Matteo Lunelli, "King of Italian Bubbly," Visits Houston

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Every week, it seems that another fine wine luminary sets her or his sights on the Houston market.

Yesterday, ex-Goldman Sachs banker and one of the most powerful players in the Italian wine trade today, Matteo Lunelli (above), descended on Houston for a luncheon and tasting with Houston wine buyers and bloggers at Tony's on Richmond.

"I see the market data," he told a reporter yesterday afternoon. "Houston is a very rich city thanks to the dynamics of the energy market... More and more, our focus is on the U.S. and I see a growing interest in wine here."

It was his first time to Texas, he said.

"You imagine that Texas is a dry place," he noted, making reference to the swift-moving cold front that had moved through the city earlier in the day. "But the sudden rain today made me realize that it's very wet!"

He was here to promote his family's winery, Ferrari, a producer of classic-method sparkling wines in the Italian Alps (no relation to the car manufacturer).

Lunelli made news earlier this year when he announced that he had acquired a 50 percent interest in the historic producer of Prosecco, Bisol. The move made him one of the powerful people in the world of sparkling wine today. (Sparkling wines get their bubbles by undergoing two fermentations, the second one in a pressurized environment. Ferrari's wines are made using the "classic method," whereby the wines are re-fermented in the bottle. Most of Bisol's Prosecco is produced using the "Charmat" method, whereby the second fermentation takes place in a pressurized tank.)

"I want to become the sparkling king," he said in an interview with the Italian national daily La Repubblica at the time of the merger.

The wines of Ferrari are widely considered to be among Italy's best.

The Trento DOC where his family makes wine is located in an Alpine valley, the site of a prehistoric river bed. The appellation's unique climate, with cool summer nights thanks to the high altitude, is ideal for the production of fine sparkling wine. Ferrari's "vintage-dated" wines are known for their nuance, structure, and remarkable aging potential.

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