Giowine aims to uncork the best Italian wines at sea

'Dedicated heart and soul to the cruise industry' — Francesco Portello, left, with his boss, Ricardo March 'Dedicated heart and soul to the cruise industry' — Francesco Portello, left, with his boss, Ricardo March

Giowine—'The Italian Link to the Americas'—is targeting the cruise industry with its selection of fine Italian wines, featuring just one top producer from each region.

'Giowine is not a broker,' Miami-based VP Ricardo March stressed. Instead, the company sees itself as an ambassador of Italian wine and culture. The Italian lifestyle revolves around sharing the best products of the land with friends, he said.

For example, March extolled Piemonte's exquisite white truffles and the powerful but elegant Beni di Batasiolo's Barolo DOCG, made from nebbiolo grapes and with a bouquet of dried fruit, flowers, spices, sweets and delicate herbaceous aromas.

One of the things that sets Giowine apart is its dedication to famliy producers of outstanding quality wines. 'Family-owned' winemakers aren't necessarily small or lacking recognition.

The wines of Cecchi, from Tuscany, and Planeta, a Sicilian producer, are sold in more than 70 countries. And more than 150 of the wines in Giowine's portfolio are rated by Wine Spectator, a name Americans know and respect.

That Bene di Batasiolo's Barolo DOCG, 2011, has 92 points from Wine Spectator. From the Veneto - Valpolicella region, Masi's Costasera Amarone Classico DOCG, 2010, made from corvina, rondinella and molinara grapes, earned 95 points from Wine Enthusiast, 94 from James Suckling and a Silver Medal in the International Wine Challenge UK 2014.

Showing Giowine's seriousness about the cruise market, March recently hired Francesco Portello—previously a customer who managed the Italian Pavilion at Walt Disney World's Epcot—as Miami-based area manager to be 'dedicated heart and soul to the cruise industry.'

Their participation in the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association's recent conference and trade show in Mérida, Mexico, was an eye-opener. They made key contacts, including senior purchasing executives from Carnival Corp. & plc, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings. Portello was impressed and encouraged that all returned emails, and he's now setting up tastings with their wine buyers.

Giowine also plans to participate, for the first time, in Seatrade Cruise Global in March.

The company takes a relationship approach, so Portello is eager to understand what buyers are looking for, and how Giowine can best serve them.

Plus, 'training of the servers is the most important part,' he said.

When Giovanni Cardullo started Giowine 20 years ago, there were practically no Italian wines in the Caribbean and Central America, apart from lambrusco. Everything then revolved around the big wineries from South America, such as Conche y Toro.

So education was very important, and the company continues that philosophy in its work with the cruise industry.

Giowine already does a good business with Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., particularly Celebrity Cruises, where prosecco from Fantinel, from the Friuli Venezia Giulia region, is poured at embarkation, and Bene di Batasiolo's Barolo is on the wine list of the Tuscan Grille specialty restaurant.

'We are pretty successful but we know there is opportunity' to do much more, March said. Compared to the big suppliers, Giowine's share is just a drop in the bucket today.

'My goal is to be an important part of this business,' he said.

March noted there used to be a perception cruise passengers focus on the lowest price.

'It's not the reality ... Wine complements the whole experience,' he said. There is robust demand for premium products.

Posted 16 November 2017

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Anne Kalosh

Editor, Seatrade Cruise News & Senior Associate Editor Seatrade Cruise Review