October 12, 2012

Hidden Values, Priced Right

Columbia Business School alumni are proving that the wine industry is ripe for innovation.

Simone Silverbush

It’s the treasure hunt that Michel Abood ’02 (EMBA) really loves — “that moment when you find something really well made and really well priced, from a small family producer who has maybe 10 or 20 hectares out in the wilderness and is making fantastic wines that nobody’s heard of.”

Making those wines more widely available was the impetus behind Vinotas Selections, the wine importing company Abood founded in 2008. Nearly all the company’s wines — carefully selected vintages from boutique family wineries in France, Spain, and the United States — retail for under $20. “I was very frustrated that people would say, ‘oh, I spent $15 and got a bad bottle of wine,’” says Abood. “That should never happen.”

Abood recently commissioned a winemaker in Southern France to make a red and two whites labeled with Vinotas’s own brand, Terre du Sol, which retail between $10.99 and $12.99.

Visiting family in France in the 1990s, Abood often stumbled on out-of-the-way wineries making unexpectedly good  — and affordable — wines. Keen to learn more about the art and science of wine, he earned a certificate from New York City’s International Wine Center in 1999.

“I love seeing that ‘aha’ moment when people taste something good,” says Abood, who enjoys hosting tastings for his clients. “I get to tell people part of the wine’s story, and then the wine speaks for itself.”

Look for natural wines. “Producers of natural wines use no chemicals and no sulfites, yeasts, or sugars, so these wines can be a little risky. Sometimes you’ll find bottles that are spoiled or bottles that re-ferment and then explode. But when natural wines are good, there’s a certain energy to them that’s fantastic.”

For a “wild and wacky ride” try Pascal Pibaleau’s sparkling rosé, La Perlette. “He’s making some really funky but fantastic organic wines. This particular wine starts out fruity but ends very nutty and dry.”

Illustration by Scotty Reifsnyder

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