50-Year Wine Relationship Between Wine Importer And Great Italian Producer
Tidal waves of panic tempered by excitement keep hitting a married couple as they drive their elegantly constructed Italian car from Milan, Italy, down to the town of Montalcino in Tuscany. “What could be the emergency?” wondered the wife as they were called down to Montalcino with an urgent message. “Maybe… no, it couldn’t be possible… could it be possible?” the husband said. They had already been living an incredibly adventurous life, gambling everything on their passions and love for each other, but they could potentially be given an offer, one that they could never refuse, that would give them more responsibility than they could have imagined. Would it end up ruining the wonderful life they have already created? Or would it bring more joy and excitement into the fantastical journey they were already taking together?
They were a mixed couple in regards to their origins of birth as Maria Gemma was an Italian-American raised in the U.S. and Neil Empson was a New Zealander who had a passion for classic cars, yet their souls were cut from the same cloth as after their first marriages didn’t work out, they found each other and within 11 days of their first date they were married. Maria had spent a lot of time in Italy and wanted to live there and that suited Neil as he figured he could restore the classic cars, a long-time passion, and sell them to buyers around Europe. As they happily struggled, living in a tiny closet of an apartment in Milan, dribs and drabs of money would come in when Neil could sell a car. Eventually, they ended up importing wines into the U.S. as their love for food, wine and the Italian people would place them on that path.
In 1972, it was a considerable gamble back when they started in the wine import business, let alone the Italian wine import business, yet it didn’t matter if it would end in financial ruin for them as the close friendships they made with Italian wine producers was all that mattered – and hence Empson Selections was born. There wasn’t yet an established wine drinking culture in the U.S., and many parts of Italy were still recovering from the deep economic depression mainly caused by WWI and WWII. As ludicrous as it sounds today, some owners of Tuscan wine estates were giving them away for practically nothing during the 1970s and the early 1980s.
By Cathrine Todd | Forbes
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