Sip on This: The Importance of Importers
More often than not, choosing which wine to drink is about trust. You either trust yourself to do the research and make the decision, or you don’t and you enlist the help of a wine professional. Either way works for me. Personally, the research aspect is fun. Sorting through tasting notes, seeing what regional cuisines are comparable to what I’m having and studying the terroir of the area to see the whole spectrum of what is produced is the exciting part. But when it comes to non-domestic wines, there is a crucial cog in the machine of deciding on what to drink that you can completely trust. The importer.
Importers are our boots on the ground in other wine producing countries that do the research and seek out great wines from the area. They zero in on these wines that you might have never heard of and make them accessible to us by importing them to the United States. What happens after they get here? The importer introduces those wines to your local wine guy or sommelier hope they fall in love with it and sing its praises from the mountain top for anyone that will listen. The idea is that you’ll love the wine or, at minimum, appreciate it.
As a wine professional, a good wine is one that represents the wine-growing region it comes from by being varietally correct and being a value at its price point. This is what it means for a wine to be technically good. An importer builds a cohesive portfolio of wines from specific regions of their expertise. You, or more importantly your palate, can identify with an importer’s, similarly to how some people identify with great wine critics like Robert Parker’s palate or Steven Tanzer’s palate. My two favorite importers are Kermit Lynch and Neil Rosenthal.
Kermit Lynch has been importing wines to the US since 1972. He has an expansive portfolio of incredible French (Burgundy, Loire Valley, Cote du Rhone) and Italian wines. If I’m in a situation where I need to pick a wine and don’t know much about the list, I can ask for a Kermit Lynch wine and I’ll be a happy camper. Wine buyers, sommeliers and restaurateurs everywhere hold Lynch’s palate and intuition in high regard. You are guaranteed to get a great wine if Kermit Lynch’s name is on it.
Neal Rosenthal started Rosenthal Wine Merchant to bring us wines with a “sense of place.” That means that whenever you pick up a bottle of wine with the Rosenthal name on it, you are getting a wine that truly represents the area it comes from. It hasn’t been manipulated or changed to serve a specific palate. It is a champion of its region and stays true to the structure of the varietal. He has a deep love of French (Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy) and Italian wines and has even found some great wines from Switzerland and Catalonia, Spain. Rosenthal works directly with growers and winemakers to ensure the wines stay true to the terroir — yet another way to guarantee a beautiful wine.
Obviously, there are many more importers than just Lynch and Rosenthal. I just happen to really respect their work and wines. I encourage you to try more and research more. Find out what your favorite wine makers, producers or importers stand for. Remember, when in doubt, to turn over the bottle of wine and look for the names Kermit Lynch or Neal Rosenthal.