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Diving into the world of Italian wines with Ciro Pirone

Ciro Pirone

Ciro Pirone

This month I interviewed local Italian wine expert, Ciro Pirone. I met Pirone when I recently took the Italian Wine Specialist certification course through the North American Sommelier Association. He happened to be the coordinator of the course, and I immediately gravitate to folks that not only have a love for Italy, but even more so a love and passion for Italian wine.

Pirone was born in Campania in his hometown of Salerno, one of the major five cities of the southern Italian region. He graduated from the Istituto Alberghiero di Salerno in 1994, when he was 18 years old, with a degree in Hotel Management.

Pirone traveled during the summers, working in different regions of Italy to gain experience, including the coastlines along the Adriatic, as well as the Trentino and Valle d’Aosta regions. After traveling all over Italy, he lived for more than a year in England and moved to the United States in 1999, when he was encouraged to come here by a friend.

ciro-pirone

When Pirone first moved to Boston, he worked mainly in the restaurant business working for businesses such as Café Strega, Sorriso Trattoria and Enoteca di Vino. He started to transition more fully into the wine industry when he started with Horizon Beverage Company in 2007 as an Italian Wine Specialist. His interest in the wine industry grew from not only working in the restaurant business, but also because the wine industry is ever growing and Italian wines are the most imported. From Horizon he moved into being the Brand Ambassador for Arnaldo Caprai Winery of Umbria, representing them in the United States.

Today, Pirone is back at Horizon Beverage as the Director of Italian wines, covering 14 regions of Italy and representing 52 properties and wineries. When he first started with Horizon he was mostly dealing with the popular regions of Tuscany and Piedmont. Nowadays, Pirone tries to balance Horizon’s portfolio, mixing some of the more powerful, larger brands with smaller producers. In order to deepen and broaden his wine knowledge, Pirone has also taken wine courses over his career such as those at Boston University, as well as the International Sommelier Guild and WSET.

Ciro Pirone enjoying time at the Donnafugata winery in Sicily

Ciro Pirone enjoying time at the Donnafugata winery in Sicily

His role today as the Director of Italian Wines is important to him not only for the sale aspect of his job in promoting the Italian wine portfolio of Horizon, but also for the educational aspect: consulting and hosting events to educate folks in New England. Pirone also works directly with the wine importers and with Boston being a very important market there are lots of suppliers and wineries from Italy that travel to visit Boston throughout the year. Who wouldn’t want to be the liaison to the Italian suppliers visiting from Italy? Sign me up!

In asking him what he thinks of particular wineries that you see very commonly throughout the Boston area and the United States and why this is in comparison to other wineries of the same region, Pirone states that those particular wineries and brands are the category leaders or pioneers of the particular regions of which they reside in. These wineries represent the wines of their regions to folks that don’t know all too the well the unique wines and these producers have created that point of reference for the population at large. Also, for obvious reasons, it’s a major investment for these wineries in terms of marketing as well.

I asked Pirone which particular business he recommends in the Boston area for specializing in Italian wines and he chose Vino Italiano run by David Maione in Waltham. Owner David Maione, specializes in only Italian wines and unique ones at that. According to Pirone, Maione understands the history of the Italian wine producers he represents and understands the foundations for which these wines are developed.

In discussing the Boston market when it comes to the wine industry, Pirone states that Boston is a very open market when it comes to embracing varietals from different appellations or producers if compared to other states and folks he has spoken with in similar positions (with the exception of San Francisco and New York City, which are the wine meccas for everything Italian). He feels that over the years he has seen the growth in the average consumer trying to grasp other territories and wines than your average Chianti, Barolo, Pinot Grigio or Prosecco wines.

So if you get an opportunity to attend a tasting or an event with Ciro Pirone as the host be prepared to be immersed in the fine world of Italian wines.

You can follow Ciro Pirone on Twitter: @VinoFilosofia

About Jennifer Martin

Jennifer Martin is a Boston-based Italian wine blogger. Her love of wine first started years ago when she studied abroad in college in Florence, Italy. She's traveled to Italy a multitude of times now and her love and passion for Italy not only comes from her experience of living there, but also due to her Italian heritage. Jennifer now runs her own company and website, Vino Travels, specializing in wine travels to Italy.