Rare wines and Champagnes are invited to Florida [fr]

Jeff Smith is a wine lover. As such, he decided quite recently to import wine, but not every type of wines, rare wines and Champagnes. In this interview, he shares his experience of wine “searcher” as well as his passion for the precious liquids.

- e-Toile: Mr. Smith, hello and thank you for answering our questions. Could you introduce yourself and tell us why you have decided to dive into the world of wine importation?

JPEGJeff Smith: I have been collecting wine for 20 years and early in my wine experiences I found that I was most intrigued by the wines from France.

I liked the way they tasted but I also liked the story: the history and dedication to perfection. I started as most drinking only Bordeaux.
I quickly branched out and found the wines of Burgundy and Champagne to be more agreeable towards my palate. Soft, and complex wines of depth and place.

About 5 years ago I began to get frustrated with the lack of Grower Champagne availability in FL.
So I reached out to Champagne importer TransAtlantic Bubbles and started to distribute their small grower portfolio in FL. We work exclusively with there 8 producers.

We also are fortunate enough to work with an Importer who specializes in wines from Burgundy JAO Imports.
We now tend to work with smaller family run Domain’s with limited production.
Some of the most highly sought after wines of France and the world.

We have grown the portfolio to include wines from Argentina, Austria, California, Washington, France, Germany, Italy with a focus on small family Domain’s with limited production.

- e-Toile: Since your interest is focused on rare wines and Champagnes, you travel a lot to meet with wine growers and wine makers. How do you find and contact these professionals?

Jeff Smith: We travel 1 time per year to France and Italy.
We rely on the importers to develop the local relationship in France. We handle to local marketing and education.

We do have a few direct import relationships and these have been found by going to trade shows or simply knocking on doors and meeting producers in their homes.

- e-Toile: Importing wine is not your primary occupation but it seems that you are doing well on a market known for being difficult between hard competition and tight regulations. Did you discover a recipe for success?

Jeff Smith: We have discovered that customers are gravitating towards softer more elegant food friendly wines with a story to tell.

Most of these wines have to be sold by retailers and restaurants, so they want wines with history and great reputation.
Also, Sustainable Farming, Organic and Bio-dynamic growing have become a focus the RareChampagnes portfolio.

Not just because we enjoy these wines, but smaller producers are moving towards these practices because they want to extend their vines and produce better wines of great clarity and intensity.

- e-Toile: French wines are internationally recognized but not so well sold in the United-States. How could explain this gap between popularity and market-share?

Jeff Smith: Actually the US has long been among the top 3 import locations (with Germany and UK depending the year) for wines from France.

Wines from France sell well in FL because the American Palate is changing, and FL is an international state with many residents and visitors from all over the world.
Also, the restaurant scene is exploding with eclectic menus requiring unique wines from around the world.

Pinot Noir has been a hot varietal for the past 10 years and we have one of the most complete selections of any distributor.
We carry Pinot form France and California. Customers appreciate the complexity and diversity of Pinot Noir not to mention ease on the palate.

- e-Toile: If you have to qualify French wines by using 3 or 4 adjectives, which ones will you pick?

Jeff Smith: French wines have tremendous clarity, minerality, depth and character. Maybe most important "Terroir". These are wines that come from places like Le Montrachet which have been making wines for over 500 years.

- e-Toile: And a last question designed for all the local wine lovers: where can we find the wines that you are shipping to South-Florida?

Jeff Smith: You can find our wines and Champagnes in many restaurants and retailers in South FL and throughout the state. One of the well-known restaurant, which is our customer is Villa Azur. They offer a selection of at least 10 wines of our portfolio.
Otherwise, please feel free to e-mail or call!
Phone: +1 (954) 554-8857

- e-Toile: Again, Mr. Smith, thank you for giving us some time and for your interest in French wines!

Article published Feb. 11, 2014.

Last modified on 12/02/2014

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