NeilEmpson & Italian Wine Importers???

Back some 30 yrs ago, when it came to importers of Italian wines, NeilEmpson was pretty much the be all to end all. I still see his wines around from time to time, but not to the degree I used to. When I look at his list of producers…there’s not a whole lot that excites me.
So…the questions are:

  1. Is NeilEmpson Imports sort of a has-been?? Or are you still liking his wines?
  2. What other Italian importers do you particularly like??

My favorites are probably OliverMcCrum and BrianLarky/DellaTerra/


30 years is a long time to be importing wine, I know this is just a twinkling in your eye, but a pretty long stretch for us mortals. What is the longest running person-family owned importer anyway? And last I looked, Neil imported Costanti, one of my favorite Brunello producers, so he has the touch as far as I’m concerned.

I like DeGrazia - I know he is anathema to folks that only drink non-barriqued nebbiolo, but I’ve personally enjoyed the modernist’s impact on Italian wine making, and every time I grab a '90 Altare Arborina, '90 Scavino Bric del Fiasc or '90 Clerico CMG, I am appreciative of the efforts DeGrazia made to introduce many of these “young lions” to the American wine drinker.

Here’s the portfolio listing, let everyone judge.

I enjoy Costanti and Fuligni for the Sangiovese. Jermann and Pieropan make nice whites too.

We still buy a considerable amount of Empson. Great supplier for us.

Yup, Brent…I’d looked at that link later on this morning. There is a lot of interesting wines in there I’d like
to try. I think a big part of the problem is that the distributor here in NM who handles the NeilEmpson line
is not very adventuresome. So mostly we see the Bollini Chard, occasionally a VintageTunina, and not a
whole lot more.
However, when I go up to Boulder/Denver to shop; I find a lot of exciting new Italian wines I’m dying to
try. And they seldom have an Empson label on them.

Of my favorite Italian importers, I should have included a few CO ones: SteveLewis/Guiliana/Boulder; VolioVino/Denver;
DistinguishedBrands/Littleton; VinoTerra/Boulder. All have some very interesting stuff.
I think one of the driving forces for these CO importers is FrascaRestaurant/Boulder. One of the truly great Italian
restaurants in the USofA. BobbyStuckey has a terrific wine list and leans on these folks to bring in Italian wines
he’s discovered. And Brett’s BoulderWineMerchant does a terrific job on their Italian selection, as does DaVino/Denver.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Dominic Nocerino (Vinifera Imports) for almost 30 years since Dominic started his operation in Chicago back in the early 1980s. I worked for him and with him throughout the 80s and 90s - traveled many times to Italy with him and learned so much on how to (and not how) to do business in the fine wine world.

While I have never been a fan of his business practices - he does have the golden touch when it comes to Italian wines (he was Gaja’s importer throughout most of the 90s as well as Felsina) and his early producers from Alto Adige, Piedmont, Trentino, Tuscany and Friuli were always benchmarks for me -

I always loved the fact that Dominic used to tell me that no good wine was made below Rome - even though he was from Naples…

Hmmm…maybe RobertHaas/VineyardBrands. Robert is still involved (somewhat) in the business.

Frederick Wildman is in the ring if you want to discuss oldest importers. 1934.

Domaine Select is a very good Italian importer that hasn’t been mentioned. They have grown a lot in recent years and have several great producers in their book – Le Macchiole, Borgogno, Gravner, Castello del Terriccio, Massolino, Tabarrini, Hofstatter…