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.