The Business of Wine: VINO2015 and Southern Wine & Spirits’ Lee Schrager

What we love about working in the wine and and food industry is meeting so many fascinating people who share the same passion for quality ingredients and the pleasures of the table. In years past food or wine as business news was usually centered around agriculture, product or marketing news or food safety.  Now, we see food news in the business section nearly daily. Two recent examples: Danny Meyer’s successful I.P.O. for Shake Shack and California’s reversal of its ban on serving foie gras in restaurants.

Food and wine are big business at every level, and the business of launching,  marketing, selling and buying food and wine to retailers, restaurants, hotels, airlines and consumers is a marketplace we know well.

This week on the Connected Table LIVE! we speak with two individuals with prominent roles in the business of wine. Each through very separate and different programs brings together large audiences of wine professionals, corporate sponsors, educators, writers and personalities for education and engagement.

Dtt. Pier Paolo Celeste Italian Trade Commissioner
Dtt. Pier Paolo Celeste


Pier Paolo Celeste is Italian Trade Commissioner and Executive Director for the USA.  A 32 year career veteran of the Italian Trade Commission, who has held a succession of high level appointments, Dtt. Celeste oversees all U.S. initiatives to market and promote authentic Italian products and connect suppliers and buyers. VINO 2015- Italian Wine Week, taking place February 1-5 in New York City, is the largest gathering of wine industry professionals outside of Italy’s Vinitaly. The week is packed with educational seminars, tastings and discussions on the business of Italian wine with a grand tasting showcasing more than 200 Italian wine producers.  This year’s VINO 2015 spotlights the wines of Southern Italy with delegations from Apulia, Calabria, Campania and Sicily. The list of guest speakers is a Who’s Who of the wine industry and, with more than 2000 producers, buyers and media attending, VINO 2015 is a convivium for both showcasing and canvassing the marketplace  for Italian wines.



The business of wine in the U.S. would be nowhere without a strong distribution network. Producers rely on importers to bring their wines to the U.S. Importers rely on distributors to sell their wines into retail and restaurant accounts for consumers to purchase.  It sounds simple but it is complicated.  Leading the charge is Southern Wine & Spirits of America, Inc.  (Southern), the nation’s leading wine and spirits distributor with operations in 35 markets.

Lee Brian Schrager

Lee Brian Schrager is Vice President of Corporate Communications and National Events for Southern. Melanie’s known him in this role for years, but most know Lee as the Man Who Created both the South Beach Wine & Food Festival® (SBWFF) and the New York City Wine & Food Festival® (NYCWFF), two massive Woodstock like gatherings of wine, food and pleasure (minus the drugs).

Southern Wine & Spirits is the founding sponsor of both Festivals joined by a host of major names in the industry including Food Network and Cooking Channel for the 13th SBWFF Feb, 19-22.  What we love about these events when we have the good fortune to attend is the breadth and depth of activities, events and serious shoulder rubbing and business networking with wine and food personalities you want to know and business industry folks you need to know. Both events raise a ton-we mean a TON- of money for great causes. SBWFF has raised over $20 million for Florida International University (FIU) School of Hospitality and Tourism Management and Southern Wine & Spirits Beverage Management Center at FIU. NYWFF has raised over $8.5 million for Share our Strength’s No Kid Hungry® campaign to end childhood hunger in America and Food Bank For New York City, fighting hunger in the five boroughs,

When he’s not jetting between Miami and Manhattan- he has homes in both cities- to meet with sponsors and event organizers. Lee is Tweeting non stop and eating (not quite non stop) at restaurants where chefs roll out the red carpet.  But it’s most likely a red checked table cloth fried chicken joint where Lee is happily licking his fingers.  He co-authored  with food writer Adeena Sussman  Fried & True: More than 50 recipes for America’s Best Fried Chicken and Sides. 





THE CONNECTED TABLE BANNER WITH TIMESJoin Melanie Young and David Ransom Wednesdays 2-2:50 pmET on the Connected Table LIVE! Each week this Insatiably Curious Culinary Couple features dynamic people working behind the scenes and front and center in food, wine, spirits and hospitality. Listen live at and on demand anytime at under Shows & Personalities.



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