Monday, April 05, 2010

The Italian Fork in the French Road

All last week in Bordeaux, there was plenty of French wine. But occasionally the stray bottle of Hungarian or Bulgarian wine would pop up on a table. One day we tasted a round of wines from a negociant whom we work with very closely and I saw a fellow at a table with a bottle of Italian wine. Giampaolo Motta from La Massa in Panzano was there with his wines as part of the collection of the French oenologist Stéphane Derenoncourt and his stable of estates that he consults for.

Stéphane’s partner, François Thienpont and his sister Bernadette Thienpont had us in their suite at Stéphane’s event last week in Bordeaux. Great people both of them, very sharp, friendly, savvy people. I like them. François reminds me of my Italian friend Eugenio Spinozzi, in utilizing personal relationships as the foundation of their business in a way that feels not pushy and very, very hands on. Bernadette, as well, follows this very personal approach and they really are, to me, the poster children for how to build your business with French (or Italian) wines in America.

Giampaolo Motta from La Massa

Along with consulting for clients like Stephan von Neipperg’s, one wine of which is the "super cuvée" La Mondotte, Stéphane Derenoncourt started working as a consultant for the Italian estate in Panzano, La Massa.The La Massa wine, very dense and fruity (I reckon part of the signature of Stéphane), was a quick break I made from the 2009 Bordeaux wines. It didn’t feel like too much of a leap, perhaps the wine being so young has something to do with it. My concern is that the wine does not lose its identity, which in Panzano is so unique.

We shall revisit this wine at Vinitaly. My hope is that this wine and winery has not been too finely tuned. But as one might be able to tell, I am a bit skeptical. Just being candid.

On another note, I love how in France they allow just about anyone in the trade. What I wouldn't give to have the kind of nose that little chap has, eh?

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