Italian Wine Gala Celebrates Being Largest Wine Importer to the US
Many have been, through the years, the Italian celebrities visiting and enchanting the United States: opera singers, composers, directors, actors and actresses, fashion designers. Attracted by the "made in Italy," hundreds of thousands of Americans have become familiar with songs, movie lines, and that overall Italian style so easily recognizable. This time, however, the spotlight was on something different, though no less popular. Starting February 13th, Italian wines have been on a tour of the US, landing in New York City and moving all the way to the sunny West Coast. More than 5,000 visitors were expected to participate in these events and taste the 250 wines brought to the US by their producers and importers.
Valentino Restaurant in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, hosted this year's Italian Wine Gala, the final event of the US tour. Valentino, a renowned and sophisticated landmark for Italian food lovers on the west side of the city, opened its doors to wine producers, importers, restaurateurs, professionals, and journalists to share an afternoon of Italian wine tasting. I had the pleasure to participate in the event, accompanied by Italian American filmmaker Austin Formato.
The selection of wines varied from Chianti to Barbera, from Dolcetto to Barbaresco, with a special presentation of Moscato d'Asti, the sweet sparkling white wine, delicious with desserts. All wines received the European Union's DOC or DOCG certificate, as a guarantee of their superior quality and characteristics.
Many producers came all the way from Italy to further develop a business already well established in the US market. An example is the prestigious "Castello di Querceto" winery, represented by its president Alessandro François and wife Maria Antonietta, who offered us a delicious selection of Chianti wines.
According to the data provided by the Italian Wine & Food Institute, the exports of Italian wines to the US have passed the 1 billion dollar value last year, and Italy has surpassed France as the largest wine importer to the US. Thus, this tour and final gala event marked a well-deserved celebration for a particularly successful year for Italian wines. (foto 795-798-799: wine importers)
Several producers, however, are still seeking importers willing to bring their wines to America. This is the case, for example, of Oscar Bosio, Gianni Doglia, Maria Luigina Negro, and Giovanni Satragno, among others, who participated in the tour precisely with the goal of finding a way to America for their wines. What came out from our conversations is that wine importing companies are necessary players in the import/export process, since regulations in the US are quite strict.
What further complicates the situation is that such regulations are often different from state to state, therefore there is no unified national policy that standardizes and controls wine importation across the United States. The difficult consequence is that producers often need to look for more than one importer depending on the states where they want to develop their business.
What emerged from the event, however, is that Italian wine producers brought along much more than their wines. They shared with us their passion for a business tradition that goes back generations, and the love for a country such as Italy, which is still able to spread its charm much further than its borders. As a demonstration of this "Italian fever" in the US, the wine gala in Los Angeles was but one of the many events and celebrations dedicated to Italian culture and art in the "City of Angels."
A retrospective of Roberto Rossellini's masterpieces just started at the Hammer Museum on February 16th, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the director's death, and will continue until March 31st. As part of the commemoration, Isabella Rossellini spoke at UCLA and at the Italian Institute of Culture, presenting her new book In the Name of the Father, The Daughter, And The Holy Spirits.
The same week saw Mario Monicelli as protagonist at the University of Southern California, where the film school screened I Soliti Ignoti and the genius of the "commedia all'italiana" received an honorary award for its contribution to global cinema. As if these examples were not enough, Los Angeles also welcomed the Italian Film, Fashion, and Art Festival from February 18th to the 24th. The one-week event had its peak on the Oscar's night, when Ennio Morricone received a much-deserved life achievement Academy Award.
For a foreigner who lives in Los Angeles, these celebrations and events make us extremely proud of our origins and culture. The wine gala was just another marvelous treat added to our agenda: the wines tasted together with the delicious food that accompanied them, brought to our palates flavors, scents, and aromas that immediately made us feel home.