Lou Iacucci, I remember the night he died so well,” said thirty-something Edoardo Falvo, scion of the Avignonesi family and co-owner, with his brother Alfredo, of the Masseria Li Veli winery in Puglia.
The glamorous Edoardo and his effervescent wife Alessia Nebuloni were in Austin, working the market with their wines from Salento and my good friend, Master Sommelier Craig Collins, regional sales manager had asked me to join them for dinner.
In case you don’t know who Louis “Lou” Iacucci was, just ask anyone who worked in the New York wine business back in the 1970s and 80s: as the owner of Gold Star Wines and one of the founders of Vias Imports, Lou started importing fine wines from Piedmont and Tuscany before anyone could imagine the renaissance of Italian wines in our country that emerged in the 1990s. Every New York-based Italian wine professional over the age of 50 remembers Lou (whom I never met) as the great pioneer of the contemporary era of Italian wine in our country. The legendary wine cellar at Manducatis in Long Island City, Queens was shaped by his palate and the then unknown wines he imported — particularly from Piedmont.
“I remember that night very well,” recounted Edoardo. “Fabrizio Pedrolli [his partner in Vias] called to say that there had been an accident. He was crying and he told us that they had been driving in two separate cars. Fabrizio had passed a truck on the road and Louis followed him. Fabrizio made it but Louis had a frontal collision. They were driving from Siena to meet my father [Alberto Falvo] at the winery [Avignonesi].”
I imagined that Edoardo would remember that night because a number of people who knew him had told me that he was driving to Avignonesi when the accident occurred.
Lou was taken to the hospital in Siena where he died the next day, said Edoardo.
Even though I never met him (and he passed long before my time), Iacucci sits supremely in my mind’s vision of the Italian wine Olympus. And his hagiography is as fascinating (at least to me) as the Nebbiolo he brought to this country in a time before the American media reinterpreted the iconic wines of Italy — just ask Charles Scicolone, Alfonso Cevola, Livio Panebianco, Francesco Bonfio et alia…
Edoardo’s reminiscences of the evening sent goosebumps traveling across my skin… The night that Lou Iacucci expired was, in many ways, the day the music died.
(BTW, Googling around before I composed this post, I came across this excellent and superbly detailed account of the recent sale of Avignonesi and its new owner and her biodynamic conversion of the estate. Fascinating reading imho.)
In other news…
Yesterday wine legend Christopher Cannan (above) was also in the River City (that’s Austin to the rest of yall) at the best little wine bar in Texas, Vino Vino, pimping his new project, the Clos Figueras (Priorat).
He seemed most geeked to taste me on the white he produces on the newish estate, a blend of stainless-steel fermented Viognier with smaller amounts of cask-fermented Grenache Blanc.
“They were supposed to send me Cabernet Sauvignon [rootstock],” he told me, “but they sent Viognier instead. And so I decided to plant it.” The wine was fresh, with bright acidity, and I was impressed by how the Viognier’s unctuous character was kept in check by the wine’s overall balance. It was delicious.
To all those folks who were worried about me not having any good wine to drink down here in Texas, not to worry. We do alright… ;)
I discovered Gold Star in 1980. I would go there twice a month to buy wine. Lou had the best selection of Italian wine in the country at the time, He aslo had a great selection of French and German wine as well. When I walked into the store he would see me from his office, run down the stairs , get a shopping cart, grap me by the arm and around the store we would go. We must try this wine and that wine he would say as he put them in the shopping cart. He introduced me to so many wines-Avignonesi Viin Santo among them. He had the 1977 vintage for $20 a bottle I should buy a case, he said ;because it was the best Vin Santo he ever tasted. With the case discount in came to $17 dollars a bottle for 750’s. A 375 bottle of it now costs as much as case I brought in the early 1980’s. We became friends and Lou took me to his favorite restaurant Manducatis with its great wine list- most of it supplied by Lou .Both Michele and I still remember the last time we saw him and I cannot open certain wines without thinking of him.
wow, Charles, what an incredible memory of Lou. Thank you for posting this. You were the first person who ever spoke to me of Lou and SO MANY others followed you…
Alfonso just sent me this:
Are you planning to go to Vinitaly this year? If so, let’s taste some Vin Santo together…
Thank you Jeremy for this post. He died on February the 24th, 1989 few miles from my house but I was in denver, Co. when it happened.
Great person, great wine lover, great italian wine lover. Let me add one thing of the thousand I remember from him: a couple years before (may be more) he had a big two pages interview on The Wine Spectator, as an authority about italian wines. In the middle of an answer he said;” I do not want to drink italian wines that taste like french and I do not want to pay italian wines at french prices”. His teaching to the italian producers was 25 years ago (1) keep your identity and (2) remember the value.
What a great article Jeremy. You are the keeper of the flame when it comes to the knowledge all of us that began in the 90s need to know. I am a friend of the Falvo family and Li Veli. I am eager to read the story of the Avignonesi sale as I was saddened when the Falvo’s left the estate.