Do Americans know what Pinot Nero is?

This week I attended a fantastic tasting of the Wines of Lombardy — a region in the north of Italy west of Venice. I haven’t been to Lago di Garda (Italy’s largest lake), but Lake Como is, for my money, the most beautiful place on Earth. And I visited it long before George Clooney took up residence, so that’s high praise indeed.

Lombardy is one of Italy’s lesser known winemaking regions, but it accounts for 70% of Italy’s wine revenue. It plays second fiddle to Tuscany in terms of recognition, but its wines are vital to the nation’s economy — even in the U.S., where it has a long way to go.

One of the winemakers I talked to is primarily marketing her Pinot Nero to the U.S., and we discussed the difficulties of trying to sell that particular wording to the American public — I’d wager that 90% of U.S. wine consumers don’t realize that Pinot Nero is the same as Pinot Noir.

This winemaker is strongly considering changing the front label on her Pinot Nero wines to say “Pinot Noir” for the American market, and I think that’s a wise move — I suspect her sales of that varietal will go up at least 50% thanks to the change. What are your thoughts?