28 Oct 2014

Better than champagne?

Chef Gourmet

Luciano Tancredi: Maurizio Zanella, why do you believe that Franciacorta can overtake Champagne?

Maurizio Zanella: If you’re talking about size and reputation then that’s not possible yet. But when it comes to quality – although there are different types of course – I’m convinced that the average quality of our Franciacorta is better.

Luciano Tancredi: We’re fans of Champagne’s bubbles but you don’t want to focus on them, is that right?

Maurizio Zanella: True. And there’s a reason for that. Our domestic production has increased in recent years not only because of quality, but also because we’ve abolished all the terms such as ‘sparkling wine’ and ‘classic method’ etc. The success of Franciacorta comes from the geography and the method.

Luciano Tancredi: It was the beginning of the seventies when Franciacorta began to develop. Tell me how the story began.

Maurizio Zanella: Gladly. I was fifteen years old and back then there was a very violent student movement in Milan, which I was part of. Instead of studying, I got involved, including getting arrested and into fights and various other things. Then my father decided to put an end to this and he sent me into exile here, in Franciacorta, to Ca’ del Bosco, the farm he had recently bought complete with chickens and pigs. He enrolled me at school in Iseo, not far away.

Luciano Tancredi: That’s when your passion emerged?

Maurizio Zanella: Not right away. There was a study tour which was organised by the Region of Lombardy in France to learn about the wines from over the Alps. I must confess that the trip appealed to me more than the wine, especially the last two days of leisure in Paris. But then my father mellowed and a great winemaker, Veronelli, took me under his wing.

Luciano Tancredi: You were very young.

Maurizio Zanella: Yes, and this youthful enthusiasm helped me a lot. It helped me to break free of all the constraints that were holding back Italian wine. For this reason it was quite easy for me to become one of the people behind what I call the Italian wine Renaissance.

Luciano Tancredi: To celebrate the passion and wisdom of the man who invented and brought it such success, Ca’ del Bosco has just produced the first wine label that bears the name of its creator, Maurizio Zanella. So you’ve got a company in your own image and now a wine too. What are the characteristics of this wine?

Maurizio Zanella: In fact, this wine was born thirty years ago and the first vintage is 1980. At that time you still had the Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC), and it was hard to offer the public an excellent wine without the DOC. It was one of my colleagues who had the idea – why not put the name of the winemaker on the label? Thus the first ‘signed’ Italian wine was born.

Luciano Tancredi: Originally it was your mother, Annamaria Clementi Zanella, who chose Erbusco (an area between Brescia and Bergamo in Northern Italy) in the mid-sixties to plant a vineyard in what was one of the first regions to receive the DOC, recognising with great insight and wisdom the natural potential of the territory. If Ca’ del Bosco was born somewhere else, would it have been the same wine?

Maurizio Zanella: No, because I have found the ideal conditions here. And also because there was no one else around me, I was the first. I found myself in the right place at the right time.

Luciano Tancredi: Ca’ del Bosco wines and the Forte Village resort are both elite Italian products. How did the marriage of the two occur?

Maurizio Zanella: These days we have a stand at the Salone del Mobile in Milan (the international furniture fair), a point of reference for design for the whole world. People might say: “What has design got to do with wine?” And I would say that we’re there because we believe that the excellent products that a country produces should be brought together. Forte Village is one of these, so the ‘marriage’ between the two of us was a must. We are also part of Altagamma, the foundation that brings together the best of Italian luxury companies.

Luciano Tancredi: Forte Village clientele is very exclusive and they appreciate excellence and luxury products, including wine. So here’s a challenge: to convince them that Franciacorta is better than Champagne.

Maurizio Zanella: Challenge accepted. International Forte Village guests, who are very quality conscious and always focused on excellence, will be convinced that in Italy you can drink something better than that thing that the French make with grapes. I won’t say what it’s called because why should I advertise it for them?

Extract from an interview by Luciano Tancredi