"Taste this!" Marco de Grazia, Italian-wine broker extraordinaire, will urge a visitor, pulling the cork from his latest find. Whether it's a Recioto di Soave from the Veneto, a new Barolo or even an earthy Sicilian red made from grapes grown near Mount Etna, de Grazia's enthusiasm is so extravagant it's almost overwhelming.
An American who grew up in Florence and still lives there, de Grazia is much more than a wine exporter--he's an exceptional figure in Italian wine, a collaborator and a coach for nearly every one of the 90 estates he represents. About half his producers were just grape growers who had never bottled wines before de Grazia took them on and plotted out how far he could take them. In most cases, that has been quite far indeed.
Marco and his brother Iano (short for Sebastiano) have accumulated an astonishing number of plaudits. Their wines, all from small estates and produced in limited quantities, have consistently won raves from influential critic Robert M. Parker, Jr., and tend to sell out immediately upon their arrival in America. Thanks to the de Grazia brothers, Italian wines have become sought after--so much so that oenophiles now scour shops and the Internet for de Grazia selections, such as Sandrone's 1990 Barolo Cannubi Boschis and Pertimali's 1990 Brunello di Montalcino, the way they might a grand cru Burgundy.