There are times when writing about the latest wine tasting makes you wonder if you have morphed in to an old school NME music journalist writing about the latest new wave, off-beat, funky, dangerous, dynamic, independent combo that has a new album out. At least that is when we are talking about the latest combined tasting put together by independent wine importers like next month’s Il Colletivo that promises to be a NME-style collection of maverick wine producers making some of the most exciting wines coming out of Italy. Here’s Flint Wines’ Italian buyer, Philippa Saunders, take on the Italian wine scene.
The Il Colletivo tasting could be a wine trade take on the “Five Go Mad in…” series as it brings together the collective wines sourced from Italy by specialist importers, Swig, Flint Wines, FortyFive10°, Sommelier’s Choice, and Astrum Wine Cellars.
Quietly but surely there is a very definite shift in the way buyers, sommeliers and key decision makers in the premium on-trade want to go by their business of tasting new wines from their restaurants, bars, hotels or online distribution businesses. There is still room for the big, all encompassing tastings that could easily spread across Wembley Stadium, but they are being slowly usurped by smaller, more focused, more approachable tastings, where, crucially, there are less wines to taste, but more diversity and therefore more interest in what’s on show.
Which is very much what the upcoming Il Collettivo tasting is all about. As the name suggests it is bringing together the collective wine buying and sourcing skills of the five importers involved to create a more dynamic tasting than they could hope to achieve on their own. It therefore gives the trade the chance to taste and discover more diverse wines, from different areas of Italy that they might not get the chance to do otherwise.
In all the Collettivo tasting will have 300 wines on show from 30 producers divided across the five importers. As we lead up to the tasting on March 7 we will be looking at what each of the different importers will be looking to show as well as introduce some of the producers coming over to show their wines.
Philippa Saunders – Flint Wines’ Italian wine buyer
This the second Il Colletivo tasting. Why are you doing it again?
It was a great success last year and we always knew that we wanted to start something that would be an annual event. In the absence of The Definitive Italian Tasting, there was a real opportunity to create an event with wines from all over Italy that people would want to come to every year.
You are working with competing suppliers to do this tasting…why and what brings you together?
Even though we are competitors, we have a lot of respect for each other. We are like minded importers that are passionate about Italy.
What has been the feedback from buyers/sommeliers about doing combined tastings in this way?
Buyers are happy that that they can taste lots of good wine in one place. Hopefully they know by the list of importers that the quality will be high.
What particular regions./styles do you think will be particularly interesting at this year’s tasting?
I think all of the areas offer something different. However, there is real buzz around Nebbiolo and Alto Piemonte. Other less well known indigenous varieties are generating interest as customers are more willing to try new things.
What sort of price points and styles are working best in the premium on-trade?
Whilst the sub £10 prices are still important, we have seen more customers buying mid to top end wines which is really encouraging. The quality at the top end has never been better.
Any advice on how sommeliers/ restaurants can make the most of their Italian wine list
Exploring Italy with wine flights would help raise the profile of less celebrated areas/varieties that people might not necessarily choose.
How was 2017 for you as a business – highs and challenges?
We had a great year. We had 40% growth which has continued into this year so far. Such sharp growth and more people at Flint has meant that we need to carefully managing stocks to ensure customers have continuity. A good problem to have though!
How do you see the year ahead? Outside of Italy where are the growth areas?
US wines have experienced good growth. Burgundy as a sector would be growing if there was more wine to go around!
What do you see as the big opportunities for the premium on-trade in the year ahead
The use of Coravin and Vin de Verre will increase the offering of more premium wines by the glass and help capitalise on people’s interest in more unique and individual wines.
- Philippa Saunders is Flint Wines off-trade sales and Italian buyer. She joined the importer in 2012 and is based in Cheshire where she looks after various regional merchants around the country. She has recently taken over the growing Italian portfolio for Flint Wines and has the challenge of finding exciting new wines and prizing bigger allocations out of its existing growers.
- To read more about the Il Collettivo tasting and to register to attend go its dedicated website here.