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.

Earlier in the week, one of my Italian colleagues, Giulio Galli (great wine name) flew into town for a night of Franciacorta, Sangiovese and pizza at, where else, Jimmy’s. We sold a boat load of wine and violated any number of weightwatcher rules that night.

Photo styling by Salvador Dali
A couple of notes. The back room at Jimmy’s looks so warm and wonderful in the pictures. It makes me really step back and look at the phenomenon that room has become in my life. Anybody who is anybody in the Italian wine business comes through that room. It’s like a birthing room for Italian wine royalty. Anyway, I’ve said it before (and likely I will said it many more times on this blog) – places like the Circolo del Vino (the back room at Jimmy’s) is one of the wonderful confluences of wine and people and food and great, great memories. I love that place.

Lidia pouring Vespa Bianco to some of the staff at the Mozzarella Company

The next day I had the occasion to take some wine to my friend Paula Lambert, not far from Jimmy’s. I have been working with Paula since 1982, when I had olive oil from Tuscany I used to sell her. Now we trade Hoja Santa leaves for cheese and Paula promotes local growers and homemade cheese. Anyway, that day Lidia Bastianich rolled through town on a book tour and she spent the afternoon making cheese with Paula and a few friends. Bob Long ( remember Long Vineyards?) popped in, surprise! We sipped on the wines from Lidia’s vineyards in Friuli and also the Maremma property.. Lidia asked me where my mom was, She wants to talk to her now.  Great photo opps, cheese to die for and again, that warm and fuzzy feeling one shouldn't really be having this time of the year. After all it is the high season. But maybe this really is what O-N-D is about. Well, this week, it was.

Lidia, Paula and Bob Long
I could get into a couple of things that are buzzing around my brain, but I don’t want to go there right now. Y’all know I am like clockwork and will elaborate in subsequent posts. But the teaser. One of the things rattling around the old cranium is the idea that Italian wine hasn’t really claimed its rightful place on the Italian table in restaurants around this country. I see disconnects between, let’s say, the deft touch of a chef who has dialed into the Italian sensitivity and his wine director who is young and inexperienced and is looking for gutsy throaty, high octane wines from Italy. Mind you they exist. They just don’t go with every kind of Italian food. And so that is something I am concerned with and am working on. Hell, it’s a freakin’ battleground for me.

Weekly breakfast meeting with one of the old school guys
The other is this sense I have, especially with larger distributors, that they dumb down the Italian experience for their clients. And yes, I know I work for a large distrib. But this week I ran smack dab into the “other” larger distributor’s messes. It seems they have the Italian experience boiled it down to two wines – Chianti (Ruffino or Antinori) and Pinot Grigio (St. Margherita) and of course now Prosecco and Moscato. Make that four wines. The largest import wine country sending wine to America. Four wines. Big whoop.But by and large they (and we, all of us who allow that to continue) are complicit in the dumbing down of Italian wine on the American table. And I, for one, am damn sick and tired of the continuing splay of simple-stupid solutions. So there will be more. In the meantime, off the soapbox and back onto the couch. And good night to all y’all.


Anonymous said...

AC, the dumbing-down phenom is so prevalent, it's both dismaying and disheartening.

Go get em, tiger.

T. Dominic Hughes

Wine Curmudgeon said...

So we need a follow up on your mom and the Bastianich family....

Alfonso Cevola said...

Oh it's coming. too many posts to count right now. But they're in the hopper. Thanks y'all!

Thomas said...


From my perch, regarding dumbing down Italian wine, it's been that way for as long as I can remember, and I've got about the same number of years ITB as you have.

To me, the real issue is: why can't that mold be broken?

Whomever figures out the answer to that question will be the equivalent of the Pied Piper of Italian wine--and I do mean to conjure the allusion of lemmings on a destined march...

Tracie P. said...

in my experience "in the market," the biggest problem is the perceived (from the wine directors) reluctance of their consumers to experiment with lesser-known wines/appellations. hand selling is the key here, but no amount of staff training and cheerleading seems to work in some cases. or maybe the staff just tunes out and forgets what they've learned. somethings gotta give! said...

Makes me want to come to Dallas and hang out with y'all soon. Miss you . Love, Sis

Anonymous said...

Who's that cat?

Alfonso Cevola said...

Hey sis, why dont ya come and see us?

we can go see Rosemary, my Texas sister and her cute little cat.

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