Allegrini 2018

The Italian spirit runs through Chicago’s veins, the second US destination of IEM tour

After New York, Italian wines have landed on the shores of Lake Michigan, in the city of “deep-dish pizza” and ... Al Capone

Italian wines were in the limelight at Times Square, in the heart and soul of New York, where millions of people from all over the world pass through every day. First, they were the stars of the Great Brands (which includes 18 of the top most important family Italian wine companies), and then the “Wine Experience”, signed by “Wine Spectator”, and finally the “Simply Italian Great Wines” tour by IEM. And now, they are flying inland to Chicago, on the shores of Lake Michigan, which in an extraordinarily warm autumn, lives up to its nickname: the “windy city”. It hosts the second stage of the US tour (on October 26th, and WineNews participated), and has made a name for itself on the map and radar of Italian wine companies, rightly so. It is the third largest city in the Country, the capital of Illinois, a less traveled destination to International tourists, but by no means not less interesting. Its Neo-Gothic architecture makes it unique, recognizable and fascinating. The Field Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art, and many others as well, are the flagships of an intense cultural vitality. However, the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame, the museum dedicated to American athletes of Italian origin, since 1977, has kept the link between the city of Chicago and Italy alive. Right now, 3.5% of the city population has Italian origins, but the metropolis has, over the decades, built a very strong identity, even in culinary terms. The “deep-dish pizza”, for instance, which has very little to do with Italian pizza, except for the shape and at least the intentions in the toppings, is one of Chicago’s icons, known and loved all over the United States, among many others, also by Oprah Winfrey. And then, staying on the subject, there is the no less iconic “Italian beef”, a sandwich stuffed with very thin slices of roast beef boiled in its juices, rich in spices. Its origins are nothing short of smoky, but it become popular in the 1930s, thanks to an Italian butcher, Pasquale Scala.
There is a strong bond between Chicago and Italy, as you can see, with more or less elevated moments and main players. For instance, the story of Al Capone, the most media-oriented gangster in American history, born in New York but sent to Chicago in the 1920s by what was called “Black Hand”; that is, the Italian mafia. It was the prohibition era, and Al Capone’s organization smuggling alcohol contributed quite a bit to the growth of the Italian-American mafia in that city. In the following decades the city witnessed many challenging moments, from the protests in 1968, to the sad record, unfortunately still standing, of one of the cities with the highest crime rate in all of the United States.
Chicago is much more, though. It is the second largest financial center in the US. In 2015, it generated a GDP of 360 billion US dollars, one-sixth of the Italian GDP. This is the city where futures and commodity markets were created. Since the 1970s, finance and services have replaced industry and other activities without major incidents, while at the same time it is the city that gave birth to Michelle Obama, Kanye West and Harrison Ford. It is also the city that has become a reference point in the struggle for civil rights. It is a western metropolis, where restaurants and clubs are filled up every evening, and where millions of liters of wine flow, alongside Negroni and beer. Also Italian wines, of course — just browse the wine list of any one of the hundreds of steakhouses in the city. Competition is fierce, like in every other part of the Country, and the number one competitor is Napa Valley, then France. Italy and its producers, instead, start from a privileged position, they exported 1.1 billion euros of wine to the USA in the first 7 months of 2022, up +11.5% compared to the same period in 2021. The US Dollar has never been so strong compared to the Euro, which represents a great opportunity to continue to do well. It is necessary to broaden horizons, looking directly at the heart of America, to those big cities, that sometimes are underestimated, but which boast a highly respected wine culture, as well as economic principles to be held in high regard.

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