Thursday, December 29, 2011

20- 25 years, max…

Lately, folks around me have either been dying, dropping out or retiring. Yes, I know almost everyone living looks in a mirror and sees the young person they were or indeed they are. For the moment. After a day of throwing boxes in retail, my knees tell me what my mirror won’t: You don’t have that much time. And that goes for all of us.

I have seen some ridiculous things this year. Folks who got the boot who not only showed up for work, but who also stayed after the lights went out in the office. And other folks, who by merely being in the right place at the right time, caught the big fish. There is no pattern of reason – sometimes it just gets down to luck. But in the time department – time, the great leveler – luck has no chance. Whether it is a big-face watch that costs $5,000 or a $50 Timex, the clock, she keeps on ticking.

Let’s say you are in your early 30’s. You have a good job or a position in a company somewhere that allows you to think you’re in a good place. Let’s talk about the wine business, and let’s drill down to the Italian wine business. You travel, stay in places like New York, Hong Kong, Helsinki, Berlin. It all seems so important, balancing the travel and the business with the stuff you have at home. Maybe you live in the Tuscan countryside by the winery. Maybe you live near Alba. Maybe Palermo. And when you are out “in the world” you are making a difference, moving Italian wine forward. Maybe you allow yourself the indulgence to feel powerful, important. You are a game changer, a force of nature. You are young, with all of life handed to you on an enormous buffet plate. It’s all there; all you have to do is show up, wearing the nice clothes, whether it’s the snazzy suit or the shabby but chic jeans. You’re Italian, and Italians are known for this kind of thing. You come from a great country with a great heritage and a history and a mission and a purpose, and you are in the stream and you are fishing for your fortune and fame and you catch a fish every now and then, and life feels just bloody wonderful. Yes?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Prosecco vs. the world

Sergio Mionetto on top of Cartizze
Wine writers must be running out of meaningful subjects, the latest diversion from significant stories being this little piece about Prosecco finally triumphing over Champagne. Perhaps this is just an unconscious jab at France and Sarkozy over dragging the Italians into the current existentialist predicament of the Euro zone. Or maybe it’s that folks have run out of things to talk about between Christmas and the New Years. It would be better for most of the writers to take another stab at a turkey sandwich, watch the “Law and Order” marathon and let the ship pass. This is not important news. Somewhere in the world other sparkling wines are outselling Prosecco and Champagne combined. Should we write that once again for the 25th year, Andre has outsold Champagne too? That’s the image I get in my head when I see these silly stories.

I don’t have a bone to pick with Prosecco. They are riding high. Price increases are forthcoming, by the way, so the Ferris wheel, she goes up, the Ferris wheel, she also goes down. Rarely does the Ferris wheel stop for one at the top. So there will be challenges in 2012, with an election year in the USA, to move the category forward in double digit growth territory.

Champagne, what do they care? They sell everything they make. Veuve-Clicquot (I was told by a highly placed person in the company) has been in “allocation” mode this year. Regardless of how you fell about any brand of Champagne, one can rest easily knowing the plans the Champenoise have for their brand can take you or leave you. Not so with Prosecco.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A very complex grain of sand...

...this little orb is - twirling, seething, rushing at an almost unimaginable speed through the universe. And inside it and all around it are us, thinking, feeling, worrying, hoping, laughing, crying, wishing, loving.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pivot or Persevere

Pan di sudore, miglior sapore

The messages emanating from the Italian peninsula in recent days have been ones of concern for their future and whether or not the average Italian will be able to live a life as their father and grandfather have. The reality is that the life their father and especially their grandfather lived wasn’t a bed of roses. Funny how the human mind forgets history so fast. Thankfully the human heart is there to redirect the course of one’s life. And in the average Italian’s life here is what I see.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Please Send Me Some Wine to Love

The week before the holidays and the wine and food shops across America are buzzing with people looking for food, for wine, for connection with something that descends upon humanity in these times, allows for a few moments to stop the machine, get off, and let a little fresh air in. I saw it all weekend in the stores, as we go into the final stretch of the O-N-D selling season. For Italy and her food and wine, this has been a very good year, again.

“What Chianti do you suggest to go with our spaghetti and meat ball dinner?” “Do you have that Brunello with the coat of arms that has the wings on it?” “Where is the Orvieto?” All these and many more questions are peppered at us, like at an important press conference. Except we aren’t solving the massive problems of a country. We are merely trying to help folks set their tables for their friend and their families.

Show the world how to get along,
Peace will enter when hate is gone,
But if it's not asking too much,
Please send me some wine to love.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Three Wise Wines

From the "I'm Dreaming of a White (Wine) Christmas" Collection

In the traditions of the wine world, the conventional wisdom has been that the real serious wines are red. Old wine books push the adage, “The first duty of wine is to be red.” And scores of wine connoisseurs wandered into Burgundy or Bordeaux, Piedmont or Tuscany. But the times they are a changing.

For all of my wishing, I have hoped to be one of those types, where red wine was placed high on an altar so I could too worship it. And I do love red wine. This evening we sampled an Etna Rosso next to a Chateauneuf du Pape. But I cannot get over how much I love white wine. I really have affection for cool, crisp, luscious wines. They seem to go with the foods I love and I never have enough of them around the house.

Here are three wines that I do hope to have around for the holidays. Please read on.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

All in the (Italian Wine) Family

From the archives - posted 12/27/09

The temperature was barely above freezing when I took a longer than intended run today. When I got back home, there was a message on my voice mail, from my friend Cassandra in Italy. “Alfonso, where are you? I need to talk to someone who I am so close to but not related by blood.” I could tell by the tone of her voice that this would be a long talk. So I poured myself some tea and called her.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Million Point March

In the early 1980’s in the United States, the practice of selling wine in the trade was a fairly simple process. You made an appointment (or had a set appointment time) and you took wines into the account, showed them, often tasting them, and then talked about them and tried to get an order. There weren’t a lot of third party endorsements, reviews, sales aids. There were a few writers; Finigan, Balzer, Connoisseurs Guide, a little newspaper coming on called the Wine Spectator, Hugh Johnson, Gerald Asher, Michael Broadbent, and a handful of historical books. But it was pretty slim pickin's. That said, many folks were well read, reasonably educated, fairly open minded. And ready for whatever could help them sell more wine. And then a young lawyer from Maryland came on the scene with his newsletter, aptly named The Wine Advocate. And the race for the high scoring wines began.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

The Italian Wine List in America

From the "Knick-knack paddywhack" dept.

The setting: A hip Italian neighborhood restaurant, once upon a time in America.
The clientele: Well-traveled, well-heeled, conservative but adventurous with food.
The chef: Inspired, deft touch. Hails from the neighborhood; sensitive to the seasons and the spirit of Italy.
The wine buyer: Newish, youngish, enjoys big wines; is not from the neighborhood.
The challenge: fitting the sensibilities of the chef, the expectations of the clientele, the tastes of the wine buyer and trying to make it all work in harmony.

I am setting up this scenario, an amalgam of places I have noticed, from Park Slope, Brooklyn to San Francisco, California (and places in between) in order to try to understand how something like this can work best.

Let’s say this is not a classic Italian place, for which there might be other factors, such as a well established wine cellar, a clientele who are used to certain things and don’t want to see much change in them. After all there is a place for vitello tonnato and Gavi. Or pasta Bolognese with a hearty red wine.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The 31st Dec 1

James Di Carlo delivers the pies
Do you ever have one of those weeks when all you can say is “What do you say?” Well, let me tell you, this has been one of those weeks. We entered into the final month of the O-N-D wine selling season and we are just hitting our stride. Lots going on. Let’s get right into it.

First off, I was with a young salesman in an account today and I told him that Dec 1 was traditionally the busiest day of the year. “Traditionally?” he asked. “Yes” I replied. “That’s so old school.” Uh hum, that it would be. But that’s where my ship launched from and I’m now sailing into my 31st Dec 1. I still get that surge of energy, that certain butterfly in the stomach feeling when Dec 1 rolls around. Call me old school.