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Influential Italian wine pioneer Renato Trestini remembered by trade

Published:  23 March, 2018

The UKs pioneering Italian wine champion Renato Trestini was remembered at his funeral yesterday (Thursday) for his role in establishing high-end Italian estates in the UK market from the early 1970s.

In a career that spanned several decades, Trestini was responsible for establishing leading names such as Masi in the UK, along with the import and sale of a roll call of greats that runs from Alighieri, Biondi Santi, Ca del Bosco and Tasca d’Almerita to Gaja, Maculan and Tedeschi, and many, many other now famous estates besides.

He also influenced and helped many leading lights in the UK trade to better understand quality Italian wines, as a founder of a club dedicated to their promotion, called Forum Vinorum, which counted people such as David Gleave MW, Philip Contini and Italian expert and writer Nicolas Belfrage MW among its members.

“He organised tasting of quality Italian wines, a level which had never been seen in England, where prevailing opinion about Italian wines was that they tended to be faulty and sold cheap,” wrote Nicolas Belfrage, in an extended obituary that appeared on celebrating Trestini’s early influence on today’s roster of Italian importers and specialists.

Trestini, who was born of Italian parents in the French resort of Chamonix, was working as a barman at Duke’s Hotel in London’s St James in 1969 when he turned to wine, saying he had had a “revelation”.

His fledgling import company, Italian Wines of Distinction, soon took shape under the railway arches in what is now known as Bankside, south of the Thames, where he began shipping and selling a growing roster of Italian greats to restaurants and merchants.

As Trestini’s portfolio grew, so did his customer base, with retailers such as Harrods and Oddbins, along with restaurants and hotels including San Lorenzo and the Connaught, among those that took the plunge and helped champion a new level of quality from a country that was previously perceived as cheap and not always so cheery.

According to Belfrage, Trestini’s career went on to form a series of more or less successful alliances with companies as diverse as Alivini, Banfi, Hedges and Butler, Ehrmanns and Belloni.

He finally retired to his home in Bruton, Somerset, where he battled with Parkinsons disease during the latter years of his life.

“It is easy to see why he is credited with really starting the Italian wine revolution in the UK,” said Andrew Bewes, managing director at Hallgarten Druitt, who attended Trestini’s funeral. “I worked with him for several years and he remained a close friend to the end.”

David Gleave MW, managing director at Italian specialist Liberty Wines, added: “Renato Trestini was a huge influence on me when I first got to know him in 1983. His wine empathy and his way with people ensured he had strong and enduring relationships with his suppliers, something I’ve tried to emulate at Liberty Wines. But he was also a great teacher, and he taught me a great deal about Italy and its ways. Those lessons continue to serve me well.”