Meet the Importer: Dalla Terra brings Italy’s finest wines to the States

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Turning a bottle over to find the importer can be a great way to discover new strains and producers, or to quickly call what to take home if you’re plagued by indecision at the bottle shop. In this series of interviews, we chat to importers across the country who have different philosophies, markets and preferences when it comes to the types of wines they include in their portfolio. We hope that getting to know each other leads you to some new favorites!

At first glance, building a portfolio of wines originating from just one country might seem like an easier task for an importer. In case of Dalla Terra Winery directthat country is Italy, and the task of curating and representing family-owned wineries from Piedmont to Puglia is far from easy.

Dalla Terra acts as an importer by allowing its distributors to buy directly from wineries, a model that means wineries and merchants enjoy higher profit margins while consumers pay about 20 percent less for some of Italy’s finest wines. It’s the type of agreement that aims to create a win-win situation for wineries and consumers, but requires Dalla Terra to act as a much closer partner with its portfolio wineries than the traditional importer.

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It’s been 32 years since Dalla Terra was founded and the importer is still going strong with some of Italy’s most exciting and respected wineries. We asked President Scott Ades to share his approach to importing, his five must-try bottles, and what to expect the next time you find a wine from the Dalla Terra collection on the shelves of your local bottle shop , to share.

What is your import philosophy?

We typically focus on family owned wineries. That’s not to say it can’t be a very good winery if it’s not family owned, but that’s always been a distinction we’ve tended to make. We like wineries with a clear generational path because we like working with people we have worked with over a long period of time.

Which winemakers and wines inspire you the most and why?

We enjoy working with wineries that focus on sustainability and are committed to being good stewards of the land they farm. Since we only represent one winery per appellation across Italy, we have to be really careful – every wine has to be a quintessence of that appellation. If we don’t get it right, it’s not like we could offer three more wines. We are always looking for wineries that prioritize quality and the ability to produce consistently. In general, I would also say that we tend to lean towards elegant wines — that doesn’t mean that we don’t have wines with power, but elegant is a good description of what excites us.

Who is your target group and how has it developed over the past three decades?

I would say the wines that we represent as a category used to be typically enjoyed by older consumers and that is changing fast. In the last 15 years, our demographic has shifted toward younger drinkers; Their tastes are a little more diverse, and these drinkers are much more adventurous today than they were in previous generations. Our wines are relatively more expensive, so we tend to speak to wealthier, older millennials who are developing a real interest in higher-quality wines.

How would you best explain what you do to someone trying to understand the role of an importer in the wine industry?

There’s a lot of wine out there, especially from Italy. Our main job is to find good wineries to bring to the US, but that has many layers. We define good wineries as those that not only consistently produce good wine, but can also maintain consistency in supply and price. Once we have found this nice winery, our next task is to educate the market about these wines, both the trade, such as distributors, retailers and restaurateurs, and the consumer. Without that educational and storytelling component, everyone would only drink what they know, and no one would drink Nebbiolo or Verdicchio. We do this through seminars and presentations for our sales force and restaurant partners. We do retail tastings all the time, and in recent years there has also been an explosion in virtual seminars because they engage more consumers and allow more people to get involved. We are responsible for compiling the information and making it available to the sommelier or retailer who stocks the wine.

What do you think makes Dalla Terra different from other importers?

I think one of the most frustrating things for consumers is reading a review about a wine and then realizing they can’t find it. Dalla Terra has a very good national distribution network and we really focus on all markets. You can travel to Kansas and Oklahoma and find our wines – maybe not all, but many.

5 wines to taste from Dalla Terra

Adami Vigneto Giardino Prosecco

In 1933, Abele Adami made the very first single-vineyard Prosecco from his Vigneto Giardino, nestled in the remarkable hills on the northernmost edge of the Prosecco region. Almost 90 years and four generations later, the Adami family is still making the same wine and setting the standard for quality in one of the fastest growing wine regions in the world. To say that the family’s wines are “only Prosecco” is an understatement; They are among the most passionately made wines in all of Italy.

Cleto Chiarli Vecchia Modena

In the mid-19th century, Cleto Chiarli began making his own wine from the local Lambrusco grapes to serve at his osteria in Modena. The wine became so popular that he eventually founded the first wine producing company in Emilia-Romagna, which is now run by the fifth and sixth generations of the family. The history of Lambrusco is inseparable from the history of the family and they have been instrumental in raising the quality and reputation of Lambrusco worldwide. Vecchia Modena is made from Lambrusco’s Sorbara clone and yields a delightfully and surprisingly pink and tart wine. It’s a refreshing contrast to the traditionally red, tannic and sweet Lambrusco that many are familiar with.

Inama Vin Soave

Soave has an ubiquitous nature that has firmly placed it in the annals of the Italian wine world, but a renaissance is also taking place in the region. The Inama family is at the forefront during these exciting times. With an energetic and relentless trio of brothers now running the winery, Inama is uncompromisingly pushing the boundaries of what is possible in Soave by focusing on sustainable farming, plot selection, yield reduction and experimenting with different fermentation methods and vessels. Full of their vibrant personalities, their Vin Soave is what they call “a little everyday luxury”.

Selvapiana Chianti Rufina

If you know Federico Giuntini, you will love him just as you will love his Selvapiana Chianti Rufina if you have tasted it. The wine has a delightfully rustic backbone that is typically Italian. Rufina is Chianti’s smallest sub-zone (and also one of the oldest officially recognized wine regions in the world) and Selvapiana is widely regarded as the best of the few producers in the region. The cellar dates from 1827 and still contains bottles from 1948. Today the small estate has 60 hectares of land dedicated to organically cultivated grapevines, olive trees and woods.

Vietti Castiglione Barolo

Throughout Vietti’s long history, they have managed to buy a portion of every Grand Cru vineyard in the entire Barolo region, which is a truly unique feat as their trials consisted of losing a vineyard in WWII and taking it Decades later to be bought back by the Church. Their connection to the region and its traditions has been passed on for four generations. Vietti’s Castiglione Barolo contains a selection of 15 of the best grand cru vineyards in all of Barolo, making the wine a landmark of the entire region. Year after year, the wine is a remarkable expression of one of Italy’s most revered wines, as well as a remarkable value.

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