Europvin - look for it on the label

THE ROOM is full of people -- standing room only. In front of the room is a conservatively dressed gentleman speaking a little too softly to be easily heard. Each head leans forward to catch every quiet word. There seems to be a wisdom in his tone and an attitude that is somehow reassuring.

Christopher Cannan is a stranger in a strange land. In a quasi-religion filled with huge egos and blatant self-promotion, he is a rare being. He is humble and a true gentleman who makes his choices based on honesty and integrity. Believe it or not, Christopher Cannan sells wine.

He is a true believer and that aura touches all who encounter him. The question is how does he do it? All around him lesser mortals have given up the true faith to follow the almighty dollar, pound, or Euro. How did such an honest and quiet gentleman become one of the most important names you can look to for reliable bottles of wine from France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy?

Cannan was born in Gloucestershire, England, in 1949 and received his early education in the UK, followed by further studies in Switzerland, Germany, and Spain that gave him a good knowledge of the French, German, and Spanish languages. He did a brief stint in the insurance industry, but his love of the grape soon led him to the wine business. With the help of the London based importer, Percy Fox & Co., he spent most of 1970 traveling to all the main wine producing areas of Europe, earning his keep by working in cellars and vineyards. The areas visited included Bordeaux, the Loire, Champagne, Germany, Alsace, Burgundy, Sherry, and Oporto. This was followed by experience with some of the more famous wine shippers of the time, Louis Eschenauer and Frederick Wildman. When Wildman closed its Bordeaux office in 1978, Cannan set off on his own and created Europvin, based in Bordeaux.

Today Europvin/Christopher Cannan Selections ships wines to 36 different countries and in the US delivers wines to 32 states. Cannan has assembled a telephone-book-size portfolio of the finest estates of Europe that only excludes the Germanic countries. Cannan's accomplishment in assembling such a portfolio is unmatched by any importer. However, what is truly amazing about his huge catalogue is the unbelievable quality level that he is able to present his clients in all price ranges.

Cannan's supreme accomplishment is to be able to deliver such high quality over such a broad spectrum of wines, a feat that has never been matched by anyone. So why isn't Cannan more famous? There can be only one answer: In an industry full of blowhards, Cannan's quiet quality is easy to overlook. Dedication, honesty, and a passion for wines that beautifully reflect the soils that created them are just not as cool as the lastest 90+ point wine in The Wine Spectator or The Wine Advocate.

That's not to say Cannan's wines don't get top reviews. They most certainly do, especially from Robert Parker. But Cannan's quiet style, which is reflected in his staff, always seems to generate press attention full of respect but lacking in bombast -- kind of like having your wines reviewed deep in the Wall Street Journal while other wines get the New York Post front page treatment.

Seemingly using the same Stealth technology as the US Air Force, Cannan has quietly assembled a dynamic portfolio that includes:

- The best of Spain, including Lustau Sherry, Vega Sicilia, La Rioja Alta, Bodegas Maruo, Bodegas Lena, Clos Mogador, Clos Martinet, Gran Clos, Cims de Porrera, and Belondrade Y Lurton

- Some of the most creative new wines in Portugal: Luis Pato, De Zellaer's Ports, and all the wines of Cristiano Van Zeller

- The incredible Tokaji wines of Oremus in Hungary

- Exceptional Italian estates including: Az. Ag. San Fereolo-Dogliani, Fattoria Zerbina-Emilia Romagna, and Riecine in Chianti Classico

- A list of French wines that is incredibly complete and deep including truly wonderful wines produced by: Champagne Pierre Gimmonet, Domaine Paul Ginglinger-Alsace, Domaine Pinson-Chablis, Domaine Anne Gros-Vosne Romanee, Hubert Montille-Volnay, Alain Graillot-Tain l'Hermitage, Mark Sorrel-Hermitage, Auguste Clape-Cornas, Chateau Pibarnon-Bandol, Domaine Sarda-Malet-Roussillon, Jean Max Roger-Sancerre, and a complete selection of all levels of Bordeaux including Grand Cru Classe and petite chateaux

What more could you want? Yet all this was not enough for Cannan, who apparently is only quiet on the surface. In the late 1990's he invested in the Priorat (Priorato) region of Spain and became both a negociant and producer of wine from his own estate. In 1999 he launched the Laurona label, along with partner Rene Barbier, which is produced from purchased grapes selected from old vine Garnacha and Cariñena vines located outside of the Priorat D.O. With the 2000 vintage he released his first wines from his own vineyard. A total of 7000 bottles of Clos Figueres and Font de la Figuera (his second label) were made by Rene Barbier at his famous Clos Mogador winery and released last year. Laurona may be one of the best values being produced in Spain today, and the first release of Clos Figueres was received with acclaim by journalists and consumers throughout the world.

The year 2003 marks the 25th anniversary of the creation of Europvin/Christopher Cannan selections. During this quarter century, Cannan has made the purple Europvin label on the back of your bottle really mean something: it is his guarantee of quality; each bottle labeled with his name reflects a level of commitment to excellence and high ethical standards rarely seen in any industry. Whenever you see his label you can be sure of getting a bottle of wine worthy of your attention and your money.

Christopher Cannan may not make much noise, but sometimes silence can be golden.