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A Glimpse into the World of Wine Merchants

Reading Time: [est_time] When you walk into a local wine shop, do you ever wonder how the bottles were selected? In 2018, the OIV (International Organization of Vine and Wine) reported that 293 million hectoliters of

Pollenzo B2B tasting piemonte

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When you walk into a local wine shop, do you ever wonder how the bottles were selected? In 2018, the OIV (International Organization of Vine and Wine) reported that 293 million hectoliters of wine were produced – that’s equivalent to nearly 40 billion bottles of wine! Out of all that wine, how do wines get selected for the store shelf?

It’s by the work of importers, distributors, and shop owners who travel around the world. They swish around countless numbers of wines in their mouth before settling on just one to import and/or sell. I don’t know the official statistics, but probably only a handful of wines out of every hundred tasted are selected by merchants.

Business to Business Tasting Pollenzo

We got another chance to see this process firsthand at the Pollenzo Business to Business (B2B) Tasting in Piemonte, Italy. Over the three days we were in attendance, there were 50 wineries pouring over 200 wines. We were joined by buyers from Europe, Russia, USA, and Hong Kong.

Pollenzo B2B Wine Tasting

Our days were packed with face to face meetings with producers. Each producer had their own table. The meeting/tasting appointment lasted thirty minutes, from there we had to move onto the next table. It was an intense three days of tasting on a tight schedule.

Events like the Pollenzo B2B give us real insight into the retail side of the wine business. Most of the buyers present selected just a handful of wines as possible ‘candidates’ for their respective markets. That means they need to crunch the numbers even further, taste the wine again at home, and test their markets more before the wine ever sees the shelf.

Know Your Wine Merchant

It’s worth getting to know your local wine merchant.

Tasting with merchants/buyers is a totally different experience than tasting with writers. Wine writers look for the quality of the wine and what they prefer. Wine buyers and merchants look for what will sell in their given market, regardless of their own preferences.

Next time you stop by your wine shop to pick up a bottle, think about the meticulous selection process. There’s a lot of work allows that bottle to be in front of your face. If you like the wine, try to find out who chose the wine, he/she probably have selected a number of wines to your liking.

We really enjoyed our time at Pollenzo and welcome the chance to attend more business to business tastings. Events like the Pollenzo B2B are a good look into the reality of selling wine. Here are thirteen wines from the Pollenzo B2B that we enjoyed.

Wine Recommendations:

You can find out more about our scoring system on the WINE RATING page.

  • Paolo Berta, ‘La Berta’ Nizza 2016 – Piemonte, Italy

This charming little estate produces wines with real character and a hint of rusticity. The Paolo Berta ‘La Berta’ Nizza is made from 100% Barbera, it has notes of hazelnut, cherry, cranberry, and mineral notes. Tangy acidity with layers of texture on the palate, good bite, and a long finish. This has the classic Barbera flavors. Score: 91/100

Paolo Berta La Berta NizzaJPG
  • La Gironda, ‘Soul’ Monferrato Rosso 2014 – Piemonte, Italy

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Monferrato isn’t as well known for Nebbiolo as Langhe (and to a lesser extent Alto Piemonte). That makes the La Gironda ‘Soul’ Monferrato Rosso all the more interesting. It’s made from 100% Nebbiolo. Proper Nebbiolo in color with an orange tinge on the rim of the glass. Rose petal, cranberry, and a touch of perfume dominate the flavor profile. The wine is round and energetic. This has nervy acidity with firm but not over-the-top tannins. Score: 90/100

La Gironda Soul Monferrato Rosso
  • Villa Giada, ‘The English Winemaker’ Piemonte Barbera 2018 – Piemonte, Italy

The Villa Giada ‘The English Winemaker’ Piemonte Barbera is a totally different wine than others in the Villa Giada portfolio. Villa Giada usually makes big and bold reds from Barbera. This wine is made with 25% whole cluster fermentation and indigenous yeasts. No additional sulfur is added. There are notes of stems, ripe red fruit, and pepper. This is a hardcore natural wine with gorgeous fruit. Score: 90/100

Villa Giada The English Winemaker Barbera
  • Vinchio-Vaglio Serra, ‘Vigne Vecchie 50’ Barbera d’Asti 2016 – Piemonte, Italy

This is a brilliant, complex red from a cooperative winery. The Vinchio-Vaglio Serra ‘ Vigne Vecchie 50’ Barbera d’Asti is made from old vines and is aged in concrete. Dried strawberry, cherry, cranberry, and tobacco flavors emerge from the glass. It has a round mouthfeel with crunchy acidity. Smooth fruity-chocolate finish and grippy tannins. Score: 90/100 

Vinchio Vaglio Serra Vigne Vecche Barbera d Asti
  • Grasso Fratelli, ‘Söri’ Valgrande’ Barbaresco 2005 – Piemonte, Italy

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The latest vintage of this wine is very good (2015) but the older vintage is stellar. The Grasso Fratelli ‘Söri’ Valgrande’ Barbaresco 2005 opens with an intriguing and sexy nose. There are notes of leather, tomato, tobacco, tar, and cherry flavors. Slim and sexy on the palate with tannins that hit like a NFL linebacker. This is what aged Nebbiolo is all about – complexity with sensuality. Score: 93/100

Grasso Fratelli Sori Vallegrande Barbaresco
  • Massimo Rettalino, ‘Novantuno 91’ Barolo 2014 – Piemonte, Italy

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Massimo Rettalino is fairly young estate producing Barolo and Barbaresco. The Massimo Rettalino ‘Novantuno 91’ Barolo is made with fruit sourced from the commune of Serralunga d’Alba. It has complex flavors of cranberry, leather, perfume, mahogany, and spice. The wine has round mouthfeel and tangy acidity. For a Barolo from Serralunga d’Alba, the tannins are surprisingly accessible for a young wine. Score: 92/100 

Massimo Rattalino Barolo Novatuno 91
  • Valde Lacierva, Rioja Reserva 2014 – Rioja, Spain

The Valde Lacierva Rioja Reserva is a fantastic wine and good representation of Rioja. It has notes of sweet cherry, pepper, cedar, and tobacco. The wine is big bodied with a lot of complexity and just the right amount of wood flavor. It’s spicy and true Rioja with chewy tannins. Score: 91/100

  • Ignacio Marin, Ballard Old Vine Garnacha 2015 – Cariñena, Spain

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Cariñena DO is one of Spain’s oldest, yet unheralded wine regions. The Ignacio Marin Ballard Old Vine Garnacha is an affordable and delicious rendition of Garnacha. It is made from vines over 55 years in age. It has notes of dried strawberry, chocolate, brown herbs, and pepper. Balanced and unfussy red that is fantastic for the money. Score: 90+/100

Ignacio Marin Ballad Old Vine Garnacha
  • I Sabbioni, ‘I Voli Dei Gruccioni’ Sangiovese Superiore 2016 – Emilia-Romagna, Italy

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The wines of Emilia-Romagna get overlooked in the world of Italian wine. We’ve long been fans of the Sangiovese from the region like the I Sabbioni ‘I Voli Dei Gruccioni’ Sangiovese Superiore. It is a delicious, juicy red wine. Crunchy acidity and soft tannins create the structure of this entry-level Sangiovese. Aged in stainless steel and concrete, this is inexpensive and delicious. Score: 88/100

  • Demarie, Roero Riserva 2015 – Piemonte, Italy

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Barolo and Barbaresco are iconic Nebbiolo-based wines but across the Tanaro river, there are some lovely examples in Roero. The Demarie Roero Riserva has notes of cherry, cranberry, hazelnuts, and rose petal. The wine spent 18 months in barrique. It’s medium-bodied and silky at first and then the tannins hit hard. The long finish and chewy tannins suggest that this is cellar-worthy. Score: 90/100

Demarie Roero Riserva
  • Livia Fontana, Barolo Villero 2015 – Piemonte, Italy

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The Villero vineyard is a well-renowned site located in the commune of Castiglione Falleto. There are many beautiful Barolos made from this vineyard, add the Livia Fontana Barolo Villero to the list. It has a pretty nose of violet, perfume, cranberry, and rose petal. Round and smooth on the palate with notes of black herbs. The tannins are small and grippy but not overly drying. The wine is elegant and graceful with a long finish. Score: 92/100 

Livia Fontana Barolo Villero
  • Villa Canestrari, ‘i Lasi’ Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore 2016 – Vento, Italy

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Valpolicella Ripasso wines make a great alternative to more costly Amarones. This vintage of Villa Canestrari ‘i Lasi’ Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore is a flat-out delicious and food-friendly red. There are notes of capsicum, cherry, pepper, and a touch of raisin. The wine is medium-bodied and juicy with some grip. Long and smoky finish. Score: 90+/100 

Villa Canestrari i lasi valpolicella ripasso
  • Palazzona di Maggio, Dracone Riserva 2011 – Emilia-Romagna, Italy

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The Colli d’Imola is a generic DOC located in Emilia-Romagna. However, this Palazzona di Maggio Dracone Riserva is anything but ordinary. It’s a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot aged two years in oak. This is big and ripe. There are flavors of black plum, capsicum, pepper, stems, and a touch of tobacco. Full weighted on the palate with a chewy texture and ripe tannins. Score: 91/100 

Dracone colli d imola riservaJPG

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Cover photo for the article is by Eunice Brovida Foto. Our travel and accommodation were provided by Elledue. Please note that the opinions expressed are our own and have not been paid for in any way. We do not sell editorial content as that would destroy the legitimacy of our reviews and the trust between Exotic Wine Travel and its readers. On occasion, we extend the option of purchasing the wines we review or/and the products we spotlight. Some of these product links are set up through affiliate programs, which means Exotic Wine Travel gets referral credits if you choose to purchase these items via the links we provide.

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