Remembering Philip di Belardino

I first met Philip in 1981 with Antonio Mastroberardino, whose wines he then represented.  It was the first time I tasted the legendary 1968 Taurasi. Over the years Philip and I became friends and saw each other often. The last time we got together was at a lunch at SD 26 that we planned in honor of Antonio  Mastroberardino, who had passed away. The last time I heard from Philip was when he called me in August to wish me a happy birthday.
In March of next year Philip was to have been the guest speaker at a Wine Media Guild tasting and lunch at Felidia restaurant.  Philip was to speak about his long experience with Italian wines and the many Italian producers he promoted in this country.   I was very saddened to learn that Philip passed away last week.
 The following tribute to Philip di Belardino was written by Lars Leicht who worked with Philip for many years at Banfi.
Lars Leicht National Director – Cru Artisan Wines- Banfi Vintners.

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Phillip at SD26 for  the lunch in honor of Antonio Mastroberardino

(New York, 13 November 2014) – The wine world mourns the passing of Philip “Filippo” di Belardino, legendary ambassador and missionary for fine wines.  His nearly half-century of experience and vast wealth of close personal relationships made him the “go-to-guy” for all things involving not only his expertise in Italian wine but his peripheral spheres of influence in French, Chilean, Argentine, and Australian wines; theater, opera, fine dining, and tourism — to name but a few.

Inducted into the Italian Trade Commission’sWines of Italy Hall of Fame in 2011, Mr. di Belardino’s most recent formal role was as “Artisan Vino Specialist” to Cru Artisan Wines, agent to the luxury portfolio of Banfi Vintners, which he joined in 1999. A perennial relationship builder, he formed lifelong connections on all sides of the business and continued to play a key role up until the week before his passing   on Thursday November 13  at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, from complications related to diabetes.

“Filippo befriended the great and small of our community,” noted Banfi co-CEO James W. Mariani. “He connected legendary winemakers with industry novices, and everybody between, in the truest dedication to a greater wine world and its most noble aspirations for education and inclusion.  A huge voice has been silenced, a big heart has stopped beating, but his fire lives on in each of us.”

Mr. di Belardino loved to tell audiences of his family’s migration from Rome to the United States when he was six months old, declaring that he was so upset he did not speak to them for a year. A passionate lover of wine, food, opera and theater, he united all of them in his greatest role as the ultimate “people person.” To many it was unclear if he was a standup comedian posing as a wine educator, or the opposite.

Mr. di Belardino formally started in the wine industry in 1973 with Mediterranean Imports, an import company founded by his late father Aldo di Belardino.   He was a key ambassador for leading Italian and French brands through the company’s subsequent sale and transition to Palace Brands and Heublein for three decades before joining Banfi as Vice President of Fine Wines.  But it was a previous opportunity as an on-stage entertainer at his family’s “Villa Italia” resort in New York’s Catskill Mountain region where he developed his signature presentation style that helped audiences relate to wine by loosely blending facts with puns, anecdotes, jokes, and stories.  He created and connected a rich network of consumers, producers, press and trade, lovers of wine, music, theater, opera, Italy, and of life itself, which made him wildly popular and sought after as an educator, travel guide, and all-around resource — especially in his beloved New York City.

 

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