Monday, April 14, 2008

Report from ... Made in Italy – a series of events starting April 10, 2008

At 5:45pm on Wednesday April 9th, I received an email inviting me to an Italian wine tasting event as a Vespa dealership (in the Eglinton and Laird area), to be held on Thursday April 10 from 6-8pm. On that same day I got another invite – this time by phone – from Sante (Toronto Wine Show) to attend their press conference, to be held on Thursday April 10 in the afternoon. What’s with all this last minute stuff? Anyway, I decided to forego the Sante event and instead checked out Italian event in the evening.

The event was cutely entitled “Italian Wines for Happy Hour”, hosted by Steve Thurlow (of Wine Access Magazine) and set up by the Italian Trade Commission. This is the first in a series of 4 events to raise awareness for, and the image of, Italian wines. Surrounded by scooters and motorcycles, 4 wines were served with an array appetizers, while Steve gave a brief 10-15 minute talk about the wines he had chosen to showcase this evening. I’d have to say that very few folks around me were paying attention to what Steve had to say, instead most filled their plates or talked amongst themselves. The guest list for the evening was comprised of people from the Vespa dealership’s mailing list, cycle-lovers and riders, many of whom had ridden their bikes over for the free food and booze – as witnessed by the few dozen or so bikes parked just outside the front door. None of the wines were particularly memorable, though none were offensive either, and all went with the food being offered. The wines were basic Italian starters wines: Prosecco (sparkling), Pinot Grigio (popular Italian white), Primitivo (Italian’s version of Zinfandel) and a Valpolicella Ripasso (one down from Amarone) – all very food friendly and consumer friendly choices at decent prices (under $20).

I like what the Italian’s are trying to do here, bringing their wines back to the masses. I remember being a huge Italian wine fan at one point in my life – going as far as buying little juice glass to drink the stuff from (a la Italian movies)*. With the massive amount of wines available Italy has to make themselves more visible and viable as an option when you walk into the liquor store. The LCBO has relegated Italy to after-thought status, with many stores putting the Italian section near, or at, the back.

One lady I spoke with said, “we buy the same thing everytime, I’m not very knowledgeable about wine so I stick with what I know.” Events like this should help broaden people’s horizons and give them a chance to try stuff they might never would have. Bring wine back to the people, a novel idea indeed – let’s see how it goes over the next 3 events, and if that doesn’t work the Italians can always resort to the slogan. “Made in Italy – it’s not made in China, so you know it’s good.”

* I still love Italian wine – I just rarely use those glasses.

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