The Miami International Wine Fair, ‘The Best show ever’

By Martin Mendiola….

José Luis García Estallo and Nina Romo
On our way to the Miami International Wine Fair at the Miami Beach Convention Center the weekend of September 23rd to the 25th, we were a bit apprehensive as to the outcome since there are so many pending economic issues, but as we approached the Divino Imports booth, Nina Romo, president of the company, greeted us with a big smile and a simple comment “This is the best show ever”. Immediately all our concerns disappeared, for knowing Nina, I knew she meant sales were being made and without having to ask she said “We have written up more orders and signed more new accounts than ever before. This is GREAT!”

At a time when trade shows are not doing necessarily well throughout the country, the Miami International Wine Fair is on its tenth year at the Miami Beach Convention Center and growing. Within a short period of time, it has become the leading wine trade expo in the country; the premier location for wine manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers to get together and do business. Millions of wine dollars were negotiated during those three days.

The Fair is also a great place to introduce new products and one of the main reasons I attend. Among the most exciting new products I found, was a 100% Tempranillo wine from Napa called Mundo Latino. The Tempranillo grape is originally from Spain and it is known as its “noble grape”; it is cultivated in Argentina and has been sporadically used for blending with other grapes in Napa, but I had never seen it as the main grape variety in a Napa wine.

The reason I found Mundo Latino interesting and exciting is because of its characteristics. We were able to detect the traditional color, aromas and flavors of the grape while the wine is rich, full body and heavier than most Rioja’s and Ribera del Duero we know. I found it even fuller than the wines from Toro and could not help but question if they are using a version of the ripasso method used to make the Italian Amarones. Some more knowledgeable Tempranillo connoisseurs like Miami’s Spanish food icon, Diego Lozano of Diego’s Andalucia Tapas Restaurant, disagreed with me and concluded that the difference is probably due to the California, Napa terroir.

We also discussed the fact that the name Tempranillo is derived from the Spanish “temprano” which means “early” and was used to name this grape because it has the tendency of ripening earlier than most other grapes. This allows the winemaker to delay the picking of the grapes to give it more consistency and remain within the Napa harvest time frame. Even though we really did not think this is what happened, it still was a good topic for discussion. Whatever it is they are doing, besides the label, there is something very special about this wine and a call to the winemaker is in order and forthcoming.

Another interesting concept we found at the Fair, were the wines from Green Griffin International, which markets its Millennial Wines as the “French Wine for the Generation Y”. They quote Thomas Jefferson when he said that “Every Generation needs a new revolution” and incite Generation Y members to join by letting them know that “The time has come for the French Wine Revolution” and even though “Tradition still has its place, now GGI proposes an innovative new way of seeing and drinking French Wine”.

Green Griffin International most certainly has a Generation Y attitude that is reflected in the packaging and/or bottles they use, the names of their wines and the marketing concepts. Their portfolio includes Millennial Wines in a “rocket” type bottle, The French Paradox and Eternal Diamonds Champagne, where each bottle is dressed with rhinestones and as part of the marketing strategy, every 500th bottle sold will contain a certified 1 carat diamond. Matthew Wellman, originally from Palm Beach and currently living in France with his French wife, is the founder of this unusual and most innovative wine company. We are sure to hear much more from them in the very near future.

Brazil, not known for its wines was well represented at the Miami International Wine Fair by a company named Spirits do Brasil, where they introduced the wines with the Villaggio Grando label. I was impressed with their Villaggio Grando Chardonnay which has a crisp orange, honey, and mineral flavor making it distinct and certainly worth trying. Still, the most impressive Brazilian wine was the Villaggio’s Brut Rose. It is soft, smooth and elegant. Made with the Pinot Noir and Merlot grapes and while bubbly, it can be easily paired with many dishes. It quickly became one of my favorites.

An innovative concept also found at the Fair, is Conelly The Cocktail Makers; two separate cans stacked on top of one another already measured in the right proportion for a consistent, perfect cocktail every time. One can contain the mixture of spirits and the other one the juices. All you do is open, pour in a shaker over ice, shake, serve and enjoy. It is most convenient without the hassle of having to carry the juice and liquor bottles or having to worry about glass bottles breaking on the boat or by the pool, and best of all… the mix is good.

After touring the Fair, I went back to check and see how things were going with Nina Romo at the Divino Imports booth. While watching them taking orders and talking to new customers, it was not difficult to realize the reason for their success. Divino Imports Inc has an extensive product line with wines from all over the world at all price levels. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable and willing to accommodate customers’ needs. It was exciting to see how customers responded and how the staff promoted all their established brands while introducing new ones.

Everyone was really excited about the latest addition to their portfolio, a wine from Tudela de Duero called Señorio de Monteviejo . This wine is made with the Tempranillo grape and aged in American oak barrels with the aroma of red fruit and spices. Customers heard how it is “ideally suited to the new tastes of the consumer”, were able to taste it and loved the most competitive price. In addition, if any questions, they could ask Jose Luis Garcia Estallo, the company’s representative who flew in from Valladolid just for the occasion.

There is no secret to Nina Romo and Divino Imports’ success at the Miami International Wine Fair, all you had to do was stand by and watch them in action. With the right attitude, knowledgeable staff, excellent product line and competitive prices, everyone could have echoed Nina when she said “This is Great” it is “The best show ever.”

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