This week I had the pleasure of sitting down with Justin Gallen, an Italian importer and one of his producers, Francesco Cirelli, a winemaker from the eastern Italian region of Abruzzo. In the first part of this interview series, Gallen discusses his passion for wine and the qualities it must possess before he brings it to the United States.
Drink of the Week (DOTW): You’re a sommelier and Italian importer of fine wines. How did this all come about and have you always had a passion for wine?
Justin Gallen (JG): I’ve been in the wine business for about 20 years. I was the kid who wasn’t interested in getting beer. I always wanted a gallon of Burgundy or Bartles & Jaymes or wine coolers or whatever else it happened to be. I’ve always been fascinated by wine.
DOTW: How do you find your producers?
JG: I’lI go to the organic and biodynamic fairs that take place in Italy a couple times a year and meet the producer and taste their wine. I met Francesco by chance. He was given a list of importers and sent out a blind email with his contact information and website. The website looked professional and the wines looked good. When we met, I tasted the wines, looked at the package, and said “yes,” right away.
DOTW: What do you look for in a wine?
JG: The wine has to be very, very good and at a really good price point. I’m looking for wines that are food-friendly. Wines that have a little less alcohol and a little more acidity, so that it pairs well with a different range of food and won’t overwhelm. I’m also looking for wines that will age well, because it’s important to drink wine at many different times of its life. In its youth, when it’s got a lot of fruit and it’s beautiful and exciting and vibrant, and then at its middle-age, when it’s gained a little bit of sophistication and it’s turned into something a little bit more interesting, and of course, in its older age, when it’s gained a sort of delicacy and wisdom for a wine that you won’t find in a wine that’s youthful.
DOTW: You chose the word rinascimento for the name of your business. Why?
JG: Rinascimento means renaissance in Italian. It represents the rebirth and revival of the types of wines I would like to find in the market. Hopefully the wines that I’m importing are providing a rebirth or revival or renascimento for the people who taste them, so they discover a new world of wine that they never knew they had.
Image courtesy of Rinascimento Wine Company.