Giancarlo Gariglio (Curator of the Slow Wine guide)

Slow Wine compie 10 anni e porta il vino italiano in tour negli Stati Uniti

Feb 10, 2020 2162 ITA ENG

Among incomprehensible duties and wonderful excellences, the export of Italian wine to the United States proceeds not without difficulty, but also with great pleasure of Italian producers and American consumers.

Today we welcome Giancarlo Gariglio, curator of the Slow Wine guide: the ideal tool to get to know and appreciate Italian wine, which this year celebrates its 10th anniversary with an American tour that, we are sure, many readers of We the Italians won't want to miss.

This year the Slow Wine guide turns 10. How was it born, and what has changed in this decade?

The guide was born from Slow Food's need to create an instrument in the world of wine that takes up the work that the association has already created on food with projects such as Terra Madre and Presidia. That is, that the quality of each product is not measured only from the organoleptic point of view but it goes further taking into consideration also the production method that is used. In these ten years we have simply declined these ideas in the world of wine, through an increasingly restrictive way of judging the wines for example by assigning the Snail and the Slow Wine awards to wineries who do not weed. We plan to continue rewarding and supporting those artisan wineries who want environmental sustainability to be a daily reality, a life option and not only a marketing goal. 

The name Slow wine, which comes from the concept of Slow food, is a clear reference to the contrast with the American Fast. Help us to explain why it is not "Italy against America", but the opposite...

The United States is the inventor of fast food, but also of the farmers markets. They are a huge nation that the whole world looks at, offering interesting and fundamental inputs for the future of the planet. So it is not a question of an opposition to a certain model of nation. Indeed, thanks to the frequent confrontation with the US market and consumers, we have often come up with ideas that have changed the way we look at wine. Last but not least, the choice of working with American journalists judging Californian and Oregon viticulture from 2019.  Among other things, precisely because we seem to glimpse enormous potential as regards the growth of oenology in the United States, we plan to do it with even greater commitment in 2020 starting tasting the wines of the East Coast, such as Finger Lakes, NY, but not only. The goal is to be able to include these states in the 2021 edition. It would be a great result for a small but growing guide like ours.

We ask you to help us describe the history of the export of Italian wine in these 10 years, perhaps with some numbers that explain the trend well...

Exports of Italian wine in these ten years have seen spectacular growth, which for the economy not as thriving as the Italian one is incredible. For example, in 2007 the total value in euros was 3,541 million euros (829 million in the United States), in 2018 however this figure practically doubled to 6,204 million euros (2,165 million in the United States). In short, we are facing a sector that creates an important economy in the United States, given that it is managed entirely by American citizens.

From February 18 to 25 Slow wine will be on tour in the United States, with stops in San Francisco (Tuesday 18), Seattle (Wednesday 19), Denver (Friday 21), New York (Monday 24) and Boston (Tuesday 25)...

For the tenth edition of our guide we went all the way big. The tour will be very intense and will touch the rapidly growing cities of the US wine market and other that are already milestone ones. For the first year we will also have wine seminars in collaboration with Vini d’Abruzzo intended for media and trade representatives who want to discover more about the wines Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (New York), Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo (Seattle) and Pecorino (San Francisco). All the Slow wine events are open to trade and media and have a consumer section in the evening. To attend visit

The news talks about the risk of American tariffs on Italian wine, which we hope to avoid because they would have a horrendous effect on our exports. Even Californian wine producers, competitors of Italian ones, have taken sides against tariffs. Having said that the situation is constantly evolving, what are your thoughts towards this threat?

I do not have the tools to enter the logic behind these choices, I can only see as mentioned above that a good portion of the economies created by the imports of Italian wines remains in the United States. We know very well how a bottle enters the US with a certain value and the same bottle ends up with a tripled price in the American wine shops, while on the restaurant table the price is five times more. Who will pay for that added value? The American consumers, not certainly the Italians. It would be a serious damage for importers, distributors, wine bars, restaurants, bars, etc... A supply chain that is worth several billion dollars for Italian wine generated by American companies.

What are the relationships between Italian wine and American wine? I ask you both quantitatively and qualitatively

From a quantitative point of view for the moment Italy is much stronger. In fact, depending on the years, we are the largest or second largest wine-producing country in the world, competing mainly with France. As far as quality is concerned, a completely separate discussion must be made because, from my point of view, the wines are completely different, but there are cellars in both countries that work in a magnificent way. Precisely, thanks to the creation of the guide in California and Oregon I had the opportunity to deepen the oenology of these two states and to find myself in complete disagreement with what European enthusiasts normally think, that is that we are the custodians of terroir wines. On the contrary, I believe I have tasted excellent wines that demonstrate a soul and a strong bond with the territories that see them born. As far the wineries we reviewed, it is a virtuous viticulture which focuses on the land and the respect for it. To be brief, we have a lot to learn from each other and I don't see one nation before the other, in this sense.

What is the future of Italian wine in America? Is there room to grow further? And what news are imaginable?

The American market is growing, it seems to me that the latest study that put this trend in doubt was also denied. So, the space for Italian wine should also grow if tariffs or similar things do not come into play. Among other things, it seems to me that the trend is positive especially for the wines that we like the most, leaving out the bottles which fall outside denominations and those at bargain prices. On the other hand, the companies that work well, make wine carefully and use native vines go up. In the future I see an increasing attention to organic products and everything that ensures the respect for the environment. Fortunately, young people are attentive to these issues and they are the buyers of the future, so the road is marked and I hope that Slow Wine will establish itself as the primary US resource to Italian and American wines which not only offer the highest quality, but  also carefully check the chain that starts from the vineyard and arrives in our glass.

Our readers are mostly Italian Americans. What do you want to recommend to all those who love Italian wine also as an ambassador of Italian excellence?

I would like them to be curious about the new Italian trends, towards the territories that are emerging, towards the vines on the crest of the wave. I am thinking of areas like Alto Piemonte, Valtellina, Carso, Fiano di Avellino, Cerasuolo di Vittoria or varieties such as Timorasso, Ansonica, Ciliegiolo, Nosiola, Frappato, Nerello Mascalese. Then there are always the big classics, but it is worth opening up your horizons, because in the last ten years everything has changed in Italy.

I am referring in particular to the whole movement of so-called natural wines, that we follow with great interest and a fair dose of critical spirit. In the guide we have many companies that are inspired by the values of zero or almost zero interventions in the cellar, but we do not exempt ourselves from carefully selecting these names, because sometimes we run into producers who improvise (this of course also happens frequently among the conventional ones) and they present us with labels that have obvious defects, which unfortunately make the characteristics of the terroir and the original vines disappear. They give rise to wines that are all the same and replicable at any latitude.

Finally, another very important chapter is that of the Italian Independent Winegrower Association (Vignaioli Indipendenti) of which I was personally the first national secretary and I participated in their foundation. They are a movement of now 1,000 artisan wineries who are responsible of the entire production chain, some of the best Italian producers. It is worth knowing them thoroughly.


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