Today’s post is part of my Women in Wine Fridays series. This week’s post is a question and answer with Adele Tolli-Capela from Value Vines. I met Adele on a recent trip to the Tejo region in Portugal. I was impressed with her spirit and knowledge of Portuguese wines so I asked if I could interview her and here is the conversation.
Upon my youngest daughter’s getting ready to go to college, I began searching for something new to do. I was looking for something that would force me to travel internationally and might make use of my language skills. I had been taking wine classes and found the information so interesting and finally took the plunge, acquiring an importer’s permit. I subsequently met a very experienced wine importer who encouraged me to start with wines from Portugal.
What has been the hardest part of the wine business for you in terms of gender issues, if any?
First off, lets not underestimate the difficulty of lifting a 12 bottle case. In all Scandinavian countries, if not bag in box, wine may only be packed in 6 bottle containers. Having worked in Finance and Real Estate previously, I was used to the usual male chauvinism and most of that rolls right off my back. At this point in my life, I actually find the younger somms and wine buyers great to deal with; I must remind them of some favorite old auntie.
What trends and changes have you seen since you started? What do you see happening in the next 5-10 years in your sector of the business?
I think Americans are drinking more wine – not necessarily more expensive wine. Also, I think more young people are drinking wine on a regular basis. I also see those consumers in the big box stores loading up on oversized wine bottles and wonder if they are all having parties? I think there is a great thirst for wine info. Each time I work an event I am impressed at just how many people want to know about the wine in their glass.
What do you see happening in Portugal?
Hopefully Portugal will continue to promote itself as a tourist destination and also a wine tourism destination. Marketing of the Portuguese wines has historically been to the immigrant market and that has to change – although that is a very strong old boys network. Also, wine names an labels have to become more user friendly.I do see an increase in international varietals and I have mixed feelings about that.
What is happening in terms of varieties? International varietals?
Perfect segue – there is an increase in the planting of these. For better and for worse. The upside is it makes the wines a bit more user friendly but the down side is the loss of indigenous character. In a place like NYC a buyer may not want to see Chardonnay or Merlot from Tejo or Douro but in other parts of the country that is very different. I do not think wines with international varietals should be allowed to be Doc. That is what regional wine classification is for.
What wines are truly selling?
I sell a lot of Vinho Verde, less expensive reds and some very hefty higher priced reds as well. My most difficult sells are higher priced whites.
What do you think about the level of wine education on Portuguese Wines in general in the US?
Almost non existent – getting better though. At least the wine professionals are learning.
Do you think we are still too France-Italy-Spain focused?
Absolutely, not to mention California and the southern hemisphere.
Who is the average wine drinker today?
Everyone – but especially those ages 25-65.
Where are women going to be in the industry in the next 10 years?
Hopefully everywhere, more somms, more enologists, more importers, etc
Do you have any private label wines? If so, how are they performing? If not, why not?
No – not yet although I have an idea for a goddess based line of wines.
Gotta love her, right…