It seems Italy can do no wrong in the UK premium on-trade at the moment. Last month The Buyer reported how Italy had replaced France as the country with most listings on wine lists, which will probably come as no surprise to the specialist importers that are doing such a good job sourcing new exciting, and dynamic wine to bring back for restaurants and bars to sell. All of which is very much the theme of next week’s Il Collettivo tasting which will be a chance to taste the best of some of those importers Italian ranges.
Il Collettivo tasting really is the sum of its parts thanks to the fact it is the work of five importers –Astrum Wine Cellars,Flint Wines, Swig, FortyFive10° and Sommelier’s Choice – who are all willing to put their competitive streaks to once side for the better good. Which hopefully makes for a fun, exciting and dynamic tasting of Italian wines and it all takes place on March 12. Here Forty Five 10’s Silvia Garatti and Robin Davis from Swig take you through what to expect.
Tell us about Collettivo 2019. What’s new, different…and the same?
Il Collettivo supports the sommeliers and buyers of the restaurants and shops who are into artisanal wine. It’s not easy when there is pressure to buy from big importers, but this is a place to find alternatives from the dominant suppliers. Let’s strip it back and talk about real wines made by artisans. There will be 35 winemakers pouring their wines, covering all areas of Italy, and there will be five extra merchant focus tables.
We cover the length and breadth of Italy and this year different producers are in attendance to present their wines. We aim to cover the affordably-quaffable wines through to finer, rarer specimens. We want to offer wines which will pique curiosity, wines which will arouse interest on a wine list.
The focus table is ‘Sustainability – Fifty shades of Green’. Wine drinkers have an ever-burgeoning curiosity about the environmental impact of their product on the environment. It is an issue close to the hearts of Italian winemakers, but also a challenge – so we wanted to give them a platform to talk about their endeavours towards sustainable winemaking.
Overall objective of working together and holding the event?
It’s about showing Italian diversity and innovation. As smaller importers we are bringing to the market artisanal producers, the likes of which most of the biggest importers wouldn’t get out of bed for. Collectively we are shining a light on the winemakers of tomorrow. It’s then a question of having a voice that can make these wines heard. If a big importer has 1,000 customers and each one of us has 200 then we can’t be noticed by as many customers. But if we pool together we will amplify our passion for these amazing wines and can hopefully show to the trade that there is a better world beyond the big suppliers. You can liken it to buying from your independent high street baker, butcher or fishmonger.
In the end when buy from the big guys you sacrifice individuality and if restaurants and hotels really want to offer something good to offer their customers they need the courage to follow smaller importers supplying wines from innovative producers.
What can we expect at the tasting in terms of styles/ trends/ price points/ highlights?
We are seeing more wines from Sicily, from Etna, as producers emerge from the shadow of the likes of Frank Cornelissen, and other terroirs on the island not previously planted; as well as from undiscovered territories of Tuscany, like Monte Amiata, and the Aosta Valley, in the Alps, beyond Turin. The trend to organic winemaking is rapid, and we are seeing less extraction and less oak with natural yeasts, and more emphasis on local grape varieties. Price points are incredibly reasonable compared to the established big name brands. They vary from £8 upwards, but it’s really a question of having the patience to spot that quality in these wines that may be a bit more softly spoken than those that dress to impress.
Any masterclasses or set themes?
Italian wine expert Ian D’Agata who reviews for Vinous, and who wrote ‘Native Wine Grapes of Italy’ will be hosting two masterclasses with a focus on Nerello Mascalese, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese.
They are grown in totally different areas, in various soil types but they are so similar in style in terms of tannins, structure and acidity. It will be really interesting.
How do you see Italian wine in general and opportunities for the on-trade?
Italian wine has fascinated consumers for decades. For those with deep pockets who travel to Italy it’s probably the area that intrigues them most, and an area they are prepared to spend up on, but they know very little about it. So there is a great opportunity to show this market the brands that are worth buying beyond the usual big brands, and their ilk. Powerful brands and wine names have become established during the years.
It’s not been all bad, but now is the time, with even just a bit of knowledge, to show customers something different, that may often be higher quality and definitely more interesting, but almost certainly better value. Also, for those looking for wines that maybe between £25 and £35 on a restaurant list there are plenty of good tasting wines from medium sized family producers that have far more control over their quality and chemical regime in the vineyards that the largest producers that supply much of the trade. These wines only cost £1 or £2 more, but the quality and taste is so much more and they could really inspire customers.
What styles are really working well in UK on-trade and why?
If we are talking about top wines the main areas are Piedmont and Tuscany, but we are seeing a lot more interest in ‘volcanic’ wines from Sicily, also requests for wines from less famous winemaking areas like Puglia, Molise and Calabria.
What new to look out for in next 18 months in terms of styles and regions?
Elegant aromatics from Trentino, Alto Adige. Perhaps more interest in smaller appellations off the beaten track.
It’s great to see less use of new oak, and a return to large wooden vessels or concrete, allowing the perfume of the red varieties, and the terroir to shine. White varieties are becoming much more interesting as the wines are made from massale selections of old vines, and more gently handled in the winery. Sicily continues to surprise with diversity and quality wines and this is worth keeping an eye on.
There are quite a few younger producers with fresh ideas about how to make wine, but it’s hard for them to get established in the famous terroirs. But opportunities will come up as older generations retire. There is a strong organic scene emerging, and we hope that the larger producers move over to this too, but for the time being it’s We also need to keep looking out for producers outside of the famous appellations, who have some fantastic values and character, such as Marche and Emilia Romagna, as well as the exciting scene unfolding in Campania.
Where the best value from Italy at the moment?
There is value to be had from all areas, as buyers will see at our tasting. (Dependant on the stability of the pound!)
There is always value to be had in wines from lesser known appellations as they push their way through into a heavily competitive market.
What is new on your list which will be at Il Collettivo?
Silvia Garatti at Forty Five 10: We are excited to introduce our new Franciacorta, Monte Rossa, a passionate producer producing only sparkling wines of amazing quality. Chiara Penati will be joining us from Oltretorrente in Colli Tortonesi. Chiara and her husband left their individual jobs in winemaking to buy a small estate with old vines and invest all their knowledge and passion in this organic project. She will be showing their Timorasso, Barbera and Red and White Colli Tortonesi, which are really worth trying.
Robin Davis at Swig: All the wines are organically farmed. Look out for Quintarelli’s protégé Nicola Ferrari’s wines of Monte Santoccio, pre-phylloxera Nerello Mascalese from Etnella on Etna, and Sette Cieli poured by winemaker Elena Pozzolini, a vineyard on the next hillside and above Sassicaia. Also, Sicily’s most exciting Syrahs made by legend Peter Vinding Diers (mentor to Peter Sisseck and Jacques Thienpoint), natural Chianti and Tuscan Pet Nat from Lavacchio!
Sommelier’s Choice’s Tim McLaughlin-Green: The joy will be seeing Raffaella Bologna at IL Collettivo from Giacomo Bologna, Braida, sharing her enthusiasm for Barbera d’Asti, always a joy to taste Bricco dell’Uccellone such an iconic wine from Italy.
Nino Franco Prosecco are one hundred years old this year, started in 1919, you can taste there award winner Prosecco the winner of Champagne and Sparkling wine World Championships.
We will also have a new producer from Sicily called Morgante who produce a white Nero d’Avola something unusual.
Philippa Saunders at Flint Wines: “We are thrilled to have long established estates like Elvio Cogno and I Clivi alongside other wineries making their debut in the UK such as Tenuta di Castellaro and La Fiorita. So it’s a great chance to remind yourselves how good the former are and get a chance to discover the latter.”
Bruno Besa at Astrum: We have one of our newest members of our portfolio joining us, Monte Tondo, who produce beautiful expressions of Garganega from their hillside vineyards in Soave. Verdicchio focussed Tenuta di Tavignano from the Marche region, will be pouring their newly released Pét-Nat as part of their I Love Monsters range. We are also looking forward to showing a range of sustainability themed wines this year at our focus table, from producers such as Centopassi, Salcheto, Ronchi di Cialla and Sergio Mottura. It’s such a hot topic at the moment and Italy has so much to offer in this category.