I just returned from Italy this weekend, where I attended Vinitaly, the annual Italian wine trade show in Verona.  Every professional in the Italian wine business reacts to this event with a very strange mixture of excitement, fear, hope and read.  It’s 4 days of non-stop, full-throttle tasting, negotiating, planning, and blind-mad running at full speed.  There’s always too much to do, too many people to see, and not enough time or infrastructure within which to get it all done.  But I love every second of it.

Elisa Scavino talks 2008 Barolo with Thomas Burke and Kirk Petersen of Las Vegas.

As a professional in the wine industry, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that these wineries are not “products”- they are people. They are winemakers, families, cooperatives, who dedicate their lives to farming grapes and crafting  wine: a culturally indispensable, expensive, gut-wrenching prospect.  Manage to keep this in perspective, and it changes everything.

As a salesperson of Italian wine, it’s my job to represent my wineries and make placements with their wines in retailers and restaurants.  However, after spending time with them in person like this I become more than a salesperson- I become their ambassadors.

How could I not pick up the sword for them after looking these people in the eyes and listening to them tell about the generations through which their winery has survived war, poverty, natural disasters and the economic roller coaster?

Italian wine is just as important to Italy’s cultural identity as its art museums, literature and food history.  If you want to know the real Italia, learn to know her farmers, her winemakers and her enological traditions. If you are fascinated by Italy, you will fall in love with Italian wine.

Every time I am faced with this reality the salesman inside me dies a little, while the true enthusiast takes a deep breath.