A well laid table and a good glass of wine, are the symbol, from the earliest times, of love and joy of living. Discover the history of wine and the challenge of Italian wines in the US.
Translation from Italian by Veronica Lavenia
Interview and photos courtesy Piero Pardini Press Agency
A well laid table and a good glass of wine, are the symbol, from the earliest times, of love and joy of living. The evolution of social and civil man grew from the table, and it is no coincidence that the peak of maturity of any ancient civilization has always coincided with its highest expression also in gastronomy. The word “wine” originates from the Sanskrit word “vein” from which “Venus”, Love. So the wine (in Roman times, called “The nectar of the gods”) has been, as always, a universal language synonymous with joyful sharing of life.
In some countries such as Italy, where wine is one of the leading products of Italian exports in the world, this philosophy of life continues still today. A good glass of wine during meals is a daily ritual that, among other things, has beneficial effects for the body. Rich in potassium, wine contains polyphenols and natural pigments that have anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic and anti-viral properties. It stimulates, in a positive way, heart activity, promoting muscle tone and stimulating gastric secretion in favor of a more correct diuretic action.
A fascinating world which we will try to find out through this interview by Piero Pardini (food and wine journalist, waiting to attend the last year of the Sommelier school) to Roberto Bellini, Vice President of the Italian Sommelier Association (AIS), the largest association dedicated to the culture and knowledge of wine in Italy. Reference figure at international level, Bellini holds training courses for Sommelier in many non-European Countries, his reputation as a wine professional is recognized worldwide. Bellini is AIS sommelier since 1983, Champagne ambassador in Italy and consultant for many prestigious restaurants of Tuscany, the land of its origin. In 2009, he wrote “Champagne and champagnes. Culture and charm of the greatest wine in the world”, an authentic reference text for professionals.
P.P. Despite the Italian wine is enjoyed by Americans, its potential is not yet sufficiently exploited in the U.S. market. Why?
R.B. The great Italian wines are loved by Americans because those who drink is an expert audience. Of course, it is still only a niche market, although there are significant numbers of sales. The goal is to reach the entire population and not just a small part of it. Buy wine from the 150 dollars and up (and you can get thousands of dollars per bottle) is reserved to a small segment of the market. Provide a good wine, from 7 to 15 dollars a bottle, and with these prices there are many, would guarantee a market share almost unimaginable.
PP. Expand the market, introducing the best Italian wine in U.S. supermarket, is not likely to affect the quality?
R.B. Increasingly, brands create product lines for the retail market. It happens in Italy, and this can also be exported elsewhere. This does not mean that the wine sold in supermarkets is bad but that this type of product does not represent 100% of the potential of a particular grape variety of a specific geographic area. You can drink a good wine every day, and a great wine, or exceptional, only on certain occasions. However, this can only be done with knowledge.
P.P. The difficulty of recognizing and choosing a good bottle of wine may deter the average consumer who does not have knowledge of the product?
R.B: It can happen but today, more than one time, Americans are close to the Made in Italy with greater competence and awareness. They love Italian food and wine and want to study. Moreover, the education of all of us, on any subject, go through the training. More and more foreigners, especially Americans, participating in courses on wines that are organized in Italy and in the rest of the world. The “Italian Sommelier Association” is invited, worldwide, to approach, with specific guidelines, to the knowledge of the wine. We must, however, deal with the tastes of all people. In the United States, for example, the first wines of export have been adapted to the sweet taste that Americans really like. The first Italian wines, in fact, have been processed in such a way that certain “edginess” of some Italian varietals, become softer, just to begin to create a culture of wine. Now, years later, more and more Americans appreciate our great wines Barolo, Brunello, just to give you some names.
P.P. The Americans wine are starting to make inroads. In the cellar of the best Italian restaurants there is, usually, a selection of Californian wines.
R.B. Among Americans wines there are good products. United States has great potential for growth, there are spaces that can be used for the cultivation of the vine. California is one of the States with good potential, having an ideal climate for this type of cultivation. Perhaps, not many people know that big American farms rely on Italian wine makers to follow their production. In the future, the collaboration between United States and Italy will bring more benefits to both.
P.P: Tips for those who want to enter the profession of sommelier?
R.B Loving the wine, study a lot, travel, especially in countries where the culture of wine has always existed. Reading, visiting wineries, wine shops. Having curiosity and passion. It is a hard job but the most talented work in the best international restaurants, or where it is required this profession. Today, it is a work in high demand and, often, the request exceeds the supply.
Veronica is a born and raised Italian. She inherited her love for travel, passion for cooking and natural, sustainable, healthy slow food from her parents. Her works have appeared in 'Vegetarian Living', 'Veggie Magazine', 'Lifestyle food', 'Australian Good Food & Travel Guide', 'Chickpea' and 'Free from Heaven', among others. She is the author of "Panini: the simple tastes of Italian style bread"; 'The Rustic Italian bakery", "The Vegetarian Italian Kitchen" and "A Modern Italian table", published by New Holland Publishers Australia.