For all the cues that a wine label can deliver—the grape, provenance, vintage—often the most useful piece of info is found on the back of the bottle: the importer. Because if you trust that name, it may be all you need. Think of it as a favorite record label that keeps turning you on to music you never would've found otherwise. "We go back to certain distributors all the time," says Joe Campanale, the beverage director at New York City's Dell'Anima and L'Apicio. "These are guys who have a clear mission statement of what kind of wine they want to sell. Their approach is very consistent." Here are five who get it right every time.
Jenny and François
Backstory: Living in France in the nineties, film student Jenny Lefcourt and jazz pianist François Ecot discovered a common thread in the wines they liked: no chemicals. They've since found a sweet spot with organic and biodynamic selections.
One to Try: Ca' dei Zago Prosecco Col Fondo
De Maison Selections
Specialty: Spain and France
Backstory: If you've tried a boutique sherry or a funky Spanish cider at a tapas bar recently, it was likely from French-American André Tamers, who studied painting in Barcelona for three years, then brought some of his favorites back to the States.
One to Try: Cava Avinyó Blanc de Noirs
Blue Danube Wine Company
Specialty: Austria and Eastern Europe
Backstory: Husband-and-wife team Frank Dietrich and Zsuzsanna Molnar were pushing American IT systems in Eastern Europe when they discovered the region's indigenous varieties—Grüner Veltliner, Furmint, Plavac Mali—and wineries using local traditions.
One to Try: 2011 Tokaj Nobilis Susogó Furmint
Specialty: South America
Backstory: "We found the world's fifth-largest wine-producing country hiding amazing wine in plain sight," says cofounder Ed Lehrman, who sold his mail-order company before a vacation to Argentina 14 years ago and ended up creating the first boutique-only portfolio from Mendoza.
One to Try: 2012 Mayu Pedro Ximenez
Rosenthal Wine Merchant
Specialty: The Alps
Backstory: Neal Rosenthal gave up his New York law practice in 1977 to bring European classics to America. Today, his impeccably curated list reflects a growing interest in high-altitude wines from Switzerland and the Haute-Savoie in France.
One to Try: 2008 Cave des Tilleuls Amigne de Vetroz Grand Cru