1- I am going to Italy next month. We will be visiting Florence and wondered if there were some wineries we should visit. What should we see?
2- I am new to wines and Italian wines as well. Our family eats together at least four nights a week and I am trying to find a wine that we can enjoy with our meals. There are five of us and four who are old enough to drink wine. Do you have any suggestions?
3- I love wine and want to be in the wine industry. Could you tell me where I could start out?
1- If you are going to Italy during the Easter holiday there will be times when the wineries will be unavailable. Vinitaly goes from April 2-6 and then there is Holy Week, Easter and the day after Easter. So the first half of the month is taken up with a wine fair and a national holiday. I would suggest you go to Florence, enjoy visiting museums and eating out and don’t worry too much if you don’t get to a winery. If you do want to go into the Tuscan countryside try and find an enoteca like the National one in Siena. There is also a good regional tasting room in Greve as there are also ones in Montepulciano and elsewhere. These will be open and can be fun and instructive. But Italy is a country of vineyards, so it won’t be difficult to come into contact with wine. That is the beauty of Italy, wine is everywhere and you don’t have to look so hard to find something that has to do with wine. Just enjoy the moment and the country and the people and the food and the wine will be right there with them.
2- If you are on a budget and are looking to find wine you can drink on a daily basis, I would start with something basic, like a basic Chianti or a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo for a red and a light white, maybe a Soave or an inexpensive southern white from Italy like a Grillo or a Falanghina. Plan on spending $8-10 a bottle for a decent wine and budget it like you would vegetables or protein. Look for sales, find a merchant or a little store where you can find good values. In most large towns there is an Italian store, like Claro’s in Southern California or Jimmy’s in Dallas. These stores have a clientele who are used to drinking wine on a regular basis, so they are looking for values. Remember wine is an integral part of the Italian lifestyle and it doesn’t need to be a Barolo or a Brunello every night. That’s what they have Dolcetto and Rosso Toscano for (once in a while, though, it's nice to break out something special). Above all, remember to take the time at the table to enjoy the whole experience and the wine will taste much better.
3- If you want to be in the business a good place to start is in a restaurant. Be a server; find a place that has a good wine program. Usually folks from the trade will frequent it and you will have the opportunity to network and move your way through the industry. Another way is through a retail store or even a market that has a good wine program, like Whole Foods or Stew Leonard’s in the Northeast. If you want to get on in the wholesale end, those companies usually have an entry level that most folks starting out have to go through. The steps usually are an orientation period, a trainee period, possibly a merchandising position and then a route assignment that is usually a route that is saved for beginners. Once one goes through these steps then one is assigned a route that can make a little more money. Another way is to work for a smaller or start-up company. These usually are a good way to meet the important accounts in your area and get to know if you can develop a rapport with the players. If you can and do it well, then you will be valuable to any wholesaler, as these key customers are major players and every company vies for their business.
Everyone has to start out at the beginning, even the experts. Oh, the stories I could tell you...
Italian Wine Guy with three Master Somm's, Guy Stout, Drew Hendrix and James Tidwell, evaluating new wines.