Some years ago I helped a group of Italian winemakers tour Sonoma County wineries. The following year I was at Vinitaly, the huge Italian wine trade fair, and I went to say hello to one of the winemakers at his booth; his name was Gianni Pasquale, and he was the Technical Director for a small co-operative winery in the Abruzzo region, near Chieti. We talked for a bit, and then he asked if I’d like to taste his wines. I must admit I felt slightly embarrassed; I knew roughly how little they cost, and I assumed they’d be pretty dire. But it would have been rude to refuse.
They poured the wines, and I started tasting, mentally composing a white lie to explain why I couldn’t buy them. Then I realized that they were in fact exactly right- very flavorful, honest, well-made wines at a perfect price. In a sense this is an importer’s highest achievement; it’s pretty easy to find good wine at $50 a bottle, but very difficult at less than $10.