Food and wine lovers in Memphis are drawing the attention of some very important winemakers. Dalla Terra-Winery Direct represents some of the most well-regarded wineries in Italy, and Memphis is one of only seven stops on Dalla Terra's U.S. tour, which brings 12 winemakers to the Bluff City from May 7th to 9th.
Each winemaker will be showcasing his/her wine to the city's wine buyers and sommeliers at an event open only to the trade, but consumers shouldn't feel left out: Almost all of the winemakers will stay through the weekend to participate in the Brooks Museum's Art of Good Taste series.
Dalla Terra is a unique company in the wine world. "The most important aspect is the Winery Direct concept that Dalla Terra offers its distributors in the U.S. market," says regional manager Vittorio Marianecci. "This allows retailers and restaurants to sell wines at 25 percent to 30 percent below SRP [suggested retail price]."
The company doesn't stretch itself thin by expanding into other wine regions. In addition, Marianecci says, "Our portfolio is exclusive and extremely focused. After 20 years in business, we are now representing a total of 15 Italian wine-producing families — all recognized as leaders in their respective appellations."
Memphis, and the Southeast as a whole, has seen an interesting growth in the taste for Italian food and especially its wine. "In the Southeast, what has contributed to the growth of Italian wine is the increased awareness through new restaurants, the Internet, and the local media," Marianecci says. "We are seeing more and more sophisticated Italian food being featured, as opposed to the stereotypical American/Italian food of the past. We are seeing good growth in cities like Memphis where top wine shops and restaurants are expanding their selections of regional Italian wines."
Wine drinkers are becoming more curious about what else there is to offer from this bountiful country.
"Italy is no longer about just Chianti and Pinot Grigio. Customers are traveling more to the Italian peninsula and are exposed to wines that are found in those cities paired with pastas, fish, and meat dishes that [they then order at their] local Italian restaurants," Marianecci says. "People are discovering that Italian wines represent great value, are very versatile, and are food-friendly."
Marianecci is passionate about Italy, and it's easy to understand why. "Italy is very interesting because of its diversity in the grape varieties — over a thousand types in Italy alone," he says. "To talk about the uniqueness of its wine is not easy because of the tasting profile of each individual. For Italian white wines, there are the southern varietals like Coda di Volpe, Falanghina, Verdeca, and Vermentino and northern Italian varietals like Garganega (Soave), Arneis, and Sauvignon. For Italian red wine, there is Taurasi — Aglianico-based wines from southern Italy, the elegant and austere Nebbiolo-based wines from Piedmont, and the voluptuous reds from Valpolicella."
Marianecci notes that Memphis stands out in some regards: "Memphis wine drinkers are open-minded and, in many aspects, more sophisticated when it comes to Italian wines than in many other Southern cities." Their love of food reminds him of Italy's passion for the dining table. Memphians are always thinking about their last meal or planning their next, and that is very Italian.
"Italians consider wine to be a food product. In Italy, they say you don't eat unless you are drinking, and you don't drink unless you are eating. They also don't say that someone is drunk. They just say they haven't had enough to eat!"
Go to theartofgoodtaste.org for more information on the Brooks Museum's Art of Good Taste and to purchase tickets.
For more information on Dalla Terra, go to dallaterra.com.