The Buyer
Il Collettivo: specialist importers showcasing dynamic Italian wines

Il Collettivo: specialist importers showcasing dynamic Italian wines

Not only is the UK blessed with some of the world’s most innovative and dynamic independent small wine importers, but buyers are also benefiting from the fact these specialist distributors realise their strength sometimes lies in coming together to showcase what they can do. Like next week’s Il Collettivo tasting featuring the best Italian wines from Swig, Sommelier’s Choice, Flint Wines and Forty Five 10. So what can we expect?

Richard Siddle
31st May 2017by Richard Siddle
posted in People: Supplier,

In the first of two articles Swig and Sommelier’s Choice set out what they hope to achieve and offer buyers at next week’s Il Collettivo tasting on June 6 in London.

Il Collettivo is exactly that. A collective tasting that has been put together by four of the UK’s most dynamic and innovative independent importers and wine merchants with the one objective to showcase the exciting and progressive wines being produced across Italy.

Italy has always had an amazing choice for on-trade wine buyers and sommeliers, but with quality across all wine regions and price points arguably the best it has ever been Il Colletivo appears to be a perfectly timed tasting. Particularly as Italy as a whole a central wine body or generic association capable and willing to put on a tasting of this kind.

Which leaves the door very much open for innovative wine importers to create their own relevant event for sommeliers and buyers to show the range of wines now available in the UK.

What’s it all about?

In a nutshell Il Collettivo will have 32 winemakers represented between the four importers from all the significant regions of Italy. With around 200 wines to taste on the day, including a special focus on indigenous varieties and and wines ideal for summer drinking.

There will also be four masterclasses during the day covering the ancient varieties of Campania (10am-10.45am), Brunello (11am-11.45am), Piemonte (2pm-2.45pm), and lastly indigenous varieties (4pm-4.45pm). If interested in attending any then email to book a place.

Tomorrow we will hear from Flint Wines and Forty Five 10 about what they hope to bring to the event, but first up is Swig’s Robin Davis and Sommelier’s Choice’s Tim McLaughlin-Green.

Robin Davis: Swig

Robin Davis: working together works well for independent importers

Tell us about the Il Collettivo tasting. What can we expect and why now?

Italy is as last comfortable in its own skin; it’s never been more exciting. For a long time a few very good producers dominated and in an effort to compete and impress many of the up and coming producers were getting the oak regime wrong, were over extracting and using too many international varieties. You couldn’t really taste the local identity. Now we are seeing beautiful expressions of wines from all over Italy, displaying their native terroir and varieties.

What do you think personally are the most exciting trends/wines/ regions coming out of Italy?

One of the disappointments of Italy in the past few decades has been whites that dominate restaurant lists that taste of little, so to see varieties such as Biancolella and Caprettone being made well in Campania is incredibly exciting. There is a lot more of that to come. The shift in Piedmont has been incredible to watch; there are so many fabulous sites which grape growers did not fully understand how to turn into high quality wine, who are now making wonderful wines.

I’m also excited to see the a few producers of Amarone challenge the trend for massive styles and commercial styles, and bring back more traditional versions of Ripasso and Amarone, made from vineyards only within the zone, that can be drunk with the meal, rather than only with cheese.

Which price points and styles are working best for the premium on-trade…where’s the quality and value ratio at the best.

We are finding that if the person selling the wine in the restaurant has confidence that £14 ex vat is a good place to be, as at this price you have something individual and high quality that demonstrates to the customers who are able to spend between £45 and £60 on a bottle that there is something truly interesting for them.

Any tips for buyers to make the most of their time at the tasting?

I would suggest if time is limited, trying grape varieties you didn’t know before, to understand where Italy might well have a different offering for customers and good food pairings. But trying as many wines as possible is good as this selection of wines has been put together after many years and trips tasting in Italy between us all. It’s also a nice opportunity to discover alternatives to some very expensive producers who everyone knows, some of which have become so large that their techniques are being compromised and they no longer really represent their terroir.

Piedmont offers such great quality and value, says Davis

You are collaborating with other specialist importers – how has this come about and why did you choose the importers involved?

For a long time, buyers who need some Italian wines might head to places like Enotria, Liberty, Berkmann and Alivini. There are some outstanding wines in these outfits, but the scene is now changing so fast, that these importers can’t possibly keep up and introduce such of variety of new producers, some of whom are really too small and artisan for them to work with.

We know that it’s good for buyers to maximise their time out away from the restaurant or shop floor and as this movement in Italian wines is so exciting, we thought it would come to the attention of buyers and the trade more quickly if a few of us teamed up. We chose each other out of a mutual respect that over the years we have each worked with producers of high quality, most of whom are not that big and doing something outstanding in their region.

You have done this before with other tastings, do you see this becoming the way forward for specialist importers looking to make a difference?

Yes, we did it with New Wave South Africa. It’s a movement that’s bigger than any one importer, just as this is with Italian wines, and Vinateros (@VinaterosLDN) is for Spanish wines. To bring awareness to the market in a space of time that respects the good job all these remarkable and unsung producers are doing right here and now, we found that it’s better to pool resources, so people can taste as much as possible at one time.

For a very long time, I’ve thought that the generic tastings such as Wines of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa (and France, and Italy) have not been fit for purpose, leaving out the most exciting new generations of winemakers, and marketing to too broad a customer base. They are adapting somewhat but we have to move more quickly just now, with a particular focus on on-trade and independents.

How do you see the wider trade as a whole for specialist importers?

Very good and exciting in general.

What are the main challenges and opportunities?

It’s hard to break the distribution and domination of some of the really big guys, but we can move faster on product development.

Il Collectivo is all about Italy, so what is your favourite Italian dish?

I love red wine risotto made with Amarone.

Where are you eating it – restaurant/city/place?

Vinoteca: the perfect backdrop to enjoy Italian wines

There are many places I’d love to try out. But for my budget and informality I love Vinoteca; a perfect blend of market menu, that crosses the boundaries between British, Spanish and Italian cuisine, with very interesting well chosen wines by the glass presented accessibly, all at very reasonable prices. And luckily there’s one not too far from wherever you are, in London at any rate.

What are you drinking with it?

Valpolicella Ripasso Monte Santoccio made by Nicola Ferrari – a producer whose wines I am passionate about, who made wine for the legend, Bepi Quintarelli for 12 years. He has just managed to rent some land with ungrafted 100 year old vines in Purano at the top of Valpolicella.

Tim McLaughlin- Green: Sommelier’s Choice

Sommelier’s Choice’s Tim McLaughlin-Green

Tell us about your perspective on the Il Collettivo Tasting.

Four merchants working together to share their love for Italian wines. The tasting will demonstrate eclectic wines, from sort after producers from many areas of Italy.

Why are you doing this now?

With the increasing interest in Italian wines across all sectors of the trade, we thought now would be the ideal opportunity.

What do you think personally are the most exciting trends/wines/ regions coming out of Italy?

I am expecting to see a return to drinking great quality Soave. Single vineyard Prosecco’s from diverse vineyard sites and a representation of indigenous grape varieties.

Which price points and styles are working best for the premium on-trade. Where’s the quality and value ratio at the best?

£10 – £23 is the price point classics are selling well and Sardinian wines show value for money.

Any tips for buyers to make the most of their time at the tasting…

Be open minded and make the most of the masterclasses.

You are collaborating with other specialist importers – how has this come about and why did you choose the importers involved?

The collaboration came about through Silvia from Forty Five 10 and the joy is I know the owners of the other importers.

How do you see the wider trade as a whole for specialist importers

The key word I believe is diversifying looking at other areas with the same philosophy.

What are the main challenges and opportunities

Consolidation is the main challenge, opportunities come from restaurateurs looking to create lists with a representation of wines that are not the usual suspects.

Il Collettivo is all about Italy, so what is your favourite Italian dish?

The dish I’m recommending is eaten during white truffle season, Bagna cauda with an egg yolk and cream cooked until the cream bubbles without curdling then shave white truffle over the top, stir, it’s like the sun rising.

Where are you eating it – restaurant/city/place?

I Bologna, Rocchetta Tanaro, Piedmont.

What are you drinking with it?

Asso di Fiori Chardonnay 2013 Braida.