivalent that tasted to us, Peroni lovers, as something totally different from the original. We started the hash tag #realperoni on twitter for fellow Peroni lovers and the response has been phenomenal. In the space of a few short weeks, people had been going to restaurants and wine stores and asking first where the Peroni was brewed before buying it. If they were told it was imported and the ‘brewedunderlicence’ Peroni was served, they were sending it back.

The aim of the movement is not only to encourage people to buy and drink imported beer from the country it originated from but also educate people who might be thinking they are drinking Peroni from Italy, Becks from Germany but have been given these beers brewed in Australia. Why is this big deal? Well they taste different. They are not the same product, it is different. It is like asking to go to Venice in Italy and instead been flown to the Venetian in Las Vegas. It is not the same.

If I want to buy Peroni, I want Peroni. Not a beer brewed in Australia, using Australian water.

It is easy to check if your imported beer is made in Australia. Beers under licence in Australia have an Australian barcode which signifies that it is Australian made. So the Australian Peroni has a barcode that starts with 93. The genuine Peroni has a barcode starting with 80 which signifies it has been brewed in Italy. The back label should also mention if the beer has been brewed under licence in Australia or made in the correct country of origin.

#brewedunderlicencefreemarch is about drinking your imported beer of choice, from the country which it has originated from. So Kirin from Japan, Stella from Belgium, Becks from Germany and most importantly Peroni from Italy.

From our #brewedunderlicencefreemarch movement, Max Allen took it one step further and wrote a brilliant piece in the Weekend Australian Magazine highlighting this issue nationally.

Click on the link below to read the article and his own taste test:

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/executive-lifestyle/the-real-thing/story-fn845mx8-1226006911607

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/local-v-imported-the-taste-test/story-e6frg8h6-1226006934415

And now?

Now nearly every decent restaurant in Melbourne is serving #realitalianbeer made from the country it originated from. It gives me great satisfaction to actually be able to go to Cafe Di Stasio, Il Bacaro or Grossi Florentino now and order a Nastro Azzurro brewed in Italy. Twelve months ago this probably wasn’t the case. Furthermore, these iconic restaurants were not even told that it had changed from being brewed in Italy to brewed under license in Australia. How bad is that?!!!

The next step for me will be to get the packaging cleared up for beers that are brewed under licence in Australia. If the beer is made and brewed in Australia? Why is all the details on the front label in Italian? It is not Italian. I will save that for next years #brewedunderlicencefreemarch ……

Vintage 2011 Next Generation Wog Council (NGWC) matched with #realperoni….

Making my own salami with a group of mates is so very satisfying. Even more satisfying is the first taste test and thankfully I can say that this years 2011 vintage batch is the best yet. These salami’s are amazing. Fresh, moist, with the perfect amount of chilli and the flavours just linger in your mouth. I couldn’t be more proud.

And the perfect match for such a perfect Italian salami? #realperoni of course!!

For those not from Australia, we have been subjected to having to drink Nastro Azzurro that is actually not from Italy. The Australian brewed Nastro (labelled Peroni here) tastes nothing like it should. I have been very passionate about this and have taken a stand which has had a great effect in educating people on the differences (as it is hard to spot the difference if you do not know what to look for) between beers brewed in their country of origin compared to those brewed under licence in Australia. I have actively sought and imported #realitalian beer in Australia and whilst financially it is not the smartest decisions one could make, I am proud of the fact that if I want to drink Nastro (or Moretti, Messina, etc) then it should actually be from Italy.

More on this on my next blog post.

Some amazing old Barolo’s & Barbaresco’s lined up for a dinner next year…..

It is not everyday that you drink 1941 and 1952 Giacomo Conterno Monfortino, but next year I will be hosting one of the greatest collections of old Barolo and Barbaresco served in one sitting in Australia. More details will come out later in the year but my mouth is already watering…

As with all wines, the biggest issue is the cork. If half the wines live up to their reputation it will be an amazing night. For dessert we will be finishing with a 1974 3lt Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco.

The dinner will be held at Scopri and I can’t think of a better restaurant in Melbourne to feature such amazing wines.

Dogliani: the serious side of Dolcetto…

Land of vineyards, woods, cultivated fields and ancient farmsteads.
Its roads travelled by stubborn and determined, wise and visionary men and women.
This is Dogliani, a frontier, where the respect for time and the love of place have made these valleys unique.

There are a number of wines from Piemonte that whilst popular, have been allocated to the ‘not to serious pile’. Dolcetto is top of the tree in this regard with most of the wine world knowing this grape variety as the ‘perfect lunchtime wine’.

Dolcetto has long been considered a lunchtime wine, but is it? Spare a thought for those folks in Dogliani who have been making serious ageworthy Dolcetto for a long long time.

So what does this mean? That we are happy to drink this wine at lunch and not at dinner? Whilst like most varieties, there is a lot of bad Dolcetto out there, Dolcetto also has a serious side to it. In time I hope Dolcetto is seen in a different, more serious not. It deserves to be.

Recently, Dolcetto has started the process of being recognised as a serious wine style and all of this work has been from the Dolcetto producers of Dogliani.

Our Dolcetto is the result of the values we believe in.

At Dogliani we dream that is possible to follow the ancient art of wine-growing in a land that still speaks of rural countryside. Here, our vineyards exist in harmony with the rest of our farming culture, sharing the land with hazelnut groves, fields of grains and cereals, pastures, and the woods that are home to wild hares, boars, deer, as well as our extraordinary truffles.

At Dogliani we dream that those who make wine are still able to listen to their craft, fruit of the traditions impressed upon their souls and upon the work of their hands. At Dogliani we dream that our wines can express, with elegance, all of those Piedmontese values that we hold dear: sobriety, determination, truth and that freedom that allows us to firmly believe in an identity decidedly out of fashion. At Dogliani we dream that there is a world out there still able to hear and appreciate these simple, age-old values on which agricultural life and society have always been founded; values that are the true bridge to the future.

It’s true, at Dogliani we are dreamers, but – with our feet firmly planted in the clouds.  La Bottega del Dolcetto

The La Bottega del Dolcetto di Dogliani website http://www.ildogliani.it is a fantastic reference point for all things Dogliani and should be your first starting point in learning about how good Dolcetto can be. Two years ago I visited Dogliani and fell in love with the wines that I tried. It made me believe that Dolcetto could be serious. The wines I tried were grown up, sophisticated and complex. The exact opposite to what I thought Dolcetto was.

However, even though I came back with a new found understanding of Dolcetto, I still did not believe that Dolcetto could be taken seriously and that there was a market for it in Australia. Youthful ignorance on my part.

Fast forward two years and our first shipment of DOCG Dolcetto di Dogliani has just landed on our shores and I am glad we took the final step and brought these wines into Australia. Already they have found a market willing to embrace the serious side of Dolcetto.

The road to DOCG (as flawed a domination that it is) was a long, steep and windy road for the producers of Dogliani. This is something that is not granted overnight: it takes a decade of vintages to prove that the wines justify the classification.

OBTAINING DOCG: DOGLIANI’S COURSE

To obtain DOCG status a wine must demonstrate its superior prestige over a period of at least 10 years, during which it is produced and bottled. At the end of this time, a national governing board must decide whether to accept its candidacy or not. To substantiate its request, Dogliani presented ten vintages of Dolcetto di Dogliani Superiore together with a group of DOC wines that had a more incisive and particular character as compared to Dolcettos conceived as easy and early-drinking wines. The bottles were tasted by a special commission and, after a waiting period, the DOCG status was conferred on Dolcetto di Dogliani. http://www.ildogliani.it

For me the best examples of Dolcetto from Dogliani take on a almost Barolo like structure with beautiful complex fruit matched with some pretty serious tannins. This structure and tannins sets Dolcetto di Dogliani apart from the rest of the the Langhe.

What makes Dolcetto from Dogliani different from the rest of Piemonte?

This is La Bottega del Dolcetto di Dogliani (the association of producers of the Dolcetto di Dogliani) take on it:

The Climate

CLIMATE

Dolcetto, demanding as it is in everything else, also prefers a certain climate. This grape does not cope well with extreme heat or cold, both of which can halt or slow the ripening process. Nor does it appreciate overly dry weather. A good supply of water is essential and it prospers and grows best in ventilated, open hills in the vicinity of higher mountains.

Sunshine and rain, changes in temperature, wind patterns and air currents, alternating day in and day out, an unexpectedly cold night, all constitute a very subtle language that requires of the winegrower an experienced ear, a language that the grape vine is able to interpret immediately. Climate is one of the three fundamental elements that, together with the geology of the terrain and man’s intervention, define terroir. Unlike other zones, where the character of each vintage is not so distinct, here the combinations of temperature, sunlight, and precipitation are almost infinite, and determine the constant divergences that we find in the wines. Climate, almost impossible to predict, far easier to assess in retropspect.

The Soil

IL TERRENO

Looking out on the tidy rows of vines, rhythmically following one upon the other, we see only the above-ground vine stock, the shoot system which grows upwards, reaching for the sky. But in reality, much of the plant’s vital existence is underground. Far from being just a simple, inanimate support, the earth, in the composition of its soil, the quality of its minerals, its capacity to heat and cool itself, and its wealth of micro-organisms, defines the place where the vine sinks its roots, often metres deep, and determines its character in great part. Dolcetto, sensitive as it is to every element that affects its existence, is even more so where soil is involved. There are very few areas where this grape manages to find its equilibrium, and many, on the other hand, where just a few weeks before ripening fully, the berries fall off the vine due to an excess of humidity, or soil compaction.
In sandy soil, Dolcetto will germinate early, thanks to the warming of its roots, but will also feel more strongly the earth’s cooling, caused by spring or late summer rains, than it would in other soil types. In silty-clayey soil, the thin layer of earth causes the interruption of vine dormancy to occur more gradually, but also slows down the roots’ reaction to adverse climatic conditions. Dogliani is fortunate in having soil types with a special aptitude and affinity for growing Dolcetto.

What does the future lie for Dolcetto di Dogliani?

Considering how far Dolcetto has progressed in the last decade, it would be fair to say that the future looks rosy for Dolcetto di Dogliani. Increased exposure has been crucial for people to see the serious side of Dolcetto. It can be complex. It can be serious, and it can age long term.

When buying your next bottle of wine from a restaurant wine list or wine store, look out for Dolcetto di Dogliani. It may not be easy to track down, but it is definitely worth the effort.

My pet hate: great BYO restaurants and cheap plonk…

Let’s be honest, in regards to the food and wine industry, running a restaurant would be the hardest gig. It takes a brave individual to take the plunge and open a restaurant. When you consider the hours, pressure on family time and ultimately, the end profit, it makes running a successful restaurant as easy as walking across a tight rope in Port Melbourne (ie damn near impossible).

Then to take it one step further, one of the main ways restaurants can actually make some money to pay wages, rent, etc is by selling wine. There is not much money to be made in food. Some restaurants sacrifice profit for the love of their customers and allow individuals to Bring their Own Wine to be enjoyed in a restaurant. This is a gutsy move and not many restuarants can pull it off long term.

If I wanted to run a successful restaurant, the temptation NOT to offer BYO would be pretty strong. As a business decision, it is CRAZY to offer BYO. However, I am glad that there are some restaurants that offer the privilege of being able to bring your own bottle to their restaurant.

Hence, we should not abuse this privilege that BYO restautants offer. I am not talking about your cheap Chinese suburbian BYO restaurant nor local Pizzeria that gives you tumblers to drink your wine out of. I am talking about those fine dining restuarants that go the extra yard with food, service and good glassware. By allowing BYO it means that you can bring that special bottle to be drunk with food you can not simply cook at home.

In the UK, there is actually a ‘BYO Wine Club’ that has been set up as a business (click here to read more http://www.decanter.com/news/wine-news/483384/byo-wine-club-debuts-in-uk-restaurants ) and whilst I do not agree with everything, it is interesting to read their ‘Club Rules’:

Do not bring an open bottle of wine unless agreed with the restaurant in advance.

Do not bring homemade wine or boxed wine. Only commercially made wine in a sealed bottle is permitted.

Do not bring beer, cider, alcopops or spirits. Only wine and champagne are permitted.

Do not ask restaurants to allow BYO on non-Club days or times — they don’t like that.

Do not nip out to the off license during your meal to purchase more wine — it’s just bad form.

BYO Etiquette

While not steadfast rules, the following guidelines reflect proper BYO etiquette.  Please bear them in mind when visiting participating restaurants:

Endeavour to bring wines on par with at least some of the wines on the restaurant’s own list. If you feel the need to bring a truly inexpensive bottle, it’s best to do so at a comparably inexpensive restaurant.

Whenever possible, try to avoid bringing the same wine that is on the restaurant’s list.

We encourage you to peruse the wine list whilst at participating restaurants. Owners and managers have spent a lot of time and effort putting them together and you might find some hidden gems that you want to try should you return on a non-Club day.

Consider offering the sommelier a taste of your wine — it’s just a nice thing to do.

 

 

Quality restaurants in Melbourne that allow BYO (places like Matteo’s, Scopri, Mister Bianco, France-Soir, etc) don’t do this so you can enjoy a bottle of Yellowtail or Brown Brothers Moscato with your meal. Please don’t abuse the privilege: bring a bottle that justifies their BYO offer.