I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down to talk with Coviello Salines, Global Marketing Business Strategist, Investor and the CEO and Founder of Amour Geneve, the first naturally blue wine in the world. Coviello is a native of the Bronx, NY. Born in NYC to immigrants – his father grew up in Puerto Rico, and his mother was from the Creole/French island of Dominica, Coviello left The Bronx in 2008 to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Science (BASc) at Kent State University in Ohio. He speaks both French and English
Judia: Are your parents from the United States ?
Coviello: No. My parents were immigrants. My Father was Puerto Rican and my Mom was from Dominica. They moved to the U.S. from Puerto Rico after I was conceived and divorced when I was 8 or 9 years old. My father and I were very close until my parents divorced, and then there was more distance. My dad was the impetus behind the creation of Amour Geneve. He was a Marine and loved the color blue, down to his blue gloves, to his frames, turquoise, topaz and all these different blue diamonds. He was beautiful. He idolized Ben Carson and wanted me to be just like him – he wanted me to be a neurosurgeon.
Judia: What did you do before creating the world’s first blue wine?
Coviello: After college at Kent State University, where I studied International Business and Marketing, followed by Petroleum Engineering and Chemistry with a focus on Biochemical Engineering. I joined a friend’s firm as a Petroleum Engineering Specialist in the field of extraction of oil and gases. In this role, I prepared the schematics and did the engineering behind all the gases we were pulling out of the ground. We made a very big deal overseas with Exxon which had us bouncing all around and in the field a lot, which was okay with me, because I didn’t have much family at all and had no responsibilities like children to tie me down.
Judia: When did you decide to create the wine and how long did it take to develop it and get it to market?
Coviello: After my parents divorced, my father and I lived far away from each other, and it was hard to have the kind of relationship I wanted. When my dad died in 2008, it really hit me hard, and I never really got closure from that. He really enjoyed wine, so I decided to create the blue wine as a tribute to him. After the 200th or so try, about a year and a half in with no success, I was sleeping in a lab. It took about 2 and a 1/2 years just to create the product. However the entire cycle to bring the product to market – getting the right formula, acquisition of the grapes, creation of the wine and obtaining sanctions from the government took about 4 years.
To give a little historical perspective, in 1985 the German government tried to add color to red wine (which was illegal) to give it more intensity. This caused the European Union to put even more sanctions on adding artificial color to wines than were already in place. My invention was a natural extraction process that allowed me to separate the anthocyanin (pigment) from organic Nebbiolo skins and add them to the must from Verdejo grapes. We had to build a centrifuge similar to the ones used in the medical profession for separating blood and plasma, a process known as molecular fusion. After we were satisfied with the color and taste of the wine, we had to exhibit in front of the TTB, the FDA and the European Union in order for them to see me go through the process in real time, as if we were doing a Kosher wine in front of a Rabbi. They were in awe and asked “how far do you want to go with this? ” They helped me get a patent, methodology, intellectual property and exclusivity rights. Fast forward to today, when I am my own importer, marketing the first naturally blue wine in the world. The story of resiliency behind creating this product is so dynamic. I intentionally decided not to self-promote or put my name and pictures all over the marketing for the wine largely because I did not want to get it to get thrown in the light of “this is an African-American in the wine world.” I just wanted to make a great wine in memory of my father that people from all over can enjoy.
We were midway through our interview when I couldn’t stand the suspense anymore. I had to ask Coviello if we could stop talking for a minute so I could taste the wine. He politely obliged.
Coviello: What do you believe it’s going to taste like?
Judia: Well I know Nebbiolo typically has a nose of tar and roses with strong tannins on the palate. While Verdejo has fresh green citrus and floral notes. So I’m expecting it to be some combination of those flavors. I have to admit I noticed on the spec sheet you describe it as being somewhat similar to Pinot Grigio for the untrained palate.
Coviello nods his head in agreement during my pre-tasting analysis. Then I take a whiff, a swirl, another whiff and a sip while he looks on with a knowing smile.
Judia: On the nose it’s fresh and floral, but doesn’t reveal tons of fruit. On the palate, it’s much drier than I expected, especially given my prior experience with other blue drinks like Gatorade and Hypnotiq. In fact, if I close my eyes, it drinks like a dry Mediterranean rosé with a long finish. There is no offensive aftertaste. It’s elegant and well-made. I like it! So how much does it sell for?
Coviello: At Retail Off Premise (wine stores, AmourGeneve website) it’s priced at $30 to $40 a bottle. At Retail On-Premise (e.g. restaurants) it’s priced anywhere from $50 to $80 a bottle.
Judia: What are some suggested food pairings? I could see this going well with seafood.
Coviello: We pair it with seafood, fish tacos, Mediterranean cuisine and plant-based meals. We already have placement in some Greek restaurants like MykonosBlue in NYC. We’re also working to get in more restaurants, yachts and retail stores.
Judia: I believe it’s going to appeal more to an experienced palate than novice wine drinkers who typically start with sweeter wines. For African Diaspora and Caribbean cultures, it may initially be a tough sell, given that people who have grown up in climates where sugar cane (not grapes) is the primary commodity typically like sweeter beverages (e.g., rum cocktails).
Coviello: The answer is creating wine cocktails. We’re working on that as well.
Judia: Do you have a “Godparent” or seasoned mentor who’s helping you make connections in the wine industry?
Coviello: I have a few mentors who have helped along the way, but not just one. I’m looking to make more contacts in the industry.
Judia: So what do you do when you’re not marketing AmourGeneve?
Coviello: I work with kids as well. That’s my passion. I want to develop schools for underserved children in the inner cities, projects and ghettos. Some of the best CEOs are in these areas because they deal with resilience, PTSD and pressure on a daily basis. They deal with not having anything, literally. If they’re able to find a correlation with whatever business they’re passionate about, whether it be in sales, whether it be in creativity, whether it be in the arts, it can be cultivated by stepping over that line and letting it be known that this is something that’s readily available to you just by connecting the dots with people. And it’s really key for them to understand how to network with people. Most of these kids don’t know how to do that, especially just having a presupposition in their heads that we are against all odds, so we have to be on defense all the time. My main thing is I want to be able to help people in that dynamic, because I was once that.
I know it’s going to be very challenging, as a Black man in the wine world.