Jessica Luongo is no stranger to wine.
She used to work for her grandfather, Larry Luongo, a successful, longtime importer who’s a fixture on the Vancouver scene. That was until the granddaughter decided it was time to strike out on her own, and did with her nonno’s full blessing.
Luongo teamed up with business partner Marisa Varas to form Amovino Distributors. This North Shore duo is promising to rewrite the book on how to run a smart wine agency, determined to introduce consumers to new tastes and ideas. The secret of success lies very much in the specific wines you choose and how you bring them to the market.
Luongo and Varas are already tapping into a shift by informed drinkers away from commercial-styled, sweet or extracted tastes to more nuanced wines, which much of the time are made with “minimal intervention” or entirely naturally.
Luongo says although they like to use the term “real wine” and all that entails, she insists: “We don’t want to be dogmatic or religious about natural wine and how to define it,” adding, “We try to work with small-lot wineries, family producers, people who care about what they’re putting in their wines.”
She compares natural or “real” wine to the Slow Food movement. Amovino does focus on organic or biodynamic but not in every instance.
Says Varas: “The fact that they’re organic and made with intention is such a side note . . . We like to say: ‘the wines are great, and by the way, did you know they’re made organically?’”
As I nosed through their esoteric portfolio I found more than a few good drops, wines that require you to think a little outside of the box but reward you for your curiosity. Here’s a fun foursome worth a look.
Synteam White dot Moschofilero Roditis 2015: Yes, this Greek wine is a bit of a mouthful in more ways than one. But Moschofilero (“Moscow- fill-ero”) is fun to discover, especially this, with its up-front floral notes and wicked, bright acidity plus a streak of saline with zesty lemon peel in the end. With summer right around the corner, one sip and maybe a little tzatziki and you’ll be dreaming of Santorini (90 points, $21).
Tinita Vinas de Verdejo 2015: This is some serious verdejo to prime your summer tapas palate. Pretty gold in the glass and stone fruit on top, limestone soils deliver some wicked mineral intensity, with a polished, complex, well-textured, middle-of-apple and citrus notes before a lengthy, lingering but clean end (91points, $25).
SYN Mountain Fish Agiorgitiko 2014 (Nemea): “Agiorgitiko” means “St. George’s grape.” Up-front black fruit with refreshing, juicy acidity plus some pleasing, mulberry and herbal notes with a touch of earthy spice and a lengthy finish ($19, 89 points).
Crejeiras Tinto 2015 (Lisbon DOP): Good value and more, lip smacking Portuguese blend of mainly Castelao (60 per cent) plus Aragonez and Touriga Naciona to kick off barbecue season.
Plush, rounded red fruit with a vibrant, red current and raspberry palate, easy tannins and some spicy notes. All hand harvested and not a toothpick in sight ($13-$15, 90 points).
Tim Pawsey writes about wine for numerous publications and online as the Hired Belly at hiredbelly.com. Contact: email@example.com.