A Little Rome At Home

A Little Rome At Home

Anyone who has spent time in Italy knows that the selection of wines you can get there puts much of what is on our shelves to shame. The offerings tend to skew local, except in major cities like Rome and Milan, and the prices are generally very competitive compared to the U.S. market.

Major retailers have long been the gatekeepers here in terms what access we get access to from Italy, so it is a breath of fresh air to see a Roman wine club launch here: particularly one affiliated with a great restaurant and wine shop. Roscioli is located a few blocks from Campo di Fiori and functions as both a restaurant and a store: Anthony Bourdain fell hard for it on his first visit. So, I was thrilled to recently sit down with Lindsay Gabbard, the wine club’s co-founder and manager. All responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Liza B. Zimmerman (L.B.Z.): What is Roscioli and why is it a seminal wine bar in Rome? 

Lindsay Gabbard (L.G.): Roscioli is a family name in Rome which has become linked with quality in selections of wines and artisanal products from Italy, and even around the world. Salumeria Roscioli also features a restaurant which has become renowned for Roman cuisine, where Rimessa Roscioli is more wine focused.

At Rimessa, all our sommeliers speak English. Roscioli also has several cellars in the center – with nearly 60,000 bottles of wine, 2,800 labels, predominately from Italy but from all over the world. 

L.B.Z.: Why did you start a wine club?  

L.G.: In a way people were asking for it, without asking. They were desperately trying to continue their dinner tasting experience at Rimessa from home. Clients reached to have Roscioli put together a case of wines for them and would often trust our selections without ever having tasted them. The goal was to give them closest thing possible to our wine tasting dinner without them being able to be physically here.  

L.B.Z.: How is it different from other wine clubs?  

L.G.: There is no ‘corporate’ or hands-off approach to anything we do. We a not just a ‘club’, but also a physical place to tie everything we do together .We focus on artisan winemakers, most of whom only have few hectares of vines. The biggest difference about us, as a club, are our videos of the winemakers so that people understand who and what is behind their glass. We now even will put a Roscioli exclusive back label on each bottle selected with a QR code that allows customers to access the winemaker video, info on the wine, suggestions about when to drink and how to pair it. And we now have the largest collection of winemaker videos [we’ve visited and interviewed more than 600 of them in the last few years]. 

L.B.Z.: Are all the wines Italian? 

L.G.: At the moment, for the two of the clubs that is the case. For our Collector and Legend’s Clubs, the sparkling will often be Champagne since Italy has not yet been able to achieve what France has with sparkling wine production to date. We may even expand in the future to offering a more international wine club option as well.  

L.B.Z.: Who chooses them on what basis?  

L.G.: Our team of sommeliers collaborate together and we even involve our guests sometimes for their feedback. After having done thousands of tastings for guests from all over the world, we have a pretty good understanding of what our clientele will enjoy. 

L.B.Z.: How has the club been received? 

L.G.: We’ve grown to more than 1,000 members over the last few years and keep growing. Wine club members always have a free wine tasting dinner with us when in Rome and we often also spend hours after the tasting with them when they are visiting. 

L.B.Z.: Why did you think Americans would be interested in this kind of wine club? 

L.G.: Well for starters about 80 percent of our wine club are Americans, so clearly, they are very interested. Americans tend to love all the main concepts our wine club is based upon: authenticity, uniqueness, storytelling, discovery, travel and learning, infused with endless passion and personal touch.  

L.B.Z.: Do you offer food pairing suggestions?  

L.G.: Absolutely! This is one of the ABCs for us. Going forward with our wine club, we’ll even send links to recipes if someone wants to do a pairing with a local wine, which is a common practice in Italy. Wine and food should always be considered together and in Italy, wine and food are a single, united experience. 

L.B.Z.: Why have there been so few Italian wine clubs thus far? 

L.G.: The concept of a ‘wine club’ is sadly still—40 years later—not well understood in Italy. Italians, in general, often drink more of what’s available locally and make their own selections. Most clubs, or successful ones, have been started with companies who have a strong link to American wine consumers.

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