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March 2007


WINE & SPIRITS

Italian Spice
By Baroness Sheri de Borchgrave

LORRAINE BRACCO GOES FOR THE GRAPE

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The world's lustiest red wines come from Italy. No country's reds are more evocative of the dolce vita lifestyle. They're the sorts of wines Tony Soprano would surely drink with his pasta—and the sorts that, appropriately enough, lured his TV therapist into the wine business.

Last year Lorraine Bracco, best known for her HBO role as a mobster's shrink on The Sopranos, began importing her own wines from Italy. Her portfolio of eight great earthy reds was hand-selected during trips to the Old Country. "I'm a red wine girl," says Bracco, a long-time wine enthusiast. "I never cared for whites, and I really hate bubbles."

The actress, who began her career as a model, first soaked up wine culture while living in France in her 20s. "It was 30 years ago," she recalls. "It was all about French wine then. Italian wine has really only come of age in the last ten years."

Her passage from wine lover to importer began in September of 2005, when she joined distributor Paul Davis of Maison Jomere for a whirlwind tour of the Italian wine regions, from Piedmont to Puglia, the Veneto to Montalcino. "I was dragged to castles and the most unbelievable countryside," she remembers. "It was an incredible experience and a real test of my palate."

She returned from that trip determined to do her part to improve the quality—and understanding—of Italian wines in the States. "I wanted to teach people that they don't need to spend a million dollars to get a great bottle," she says. "Unless it's a Chateau Margaux, of course." (She named her daughter after that wine.) "I thought I could bring in some great, reasonable wines." So, with Davis as a partner, she began doing just that.

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