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Top Picks From Star Importers

Knowing some importers is an easy—and highly reliable—way to pick your wines. Here, Senior Editor Ray Isle finds seven of the best names to watch for.

Top Sommeliers’ Favorites

For this month’s column, I spoke to seven sommeliers from restaurants around the country that are run by F&W Best New Chefs. I asked each of them to name some of their favorite importers—people they trust to bring them wines that are as good as the cooking of chefs they work with, like Gerald Hirigoyen at San Francisco’s Piperade and Fabio Trabocchi at New York City’s Fiamma. Then I narrowed their recommendations down to one importer per sommelier, tasted a variety of wines from the importers’ portfolios and chose three or four terrific wines from each that show a broad range of prices, regions and styles.

Why Importers Matter

Here’s a wine-insider tip: One of the best ways to predict whether a bottle is likely to be good is to check the importer. The top importers have impeccable taste, and it’s almost a given that any wine in their portfolios, whether it retails for $8 or $80, is apt to be superb. To find the name of the importer, check a bottle’s back label—usually the information (or a logo) is printed there.

Seven Great Importers

The sommeliers I spoke to chose importers with a wide range of specialties. Jorge Ordoñez, the owner of Fine Estates from Spain, focuses on Spanish wines, as does André Tamers at De Maison Selections. Dalla Terra brings in excellent Italian wines. Peter Weygandt of Weygandt-Metzler concentrates on artisanal, small-estate wines from Europe and Australia, and Martine Saunier of Martine’s Wines has a similar small-estate focus, though her portfolio is largely French and particularly deep in Burgundies. Wilson Daniels and Vineyard Brands are somewhat larger importers, each with a deep selection of top wines from around the world.

Star Selections

Dalla Terra

2004 Avignonesi Desiderio ($50)

Streamlined black-cherry fruit, fine tannins and a long, compelling finish define this red from a Tuscan producer that’s been making wine since the late 16th century.

Martine’s Winesa

NV Diebolt-Vallois Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($54)

Made entirely with Chardonnay grapes, this delicate, precise Champagne from a top boutique producer has a clean, citrusy edge to its flavors.

De Maison Selectionsa

2005 Joan d’Anguera Finca L’Argata ($30)

Joan and Josep D’Anguera, among the top talents in Spain’s Montsant region, produce this dense, black cherry–rich Syrah blend.

Fine Estates From Spain

2007 Bodegas Godeval Viña Godeval ($19)

More than 2,000 years ago, Romans mined Spain’s Valdeorras (Valley of Gold). Today the region is better known for citrusy whites like this one, made from the Godello variety.

Published July 2008
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