• Swig’s Damian Quinlan: off-beat Italy has so much to offer

    With so many regions, sub-regions, districts, zones, never mind grape varieties to get your head around then Italy can be a bit baffling to the part-time buyer, never mind the professional wine trade. The Il Colletivo tasting in March is the combined attempt of a handful of specialist wine importers to help shine or a more specific light on Italy, or, in particular, the more off-beat, hidden away parts of the country that are ideal for the premium on-trade. Damian Quinlan from Swig kicks off our series looking at what to expect at the event with his take on the best of Italy.

    With so many regions, sub-regions, districts, zones, never mind grape varieties to get your head around then Italy can be a bit baffling to the part-time buyer, never mind the professional wine trade. The Il Colletivo tasting in March is the combined attempt of a handful of specialist wine importers to help shine or a more specific light on Italy, or, in particular, the more off-beat, hidden away parts of the country that are ideal for the premium on-trade. Damian Quinlan from Swig kicks off our series looking at what to expect at the event with his take on the best of Italy.

    mm By January 25, 2018

    Left to their own devices the average customer will stick to tried and tested Chiantis and Montepulcianos when ordering Italian wine. But with so  many different styles of wines from exciting, dynamic old and new producers there is so much more to offer them. Which is what the second Il Colletivo Italian wine tasting in London on March 7 hopes to prove.

    The scene at last year's inaugural Il Colletivo tasting
    The scene at last year’s inaugural Il Colletivo tasting

    If you are looking to give your Italian part of your wine list a bit of a kick up the proverbials then put March 7 in your diary. For you will have the chance to taste over 300 wines, and talk to some 30 wine producers who are planning to come over and take part in Il Colletivo, which promises to  “showcase the exciting and progressive wines being produced across Italy”.

    It’s all the work of five leading independent wine specialists and is the latest in a series of dynamic, fresh tastings where semi-competing wine importers are willing to put their daily struggles aside and combine their skills, their wine buying talents and their ranges to create a tasting that when all put together makes for a compelling offer for sommeliers and on-trade wine buyers alike.

    The five importers involved are: Swig, Flint Wines, FortyFive10°, Sommelier’s Choice, and Astrum Wine Cellars. Over the coming weeks they will be sharing their insights on what to buy from Italy along with some of the producers they are working with.

    First up is Swig’s Damian Quinlan

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    This is the second Il Colletivo tasting. Clearly the first one must have gone well enough to convince you to do it again. What can we expect this time round? 

    The first event was great and it was brilliant to be able to bring so many unique and interesting producers together in this way, and in one space. It is also a great opportunity to really showcase what this incredible country can do. This year you can see more of a focus on indigenous varietals, highlighting the real individuality and breadth of Italy.

    You are once again working with competing suppliers to put on this tasting. What brings you together again? 

    By joining forces with some of the most quality focused and dedicated importers in the UK I’m convinced that we are better able to collectively showcase the good and the great of Italy. Rather than  just put on an event that just highlights our wines in isolation. 

    What has been the feedback from buyers/sommeliers about doing combined tastings in this way?

    It makes so much sense…Buyers and sommeliers never have enough time, so if you can offer the opportunity to taste 300+ wines from five interesting, quality focused agents, they can achieve a lot in half a day. They also get the chance to focus not just on the better known regions, but to look outside the box to lesser known regions and varietals.

    Swig is importing a number of wines from the emerging region of Campania
    Swig is importing a number of wines from the emerging region of Campania

    What particular regions./styles do you think will be particularly interesting at this year’s tasting?

    I would certainly pick out the masterclasses by Ian d’Agata that will be running throughout the day. These have been designed to specifically showcase what sort of wines are being produced using indigenous varietals and should be fascinating. (The masterclasses take place at 10.30am – 11.15am and 3.30pm – 4.15 pm and will be on a first registered basis, so book your places by clicking here.)

    What sort of price points and styles do you think are working best in the premium on-trade?

    Italy offers a huge amount in the £10-£15 dpd that can very happily sit on any good list by the glass. The rich history of food and wine in Italy means you can find a wine to match just about anything. From anywhere!

    Any personal advice on how you think sommeliers can make more of their Italian wine lists? 

    Look to some of the ever increasing band of smaller, artisanal producers and get involved with the lesser known indigenous varietals.

    Swig also has some undiscovered gems from Piemonte
    Swig also has some undiscovered gems from Piemonte

    How was 2017 for you as a business overall? 

    We had a terrific 2017. I assume that our challenges were much the same as everyone else but hopefully, being relatively small still, we’re better equipped than to some to adapt quickly.

    How do you see the year ahead developing? Outside of Italy, where are the growth areas? 

    We soldier on…One noticeable goal is to increase our range of agencies from regions where we’ve been relatively quiet up until now. But we are also confident in the range we have. If everyone in the premium on-trade buys from Swig then they’ll be set for success!

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