Local Source, a new Texas wine distributor, tries to bring back “relationship selling.” They’re counting people, not just beans. And they’re hiring.

As the U.S. begins to open up again, times couldn’t be more exciting for the wine industry. People — trade members and consumers alike — are all eager to taste after more than a year of lockdown.

I recently spoke to a veteran of the Texas wine business, David Verheyen (above), who’s just launched a new wine distribution company here in Houston, Local Source.

David has worked in the highest levels of the Texas wine establishment. But now he’s trying to shake things up with his new company where the focus is on “relationship selling.”

As he notes in our excerpted conversation below, the big wine companies — fueled by even more consolidation during the pandemic — have given up on the “romance” of wine.

He’s trying to bring it back. And he’s not just counting beans. He’s counting people, too.

If you’re wondering why he’s standing in front of a couple of muscle cars in the image above, that’s because one his partners also stores his vintage car collection in their Houston warehouse.

Here’s what he had to say when we spoke recently by phone.

Local Source is currently hiring. See their website for contact info.

Excerpts from a recent conversation with Local Source co-founder David Verheyen, a 30-year-plus veteran of the Texas wine trade:

[My business partner and I] both come from background of working for really large corporations. So we wanted to focus on building something with a family feel and a local feel to it.

We don’t want our customers to feel like they have a number crammed down their throat from someone in New York, Miami, Atlanta, or San Francisco. We’re not the ones saying, “hey, we need to make this number.” We wanted to be about the wine and the family behind the wine — the farmer.

And that’s why we call it “Local Source.” Our people are from here. We’re not bringing in people from Las Vegas to come in and sell Champagne. We’re doing it ourselves.

We are also in importer. And we’re taking that piece of the equation out of it for our customers.

We’re looking for a more adventurous drinker when it comes to Champagne, Savoie, parts of the Rhône Valley, and parts of Southern Burgundy. We don’t want to be the “big company.” We don’t want to get in the away. We’re not built for that. We don’t want to play in that park. We are big believers in traditional European styles. And we’re also trying to build up our Italian portfolio.

Unfortunately, the days of relationship selling are over. That’s because of the technology. The big companies feel like they can dictate what the customer will buy. I started selling wine in 1989 in Texas. I never lost some feeling of the romanticism in this business. And I don’t want my employees to lose sight of that.

Taste with me virtually this Friday in Long Beach, in-person next Wednesday in Houston (free).

It’s been nothing short of exhilarating to begin doing in-person tastings again.

I’m really excited to announce that I’ll be doing an in-person tasting at Roma restaurant in Houston next Wednesday, June 2 at 6 p.m. CST.

As I’m getting out more and more, including a now sold-out Pecorino Toscano tasting I’m leading and a dinner I’m co-presenting at Eataly in Dallas next Thursday, June 3, virtual events are still happening: this Friday, May 28 at 5 p.m. PST, I’ll be co-presenting a virtual Lambrusco tasting in Long Beach with Alicia Lini of Lini 910 (my friend and longtime client) and Samantha Dugan, one of the top sparkling wine experts working in the U.S. today.

If you’d like to join either event, please just shoot an email by clicking here (unfortunately, the Eataly events are completely filled at this point).

And there are a ton in-person events on the horizon. Thank you for the support.

Special thanks to the Passionate Foodie for the image from a few years ago in Boston.

Happy birthday Paolo. I love you, I miss you.

My bromance Paolo Cantele is celebrating a special birthday today. In any other year, he and I would be together on this day, as we have been on many of his birthdays over the years.

That’s a video I made for a song I wrote about him a few years ago, above. He’s a rocker and so it had to be heavy.

Paolo has been my friend and client for more than 10 years now. Together, we have achieved some of the highest highs in our line of work. We’ve also shared some of the best meals and wines of my life together, in part thanks to his wonderful generosity.

But the thing I cherish the most — and I believe he does, too — is our long road trips across the U.S.: the conversations, the music, the on-the-road camaraderie. That’s Paolo during our very last road trip (alone or together) in February of 2020 in Boulder, Colorado. On that trip, we left from Houston, where we had done an event the night before. We then did an event in Dallas. Got trolled by a Trumper during lunch on our way to do an event in Tulsa. Did an amazing dinner at Tavernetta in Denver the next night. And ended up at Boulder Wine Merchant and then later that night at our favorite restaurant in the U.S., Frasca.

That’s me and Paolo from a couple of years ago when we did an epic wine dinner in Houston for more than 100 people. That was an incredible night.

Paolo is the king of Instagram and Instagram filters. I love this photo of him. Check it out in the video above, too.

One of our greatest moments of working together was this story by Ray Isle in Food & Wine where Ray recounts his visit to Salento and a cooking class at the Cantele winery. What a great memory!

That’s Paolo with his brother Gianni. Paolo’s the “rock ‘n’ roll kid” in the family, Gianni is Salento’s Captain America. They’re both wonderful, lovely men with whom I’ve spent many unforgettable evenings tasting and talking and trading notes on what’s important in life. Both of them put so much soul into their family’s wines.

That’s Paolo holding a baby Georgia in his arms! Before Lila Jane was born, we took her on a tour of Italy, including a fantastic stay in Lecce, one of our favorite cities in Italy, where Paolo lives. It was Georgia’s first time in Europe.

Is there any question that Paolo should be played by Gary Oldman in the movie, “The Cantele Story”? I took that Photo back in Austin in a distant 2008 when I had just moved to Texas and Paolo and I first met on a “work with,” as we call them in the trade.

That’s Paolo and Tracie on this day 10 years ago when he celebrated is birthday with us at our home in Austin.

It must have been around that same time that I first took Paolo to experience Chicken Shit Bingo at Ginny’s Little Long Horn Saloon in Austin where we lived when I first got to the state.

Paolo, my Italian brother by another mother! I love you and I miss you. Happy birthday man. I miss our road trips, our conversations about books, movies, music, philosophy, politics… I miss you man. I wish I were there celebrating with you. We’ll make up for lost time once I can get back to you and you to us.

Rock on, brother. Our world is a better place because you’re in it. Un abbraccio forte.

It’s time to counter fine wine’s historic hostility to Black people.

Above: American artist and entrepreneur Jay-Z bought a Champagne house and launched his own wine after racist comments by a Champagne executive (photo via NRK-P3’s Flickr Creative Commons).

The American artist and entrepreneur Jay-Z made headlines in 2014 when he purchased a historic Champagne house and announced his plan to launch his own line of méthode Champenoise wine.

The move was prompted by overtly racist comments made by an executive for the singer’s favorite Champagne brand.

When asked what he thought about American rappers singing about the wine and using it as a prop in their music videos, said executive replied: “That’s a good question, but what can we do? We can’t forbid people from buying it. I’m sure Dom Pérignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business.”

The rapper would later sing:

    I used to drink [said Champagne], them motherfuckers racist
    So I switched gold bottles on to that Spade shit

Jay-Z’s new label is known as “Ace of Spades.”

A year prior, a noted Italian winemaker had published a racist rant aimed at Italy’s newly seated minister for integration, the country’s first Black cabinet member. When confronted by previous fans of his wine online, said producer doubled down and publicly professed his acute animus toward Black people in general.

Some years earlier, in the pre-social media age, an Italian winery known for its white wines published a much circulated flier with an image of a young Black woman on it. Her chest was uncovered and she had a glass of white wine in her hand. The caption read: “I like whites, too!”

Those are just the public instances of overt racism that come to mind. But they are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Just ask any Black wine professional, whether writer or tradesperson, what it’s like to be the only Black person in the room at a given tasting. The anecdotes of ignoble treatment will be myriad.

As the world of wine tries to move past its historic hostility toward Black people, a new movement for inclusion, equity, and dignity-based treatment has taken shape among White wine trade members.

That’s a good thing, no doubt.

But in the light of the industry’s newly found self-awareness, the reaction to a recent post of mine was all the more surprising.

After I suggested that we change the name of an Italian grape variety to make it inoffensive to Black people in this country, I was accused of wokeness. Is that really such a crime? Especially given the industry’s historic antagonism of Black people, is it so wrong to make a similar proposal? Evidently a number of people feel that way.

What I’m proposing — an evolution of the grape name, not a so-called cancellation — has nothing to do with wokeness or cancel culture.

It’s inspired by common decency and sense.

To all of my detractors, I propose this. You stand before a group of roughly 100 wine lovers in a restaurant on a Thursday night in Houston where nearly half the crowd is Black. Let’s even throw in a small sound system into the equation so that your voice is crystal clear. And with bottle in hand, you try presenting a grape called Negroamaro.

I’m not asking Italians to change their grape name. I’m asking them and their American partners to adapt it for Black market here in the U.S.

I’m not asking the world to cancel every name that has the word Negro in it. I’m asking the wine world to acknowledge that Black people like Italian wine, too.

I’m not asking my fellow wine professionals to diminish Italian viticulture or culture at large. I’m asking them to pay attention to the sensibilities of Black wine lovers in this country. A group that has been historically overlooked, ignored, and maltreated by the wine industry. If you claim that you haven’t seen ample evidence of that legacy in the #BLM era, you are disingenuous.

With all the EU funds that will become available next year for Italian winemakers to promote their products in America, where they sell 70 percent — yes 70 percent — of their output by most industry estimates, will it be so painful for them to create a new label for our market?

I can assure you it will be plenty painful for many Black wine lovers if they don’t.

A better translation for “sperone cordonato.” Film yeast, false friends, bad translations. Italian wine glossary updated.

Sit tibi terra levis Iacobe. See this round-up of tributes to beloved winemaker and grape grower Jim Clendenen. News of his passing stunned a saddened and diminished wine world on Monday. I only had the opportunity to interact with him a few times but Tracie and I have always enjoyed the wines immensely. When we lived in Austin, he and I shared the same hair dresser. No joke! He had better hair than me. And he was always so warm and nice when we met him. One of the greatest wine people of our generation. Lovely man and legacy wines that shaped a legion of young wine professionals in this country.

The work of a lexicographer is as thankless as it is exhausting. Yet we glossographers soldier on.

This morning, I updated and added a couple of terms to the Italian wine terms glossary (below).

One new entry is for fioretta or film yeast/surface yeast/mycoderma. Thanks to Italian wine professional Barbara Santilli for suggesting that one.

The entries for criomacerazione or cold soak and filtro a cartone or plate filter were inspired by the challenges these terms have posed for Italian interlocutors on our weekly virtual wine dinner calls.

If I had a nickel for every time I heard an Italian call their filter a “cardboard filter” (a false friend), I’d buy all the Tavernello I could (see the new entry for vino dozzinale or plonk below).

And lastly, I owe the newly updated rendering of cordone speronato or permanent cordon to a blog post by Jamie Goode (whom I don’t know personally but whose writing I admire).

No update of the glossary would be complete without thanking the “vineyard doctor” Maurizio Gily, one of Italy’s most prolific flying vineyard managers and prodigious publisher of viticultural miscellanea. Maurizio has been instrumental in dotting some of these i’s and crossing some of these t’s.

Buona lettura. Enjoy.

a giropoggio vines planted across a slope (along the contour of the slope; compare with a ritocchino)
a ritocchino vines planted up and down a slope (from peak to valley; compare with a giropoggio)
acciaio (inossidabile) stainless-steel (vat/tank)
acinellatura millerandage (shot berries, hens and chicks, or pumpkins and peas)
affinamento aging
alberello head-trained bush vines
allegagione fruit set
allevamento training
apice vegetativo shoot tip
argilla clay
arresto di fermentazione stuck fermentation
assemblaggio blend
azoto nitrogen
barbatella rooted cutting/bench graft
barrique barrique (small French oak cask)
bâtonnage stirring on the lees
biodinamica biodynamics/biodynamic
biologico organic
botte traditional large cask
bucce skins
Cabernet (Sauvignon) Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Franc Cabernet Franc
calcare/calcareo limestone/calcareous (limestone-rich)
capo a frutto fruit cane
cappello sommerso submerged cap maceration
chioma canopy
chiusura grappolo bunch closure
cimatura hedging
cocciniglia mealybug
cordone cordon
cordone speronato permanent cordon (cordon-trained spur-pruned vines)
criomacerazione cold soak
cru vineyard designation/single vineyard
cuvée blend
délestage rack and return
diradamento dei grappoli pruning/thinning grapes/dropping fruit/green harvest
diradamento di germogli shoot thinning
diraspare/diraspatrice de-stem/de-stemmer
diserbante termico weed torch/weed flamer
DOC DOC (designation of controlled origin)
DOCG DOCG (designation of controlled and guaranteed origin)
DOP PDO (protected designation of origin)
doppio capovolto double-arched cane (training)
drenaggio drainage
esca esca (black dead arm or black measles)
escursione termica diurnal shift (temperature variation)
femminella lateral shoot
fermentazione arrestata stuck fermentation
filare row
filtro a cartone plate filter (pad filter)
fioretta film yeast/surface yeast/mycoderma
flavescenza dorata grapevine yellows (flavescence dorée)
follatura punching down
forma di allevamento training system/trellis system
galestro galestro (a marl- and limestone-rich subsoil unique to Tuscany)
gemma bud
gemma dormiente, gemma d’inverno dormant bud
germogliamento budbreak/budburst
giropoggio vines planted across a slope (along the contour of the slope; compare with a ritocchino)
grappa grappa
grappolo cluster/bunch
grappolo spargolo loosely clustered grape bunch
Guyot Guyot
IGP PGI (protected geographical indication)
IGT IGT (typical geographical indication)
inerbimento sward management of the soil
innesto graft
interfila inter-row
invaiatura veraison
lievito naturale native/ambient/indigenous/wild yeast
lievito selezionato cultured yeast
limo silt
macchia mediterranea Mediterranean maquis (shrubland)
maestrale (vento di maestrale) north-westerly wind
malolattica malolactic fermentation
marna/marne marl
marza scion
maturazione ripening
monovitigno single-grape variety (wine)
mosto must
oidio oidium (powdery mildew)
pedicello pedicel
peduncolo stem (peduncle)
pergola pergola/overhead trellis system
peronospora peronospora (downy mildew)
pied de cuve pied de cuve (native yeast starter)
pigiatura crush/crushing
pirodiserbatore weed torch/weed flamer
pirodiserbo weed torching
pollone sucker
portinnesto rootstock
pressa press
pressare to press
quercia oak
rachide rachis
raspo stem
rimontaggio pumping over
ritocchino vines planted up and down a slope (from peak to valley, as it were; compare with a giropoggio)
sabbia/sabbioso sand/sandy (sandy soil)
Sauvignon (Blanc) Sauvignon Blanc
scacchiatura shoot-thinning
scheletro very fine gravel
seme seed
sfogliatura leaf plucking
sgemmatura disbudding
siccità drought/drought conditions
sistema di allevamento training/trellis system
sottofila under-row
sottosuolo subsoil
sovescio cover crop/green manure
sovramaturazione over-ripening
spalliera (vigneto a spalliera) vertical shoot positioning of the shoots (VSP)
spargolo (grappolo spargolo) loosely clustered (grape bunch)
sperone spur
spollonatura disbudding and suckering/de-suckering
stralciatura shoot-thinning
stress idrico hydric stress
sulle bucce skin contact (macerated on the skins)
sulle fecce nobili lees aged (aged on its lees)
sur lie lees aged (aged on its lees)
svinatura racking (devatting, drawing off)
terreno/terreni soil
tessitura (del suoolo) soil texture
tignola della vite vine moth (Eupoecilia ambiguella) European berry moth
tralcio shoot/cane
tramoggia hopper/feeder
tufo tufaceous subsoil (porous limestone)
vasca vat/tank
vento di maestrale north-westerly wind
vigna/vigne vine/vineyards
vigneto vineyard
vinaccia/vinacce pomace
vinacciolo seed
vino dozzinale plonk
vite vine
viticcio tendril
vitigno grape variety

Why isn’t our national wine media paying attention to Samantha Dugan’s spectacular sparkling wine selection at the Wine Country, Long Beach?

Above: the seemingly endless selection of sparkling wine at the Wine Country in Long Beach, California, where Samantha “Sans Dosage” Dugan has created one of the best programs in the country.

Why our nation’s mainline wine mastheads haven’t paid more attention to Samantha Dugan’s extraordinary sparkling wine selection at the Wine Country in Long Beach, CA has left me nonplussed.

In case you’ve never visited her and her team, that’s just part of the seemingly endless offering of bubbles, above at her shop, a legacy wine merchant in a community where there is a deep appreciation for fine wine, from the everyday to the collectible.

Some of you may remember her from the days of the wine blogging renaissance when she was one of the movement’s highest-profile and respected voices — under the handle “Samantha Sans Dosage.” Times wine writer Eric Asimov was among her biggest fans and she would ultimately be summoned to the Napa Valley wine writers symposium (which is happening this week btw) as a featured speaker, an exemplar among wine blogging paladins.

These days her aphoristic, observational, aesthetic, and philosophical ruminations circulate exclusively on the Facebook but they continue to wield powerfully compelling content, equally humoristic and poignant (and often both).

“We’re somewhere between Los Angeles and San Diego,” said her son Jeremy Dugan, who also works at the store as the outpost’s Natural wine slinger. “So no one pays attention to what my mom is doing here.”

Above: the beer selection at the Wine Country is equally impressive. These people CARE about what they do. They want to send you home happy.

Besides being a wonderful and generous friend, Samantha is one of the best tasters in the U.S. right now imho. And her sparkling wine chops, honed over more than a decade at the bubbly wine helm, are the definition of par excellence (look it up in your Webster’s).

I am thrilled to share the news that Samantha, Alicia Lini, and I will be leading a virtual Lambrusco tasting on Friday, May 28, at 5 p.m. PST. You’ll have to visit the store that day to pick up the food and wine. But I’ll also be sharing the link with non-So. Cal. sparkling geeks like me who want to get in on this one.

Just ping me here or wherever if you want me to hook you up with the bubbly good stuff.

Happy Mother’s Day Tracie! You are amazing. I love you.

At the Grand Canyon in 2018.

After Tracie gave birth to our first daughter Georgia in 2011, we agreed that she wouldn’t go back to work. We felt strongly that it was important for the girls to have a stay-at-home parent. My business was growing and we were confident that we could maintain our style of living.

Over the next nine years, work had its ups and downs, as can be expected for a freelance copywriter and translator. But one way or another, we always managed to make it work. And about five years ago, when the girls started to attend a K-12 school, Tracie started a custom cookie business and later began selling skincare products. Her work really helped to make the proverbial ends meet.

In 2019, my business had its best year ever. We were starting to reach some of our financial goals and as fried as I was from a frenetic work pace, we ended the year on a high note, with a little money in the bank and all the bills paid.

Then the pandemic came. Although a handful of my longtime clients stood by me, most simply stopped answering the phone. It was understandable, of course. We were all completely freaking out and no one knew what was going to happen. By the end of the summer, all of our financial progress had been wiped out. Groceries were going on credit cards and I was scrambling to get any work I could.

Tracie and me in the green room at the Mercury Lounge on the Lower East Side where my band last headlined in February 2009. I cherish that picture. Who knew where our lives and marriage would lead? We had Bollinger in our cups and the room was packed that night.

It was then that Tracie quietly but steadily began studying for her realtor license. We paid the fee for the mandatory classes and I took up more of the parenting duties so that she had time to prepare for her exam.

The first week of March, Tracie took the exam and passed. And after countless interviews, she had a position with an old line realty firm here in Houston.

And then something incredible happened. Even though it takes months for most new realtors to start getting listings and making sales, Tracie landed a seven-figure contract as a buyer’s agent by the fourth week in her new job. That was soon followed by her first “listing,” a milestone for anyone starting a new career in realty.

Honestly, none of us — Tracie included — even dreamed that this would happen so fast. We were expecting six months or so to pass before she was fully up and running.

But here we are. From zero to 60 in just a few short weeks, Tracie now makes herself up every morning and heads to the office. And the contracts just keep coming in. And I no longer lose sleep over next month’s rent or electric bill.

Tracie P, you are an amazing woman, mother, wife, best friend, partner, and lover. You are a role model for our daughters and an inspiration to me in my own new career in sales.

People thought I was crazy when I left California for Texas in 2008 (now look at how many Californians are moving to Houston!). None of us could have known the will power and the determination that you would bring to bear as our family’s ship needed to be righted.

I love you and you are an extraordinary human being. And I am the soul who had the extraordinarily good fortune to meet you (through our blogs!), marry you, and be father to your children.

Happy Mother’s Day, Tracie P. Yours is a story of strength, courage, and grit. And our family is only better for it. I love you, gorgeous woman!

Tracie Parzen realtor:

It’s time to change a racially insensitive Italian grape name.

negroamaroAbove: Neramaro grapes ready for harvest in Salento, Puglia. Would anyone really be hurt if the name were changed? There’s no doubt that fewer people would be offended if it were modified or a suitable alternative were available.

The more closely you look at a word, wrote the early 20th-century aphorist Karl Kraus, the more distantly it looks back at you.

This nugget of wisdom couldn’t be more true when it comes to the name of one of Puglia’s most important grape varieties, Negroamaro.

While no one knows its origins for certain, some ampelographers believe that the name is what linguists call a hybrid tautology. In antiquity, it wasn’t uncommon for cities, for example, to be named twice, with part of the name in Latin and part in Greek. The most famous instance of this is the Sicilian town of Linguaglossa, from the Latin lingua (tongue or language) and the Greek γλῶσσα (transliterated glossa, tongue or language). There are a number of cities in Sicily that still have toponyms like this. Scholars suppose that this helped to mitigate confusion among anicent travelers who may have been familiar with one language but not the other.

In the case of the grape name, it’s possible that it comes from the Latin niger (black) and the Greek μαῦρος (transliterated mavros, meaning black). Even today, red grape varieties and red wines are sometimes referred to as “black” in romance languages. Pinot Noir, Nero d’Avola, and Nerello are examples of this. The Latin name in this case, according to the theory, is followed by a corruption of the Greek.

Others take the meaning of the ampelonym at face value. They believe the name means bitter black, from the Italian negro (an archaic form of the modern-day Italian nero) and the Italian amaro, meaning bitter or sour. As evidence of this theory, they point to the popular Greek grape variety Ξινόμαυρο (transliterated Xinomavro) from the Greek ξινό (transliterated xinó) meaning bitter or sour and μαῦρος (mavros) meaning black (as above).

In antiquity grapes were mostly vinified as sweet wines, with high residual sugar. It’s plausible that as tastes began to shift to drier wines in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a grape name like bitter black may have been an indication of the variety’s flavor when vinified in an unsweet style.

Whether “bitter black” or “black black” the ampelonym’s semantic evolution took an unexpected turn when Negroamaro began to become popular among Italian wine lovers in the U.S.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, American wine influencers, including media and wine trade members, began to shift their focus from international grape varieties to highly localized varieties. It was only natural that interest in grapes like Negroamaro, which is grown nearly exclusively in Puglia’s Salento peninsula, would expand. And that’s exactly what happened. This once little-known variety, which produces value-driven high-quality wine, is now a favorite of sommeliers. They love it because the grape’s classic meaty character and its vibrant acidity make it a favorite of California Cabernet Sauvignon lovers.

With this heightened interest, an unfortunate linguistic impropriety also emerged. And it’s had a substantively undesirable impact on the way the grape variety and the people who grow it are perceived.

Understandably, the name of the grape is highly offensive to Black wine enthusiasts.

It’s important to note that negro in this case is what linguists call a “false friend”: To someone not familiar with romance languages, it sounds like a racist slur.

But there’s absolutely no way to mitigate the grape name’s injuriousness.

It was October 2017 when my close friend and longtime client Paolo Cantele presented his family’s wines at a wine dinner in Houston where I live. Roughly half the guests were Black. I’ll never forget the look I got when I presented the wine to two Black couples sitting together at the same table. When I mentioned the grape name, one of the women looked up at me in disbelief. What was that I heard you just say? she noted incredulously. I apologized and gently told her that the grape name came from the Latin word for black. She seemed satisfied with my response and I believe it was abundantly clear to everyone at the table that I wasn’t using a racial slur. But there was no avoiding the unspoken, however unintended, offense that had taken place. To this day, I feel terrible about that episode.

“When I present our wines in the U.S.,” Paolo told me later, I use Neramaro” instead of the historic ampelonym. His neologism, he said, was his own invention. It’s not an officially recognized designation, nor is it in common use among Pugliese producers. To my knowledge, he’s the only person who uses it — besides me.

Some of my fellow wine professionals will counter that the grape name is part of a viticultural tradition that would be diminished by a “politically correct” name change. Why, they might ask, should Salento growers be forced to “give in” to a cultural trend that has nothing to do with Salento winemaking? My answer to them is that we’ve reached a tipping point where it has become socially irresponsible and morally reprehensible to ignore the impact that the name has on an entire demographic — not just in the U.S. but in Europe as well.

There have been numerous cases in Italian wine where appellations have changed the names of grapes, although not for socially sensitive reasons.

Prosecco was changed to Glera in the hope that it would elevate the wine’s brand recognition (the jury’s still out on whether it has or not). Tocai Friulano was changed to Friulano after the EU ruled in favor of Tokay producers who claimed trademark infringement (sales grew in the wake of the change). Vino Nobile di Montepulciano was changed to Nobile in the hope that it would help Americans with pronunciation (it didn’t).

If Europeans can be compelled to change a grape name for commercial and juridical reasons, how can we ignore the negative fallout that our now-in-vogue Salento variety has had consumers, trade members, and influencers who are deeply and rightly aggrieved by its name?

It’s not a “fault” that the West’s viticultural tradition has produced a grape name that encroaches on the dignity of countless wine lovers. But it is our shortcoming that we have failed to take action to remedy this aberration.

The farther back we look at a word, the more closely it looks back at us. As we look forward toward the future of Italian wine in the U.S., we need to muster the moral strength and civic courage to make these excellent wines palatable to all gradations of humanity — and not just our own.

Taste with the über-hip Cristiano Garella and me this Thursday in Houston at Roma.

Above: vineyards on the Frecciarossa estate in Oltrepò Pavese (image via the winery’s website).

Not a lot of Italian wine people in the U.S. know the Frecciarossa winery in Oltrepò Pavese. But in Italy it’s considered one of the country’s top growers of Pinot Noir and producer of one of its benchmark classic method wines (even the Franciacortini agree, however begrudgingly).

Even fewer know that Cristiano Garella has been quietly making wine for Frecciarossa for some time now. He’s the young breakout winemaker who put Alto Piemonte on everyone’s lips in our country. As far as I know, Frecciarossa is the only winery that he consults with beyond his now legendary, although only a decade old, Colombera e Garella estate.

I couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome Cristiano (a lovely guy, btw) to our weekly virtual wine dinner at Roma in Thursday this Thursday. He is one of Italy’s most exciting winemakers and one of the driving forces behind the New Wave of Nebbiolo that’s coming from northern Piedmont.

We will be tasting three wines from Frecciarossa with him: a classic still Pinot Noir and a still Uva Rara. The third, you ask? If the Uva Rara weren’t enough to get the true wine geeks out for this one, the third wine will surely pique their interest: a still white — yes, a white! — Pinot Noir vinified “off its skins.” If that doesn’t excite the wine nerds, I don’t know what will!

We still don’t have the menu in place for this week’s event. But the cost will be $119 plus tax and gratuity for a three-course meal and the three bottles of wine (the same price as every week since we began doing these dinners in late April 2020).

Please just send me an email if you’d like to join. Can you tell I’m pumped for this one? I’m SUPER geeked to taste these wines with the dude who made them. And I’m hoping to get to taste these stunning wines with you. Thanks for all your support with these dinners over the last 12 months.