For those on the buying side of a tasting table, how often do you stop and think why it is that particular producer has given up half their week to fly to the UK to show you their wines? Yes, you might think you’re worth it, but for the winemakers and wineries they too need to be sure they are going to be able to show their wines to key buyers. Here we ask Astrum Cellars and two of its producers, Serafini & Vidotto and Francesco Rinaldi, why it is they are so keen to support next month’s Il Collettivo specialist Italian wine tasting event.
The Italian producers attending March 7th’s The Il Collettivo tasting will find many of their colleagues with a similar mission to promote and showcase the best of off beat and independent Italian.
Il Collettivo really does live up to its billing. It’s a collective of Italian winemakers and producers all looking to share their wines with the premium on-trade. It’s also a collective of specialist wine importers with the foresight to put their day to day competition to one side, and join forces for, well, the collective good. Now into its second year, Il Collettivo, is as much a showcase of what its organisers, Swig, Flint Wines, FortyFive10°, Sommelier’s Choice, and Astrum Wine Cellars, can all do as importers as well as celebrate their Italian wines.
As we build up to the show The Buyer continues its behind the scenes look at what buyers can expect at the event by talking to Bruno Besa, managing director of Astrum Cellars, about what he hopes the tasting can achieve. We also invite two of the producers it imports, Serafini & Vidotto and Francesco Rinaldi & Figli, to share their thoughts on what is happening in Italy and what sort of wines they will be showing at the tasting.
Clearly the one thing that unites all three is Italy and its wines. But for Besa it is also a “passion for the quality and diversity of Italian wines” that really drives its range and the producers it works with.
“Tastings such as these are an excellent opportunity to taste a unique range of wines from specialist importers showcasing the lesser known and smaller growers,” he explains. But by bringing the portfolios of five leading specialist importers it creates a real focus on quality Italian wines for busy wine buyers and sommeliers, he adds.
Astrum will be placing a major focus on Barolo and Barbaresco, like with its wines from Francesco Rinaldi.
“These wines are in the limelight at the moment,” he says. “They produce world class wines from the venerable Nebbiolo grape. But we will also be showcasing many lesser known indigenous grape varieties which is always of interest to people. As well as having Ian D’Agata hosting two masterclasses on the subject.”
Besa says it is having particular success with its Italian wines priced between £10 to £20 DPD. “But some classic Italian regions, like Amarone, Barolo and Brunello, happily sit at much higher prices.”
He adds: “There is definitely a less relaxed atmosphere after the Brexit vote and we can definitely see a lot of restaurants struggling (especially in central London), with quite a number of closures in recent months. But their certainly have been highs too. We have been thoroughly enjoying the further expansion of our bar portfolio, having taken on a couple of fantastic new producers and adding a number of new products that have already been making waves in the UK bar scene. Also we are hugely proud to have seen the progression of some of the wineries who we have been working with for many years; gaining outstanding reviews and top awards for wines we always new had the potential to do so.”
With less wines to buy from the poor 2017 Italian harvest there is going to be a greater challenge for importers to find all the wines they want at the right price, particularly as exchange rate is also against UK buyers. “You have to try your best not to compromise on quality, as prices are pushed higher,” he adds.
“We believe the biggest opportunities lie in quality, high end wines and in quality, artisan spirits.”
To sell those kind of wines you need the time, space and the right environment, says Piera Rinaldi, owner of Francesco Rinaldi. Which is why she is already a big fan of the Il Collettivo tasting.
“We have chosen to take part in this tasting rather than a larger, more traditional event because it is much more worthwhile building a personal rapport with clients in a more intimate setting,” she explains. “The atmosphere is much calmer at this sort of tasting, compared with the organised frenzy at the large scale events –
It’s also why it is happy working with Astrum Cellars. “We believe they have successfully shared our philosophy and production methods.”
Il Collettivo is another opportunity to share its story. “Historically, the US has been our biggest market. However, although much smaller, we find the UK is incredibly diverse and interesting,” adds Rinaldi.
She is also realistic and realises the UK market is also very competitive, particularly on price. “With regards to price, we are very conscious, particularly with Barolo, of the quality/price balance. It is always our aim to produce wines of the highest quality at reasonable prices,” she says.
Serafini & Vidotto
Barbara Stramare, export manager for Serafini & Vidotto, agrees with Rinaldi that the Il Collettivo tasting sets the right tone for a serious, but interesting wine event: “These types of tastings are very important to us because we have the chance to talk to sommeliers and buyers in an intimate setting, about our winery and wines whilst they taste the result of all our efforts. We believe that our wines need to be tasted at tastings like this that attract the audience we feel can really appreciate our wines.
“We also find these types of tastings are more focused and therefore the tasters attending are also more focused. Having more than one importer involved also offers the audience a broader opportunity for comparison of a more specific subject.”
She is also pleased to have another chance to talk to UK buyers. “The UK is a very important market to us, there are a lot of wine enthusiasts that we feel can appreciate our wines. We hope to show quality production and convey our quality orientated philosophy. The standard of sommeliers and wine buyers in the UK is also incredibly high and the consumers, in turn, have a fantastic regard for quality wine. We are producing complex wines and we believe the UK consumers have the experienced palates needed for such wines.”
As to why his wines would stand out against others, she says: “Because they are great wines – isn’t that a good enough reason? We believe in quality led production and respect for the land we are working in, therefore we do all we can do to achieve the highest results whilst caring for our environment at the same time.
“Our wines are mid priced which seems to work well in the UK because consumers here are willing to pay the extra for quality wine.”
- To read more about the Il Collettivo tasting and to register go its dedicated website here.