When Michele Marai first came around New Zealand looking for a fresh start in 2010, as a wine enthusiast and a qualified taster, he couldn't wait to get his hands on some of the great kiwi wines that were becoming increasingly popular in the world, including his home country Italy. But in the midst of New Zealand's stunning beauty, he also had an unsettling surprise: the Italian wines available in the country were very disagreeable, to the point where he decided to import some of the good ones himself to get to his new, wine loving country a taste of the true Italian quality... whilst exporting some of New Zealand's best products towards Italy.
So Michele founded Cangrande Italian Wine, a company which since 2011 has been supplying some of the top hospitality enterprises on both islands. He named it after Cangrande Della Scala, the XIV century lord of his beloved home town Verona and one of the most influential figures in the promotion of fine wine making in medieval Europe, and provided it with the highest-profile portfolio of Italian wines, craft beers and spirits ever seen in the South Pacific. The idea is that every sip of Italian wine comes with a slice of the country's rich culture, history and tradition, which we are delighted to supply together with our bottles. Michele's family takes care of the Italian side of the business, constantly selecting unique varieties and top-notch suppliers, usually family-run wineries that care a great deal not just about the quality of their production, but also about the tipicality and consistency with the terroir, which largest producers tend to overlook with the aim of reaching a wider export market. The Marai family in Verona also makes sure the wine is prepared in the safest and most adequate shippings conditions: something that can't be overlooked and has to be done on the spot.
Cangrande successfully raised the bar of the Italian wine quality over the first years of trading, and Michele got more and more phone calls from consumers whom, having tried the wines in the restaurants, wanted to purchase some for themselves... and that's how Il Doge was born. This time we named our shop after the Duke of Venice, capital of the Veneto region which as the Most Serene Republic of Venice was the most powerful maritime nation in the Mediterranean for longer than a millennium, trading many goods all over the world, wine being amongst the most important. Together with the widest selection of Italian products available, we decided to add a selection of Michele's favourite New Zealand wines, a real elite of the country's production. For our shop's location we chose Petone, a lovely little village right on the breath-taking Wellington Harbour and a celebrated destination for shopping. Our furniture was entirely built in-house from recycled wood, so we were happy to save some trees in addition to getting that rustic winery look!
Il Doge's translated Cangrande's philosophy on a larger scale: an exclusive top-quality range of products; history and tradition together with the wines, as part of a more comprehensive Italian experience; highest level of assistance to our customers in giving information and recommending regions, varieties and food-matchings... an extremely important detail when it comes to European wines, which really tend to shine in the dining room!