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Wine Importers to Rely On: Leonardo LoCascio Selections (Specialty: Italy)

5 Jun

by Sharon Kapnick

Shopping for an Italian wine? You’d do well to look for Leonardo LoCascio’s name on the label, for many consider him to have the most impressive Italian portfolio in the U.S.

In 1980, after he left a prestigious position at Citibank, LoCascio launched Winebow, Inc., a wine importing and distributing business. While he carries many excellent wines from more than 30 countries, LoCascio is renowned for his Italian wines.

Leonardo LoCascio Selections, the Italian arm of Winebow, features some 75 producers, many small to mid-size, independent and family owned. That ensures, LoCascio says, that “the grapes are cared for on a very intimate basis.” While he of course imports wines from the superstar viticultural areas of Tuscany and Piedmont, he’s especially proud of the wines he’s discovered in southern Italy—from Sicily, where he was born, Sardinia, Campania, Basilicata, Calabria and Apulia, regions not generally recognized for stellar wines. Finding topnotch wines there is more of a challenge, which excites him. By venturing off the beaten path, he aims to discover wines of “distinctive character and exceptional value,” and his selection of inexpensive wines is indeed noteworthy.

In 1998 LoCascio was named one of the most influential wine personalities of the past 20 years by influential wine critic Robert M. Parker Jr. The same year he received Food & Wine magazine’s Golden Grape Award, which recognizes “visionaries in America who are not only changing the way we think about wine but also determining what we will be drinking in the 21 st century.” If LoCascio is right, grapes like Nero d’Avola (red), Grillo and Inzolia (whites), the mainstays of Sicily, will someday be as well known in the U.S. as Pinot Grigio—well, at least much better known than they are today.

Awards and recognition keep rolling in. In 2009, Winebow was named Importer of the Year by Wine Enthusiast magazine. In 2010 the Quarterly Review of Wines and the New York Institute of Technology honored LoCascio with their 13th annual Professional Excellence Award.

His website (www.winebow.com) boasts that “the Leonardo LoCascio Selections logo on a label has become the de facto seal of approval for Italian wine enthusiasts.”’ It’s got that just right.

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