Daniel Airoldi, is a Frenchman who runs the company Airoldi Fine Wines, which is based in Melbourne. Airoldi Fine Wines has been in existence for 8 years and it offers a range of wines from France and Australia of course, but also Italian, American and South African wines. We spoke to Daniel about wine, his company, his thoughts on the differences between French and Australian culture and their wines.
You started the company Airoldi Fine Wines. How and why?
Because I was in hospitality before and the service offered by the majority of wine distributors at the beginning of the 2000s didn’t suit me. I wanted to do something different so I created Airoldi Fine Wines with a selection of wines from Bordeaux initially because I am from Bordeaux but it quickly developed into other regions and other countries but with customer service that was unrivalled at the time. That’s really why I set up the company at the time.
How does your company differ from other wine importing companies?
How is it different? It’s different on a few levels – that is to say that we have quite a global selection of wines – we have a lot of Bordeaux of course but we also have wines from other regions such as Languedoc, Provence, Savoie and a lot of American, Italian and South African wines as well as Australian wines obviously.
So we have quite a complex selection and cover a lot of different styles and qualities of wine. We have technical datasheets on each of our wines, available for everyone and each of our employees undergo wine training such as WSET or Wine Scholar to be able to offer a quality service with essential knowledge to our customers.
Where we are also different is in the provenance of our important wines. Especially when you speak about the big names from Bordeaux, they can be very expensive. We have vintages of Bordeaux that no one else has access to in Australia, directly from the château and it’s quite a complex system.
We have set ourselves up in the market for the long-term by establishing collaborations between us and with many establishments by doing events around Australia to help them to know the Australian market in a more intimate fashion. This allows us to receive allocations of old Bordeaux wines with an exceptional provenance and to therefore be able to offer to our clients rare bottles which are of incomparable quality and to be assured of their condition.
So the wines come straight from the château in France to you here.
Absolutely, yes, of course through our négociants who dress the bottles with the necessary Australian legal mentions and who prepare the packaging with our other partners.
Has COVID caused transportation issues?
Transport issues, not really. There have been some delays, but not very large delays. It’s very much the strikes in France, it’s their national sport! What COVID has changed is the demand for the big wines – it has reduced demand quite significantly.
Talking now about wine, how do you find French wines different to Australian wines?
Wow… that’s a big question. It’s not to say that it’s better or worse.
French wines have traditionally been more compatible with food because in general wines from each region are made to go with local dishes. I think that Australian wines are rapidly changing. There are more little producers who are changing the style of Australian wine and who are competing with the big producers. In the beginning, the wines were a lot more supple, less tannic, more fruity. Traditionally, Australians drink wine without food but that is also in the process of changing quickly.
Precisely, I was going to ask how the wine culture is different in Australia compared to France. Apart from the fact that in France, people drink wine with a meal and in Australia, we drink it anytime!
But even in France, that’s changing. The new generation is interested in wines from outside their region and in foreign wines. Wine bars are springing up all over the country. Wine culture has really changed a lot in recent times. In the countryside during the week, we drink cask wine for the week and the only day on which we drink bottled wines is Sunday or for a special occasion like a family reunion…
So it’s changing everywhere. You said that your family had an interest in wine. Where did your interest come from?
I was in hospitality before and I was always more or less interested in wine. I was passionate about it from a young age, Sundays sitting at the table as a family, we were allowed to drink a little wine diluted in water.
When I wanted to change career, I did everything I could to grow my theoretical knowledge of this fascinating wine world. The practice was more or less already there, but the theory less, so I studied the WSET Diploma which really equipped me to establish myself in the world of wine.
Then, in my family, they are immigrants in France. On my father’s side, they are Italian. For two generations, they were barrel coopers in Bordeaux. On my mother’s side, they are pieds noirs – French who lived in Algeria in Northern Africa. My mother’s family were Spaniards who wanted to live in France and at the time, if you wanted to live in France, first of all you had to work in a colony. They too were coopers haha.
So on my father’s side, they all settled next to Bordeaux. And on my mother’s side, in Marmande, which is at ¾ hours from Bordeaux and another beautiful wine and gastronomic region.
So you really grew up with wine.
When I lived in Bordeaux, my mother used to do the harvest every year and I remember helping from a very young age. My father used to buy wine in bulk from the Pauillac cellar and then go bottle it at the house, we always tasted it a little before buying it. My elder brother who unfortunately passed away in 2003 was a winemaker, and my parents like many people of the same generation in France, drank wine for lunch and dinner, so yes I grew up around wine.
You’ve been in Australia for 20 years now. Why did you come to Australia?
The answer is very cliché. I met an Australian in Europe and followed her to Australia.
You went back to France though to study at the école de vin à Paris.
Yes, so I stayed in hospitality until 2009 and when I wanted to make the transition into the world of wine full time, we took a “sabbatical year” in which I went to France so that my wife could learn French, so my daughter could see her grandparents – she was 4 years old at the time.
I worked in a cellar in the south-west, and then I ran a cellar for the same employers in Paris. And at the same time I was doing WSET 3 at the Paris Wine School. And then I returned to Australia in 2011.
And in April 2012, Airoldi Fine Wines was born. And I did my diploma at the Sydney Wine Academy and I am now studying at the Institute of Masters of Wine.
Were you sometimes tempted to stay in France when you went back?
Ahhh…Yes, but it had already been 10 years since I moved to Australia and getting used to it again was quite complicated, I admit. I like France very much, it’s my native country. I really like to see the producers I work with, to see my family of course, but we are good in Australia.
I think that most Australians dream of living in Europe.
My daughter is 14 and wants to go live in France. Living in France is good but working in Australia is better.
There’s not a lot of work security in Europe. But then again perhaps with casual workers in Australia, it’s a little the same…
So what do you think French culture brings to Australian culture?
L’art de la table. I remember when I first arrived in Australia it was difficult to find good products, good meat. The chickens were all white!
The art of the table is eating, taking one’s time, conviviality between guests at the table. For us French people, it’s very, very important.
At home, in the evenings we are all seated at the table. There is no television at the table. We speak together, the children and my wife. For me, that’s the way it is. Time around the table is very important.
It’s something that I really appreciated when I was in France.
Taking your time to eat and the prices of wine and food compared to Australia!
You think a lot about what you’re going to cook. You take time to sit around the table, to not eat quickly, to take your time. Whereas in Australia, we are often eating on the run to doing something else.
Here, there are 4 of us French people working together. We put a little table outside our warehouse. We are in a warehouse complex. And we all eat together around the table at lunchtime. People look at us “but what are you doing?” “We’re having our lunch break!”
Given that you’ve been here for 20 years, how do you find Australia has changed?
I think that it’s especially in the last 10 years. Culturally speaking, Australia has really improved in terms of the food that you can buy and in terms of its restaurants. We have very good restaurants in Australia. But in terms of service, service in Australia is a lot better than in France.
I think the access to culinary ingredients from all over the world is really unique here. You also see it in the world of wine and cheese in Australia. Producers that are multiplying every year.
We also see that the development of “reality TV” has brought an interest in food to a new generation. Therefore, I think it’s important.
What do you miss from France?
My family but otherwise I think it’s the culture that I miss. The French culture of calling friends to come by and have an apéritif, to come by and have a drink but not necessarily staying to eat.
Here, if we invite someone to have a drink without offering them something to eat, we are savages! In France, you can have a drink or two and then go home to eat. Again, it’s the conviviality. We keep that culture.
It’s true that in France the culture is very much that of the long lunch. But it’s not something that’s in fashion here.
If you knew it was going to be your last glass, what would you drink?
Without any hesitation, the Château Latour 1982. It’s my favourite château. I am lucky enough in this profession, and with the connections that I have in Bordeaux, to be able to drink Château Latour regularly. And Latour 1982, it’s the greatest emotion of my career.
You can buy wines from Airoldi Fine Wines via the website
Use the code “MARSEILLAISE” at checkout to receive a 20% discount on all orders.
You may recall that we spoke about Airoldi Fine Wines in our article about French Wine importers earlier this year. You can read the article here.