The EnoClub: For Italian Wine Lovers in Downtown Toronto

I recently sat down with Giorgio Tinelli, Business Development Officer at the Italian Chamber of Commerce, to talk about his EnoClub, an Italian wine club he started about a year ago.

“It was a pilot project, the idea was to get a small group together at our office, maximum 25 people. Not necessarily Italians or members of the Chamber, but wine lovers who were curious to learn more about Italy and Italian wines.”

Although promotion was word of mouth only, interest quickly exceeded the ICCO office’s limited space, so they started hosting events at different venues around the city.

Giorgio has been pleased with the demand so far but he’s also happy for things to evolve slowly and steadily. So there’s no big promotional push for the 2017 EnoClub. Instead he’s focused on perfecting the experience for his 50 or so core members and letting that continue to act as his organic growth strategy.

The program

Like 2016, this year’s program includes four events (one every three months) at various downtown locations – usually upscale corporate settings like the 36th-floor Gardiner-Roberts LLP office where the March 3rd EnoClub will take place.

“Ideally I would like to have the winemaker from Italy at each event,” says Giorgio, “so you get a sense of the actual person who is behind the bottle of wine and see the effort and the passion – and of course the Italian wine culture itself.”

There’s always a brief talk, but nothing too technical – EnoClub is meant for generalists, not experts. And as host of the event Giorgio keeps the tone light and entertaining.

“The idea is that I’m going to the wine club, I know I’m going to have fun, I don’t have to listen to a boring presentation, and for the cost of membership you are getting great value.”

Each event features wines from a particular region and/or winemaker, accompanied by light food pairings (salumi, cheese, bread, etc.). March 3 is all about the Tuscan varietal Vino Nobile di Montepulciano for example. Other events will focus on other regions – Giorgio is thinking Piedmont, Umbria and Sicily at this point.

What you get

EnoClub is a work-in-progress, so there are some perks Giorgio can promise and others he’s working on but can’t 100% guarantee. Here’s the for-sure list:

1. Rare, high-quality, hard-to-find wines

EnoClub features premium, small estate wines only available by private order – you won’t find these wines at the LCBO.

2. The advantages of group buying

Because EnoClub purchases as a group Giorgio can get the best possible per-bottle rates and individual members don’t have to buy whole cases (as you would if you were purchasing on your own).

3. Interacting with industry experts

In addition to winemakers Giorgio plans to have a designated wine agent for each events. Not just to sell wine but to interact with attendees and help them better appreciate the story behind the wines. For example the March 2 EnoClub will feature the mayor of Montepulciano and a representative from the Vino Nobile Consortium.

4. Referral awards

Each time you refer new member to the group you get a free bottle of wine.

What you might also get

1. The chance to win free trip to Italy

No I’m not kidding. Alitalia sponsored EnoClub last year and may do so again this year. Approval is pending … keep your fingers crossed.

2. Discounts at select Italian restaurants

As you might imagine ICCO works with the top Italian restaurants in the city and some have expressed interest in incentivizing EnoClub members to frequent their restaurants.  Giorgio is still in discussions on this.

3. Discounts on related wine events.

Giorgio is regularly approached by venues who would like to invite EnoClub members to special events. He’s going to try a few collaborations this year and members interested in attending will enjoy discounted rates.

What you pay & for more information

There are three options for people interested in the ICCO’s EnoClub:

1. Individual annual membership: $100 + HST

2. Group annual membership (3 people): $200 + HST

3. Individual event cost for non-members: $40 + HST

If you’d like to learn more about EnoClub contact Giorgio at tinelli@italchambers.ca

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