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ANTONIO MORETTI: "STRENGTH IN A UNION FOR ITALIAN WINE"


Antonio Moretti: Strength in a Union for Italian Wine Rome (Ign) - Antonio Moretti, Arezzo-bred through and through and winegrower for love, is the owner of the renowned Setteponti estate. As a successful businessman, but also a wine enthusiast, he has turned a family business into the producer of one of the best wines in the world, Oreno, by focussing entirely on quality

Your business career is unusual, since you started a profitable activity in fashion and didn't decide to follow your passion for wine until 1996. Why was that?

I have always been passionate about wine, especially since it is a family tradition: my father is also a winegrower, and my family began growing vines way back in 1957 in the estate in Tuscany in the hills around Arezzo. But I had to wait some time before following in his footsteps, also because it is well known that wine production takes years to get off the ground. I only started bottling in 1996, and this led to Crognolo in 1998 and Oreno in 1999 , two creations that in the space of a few years have become the symbol of the great winegrowing potential of the Arezzo area and Tuscany in general. The important vines planted range from the classic Sangiovese to Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and even Alicante and Petit Verdot.

The Tuscan winegrowing tradition is renowned the world over, and has a whole series of time-honoured features. What, meanwhile, are the most important innovations you have introduced?

The main innovation is the use of French barriques (a particular type of barrel) of 225 hectolitres. Previously, aging took place in steel and alloy tanks, while now we use these small barrels which ensure perfect aging, as well as giving taste and flavour to the wine. You really can taste the difference!

Your wine Oreno was chosen as best wine in Italy by the authoritative Wine Spectator. Can you tell us about the product?

Oreno is a wine we manage to produce in around 55,000 bottles a year. It has great structure and body, with a blend of 50% Sangiovese and 50% Cabernet Merlot. The winemaking process includes separate maceration and fermentation: Sangiovese for 20 days and 25 for the Cabernet Sauvignon, while the maturing requires 18 months. We now manage to export 80% of our production, and the main export markets are America, Europe and Japan. But we hope to grow further in the near future.

Feudo Maccari, your Sicilian vineyard, is the final result of bringing together pieces of land that were broken up into 50 properties. Could you tell us why you chose precisely that area?

I chose it because I feel it is the area that produces the best Nero d'Avola in the world: in north-eastern Sicily there is white chalky soil, perfect for this kind of wine. Nero d'Avola, moreover, is an ancient Sicilian tradition: it was the protagonist of exports of unbottled wine from Sicily for the whole of the 19th century thanks to its naturally high alcohol content, which allows it to keep and travel well even using basic systems of transport. Nowadays it is an elegant, well structured red, complex, fine, smooth, and perfectly suited for long aging. It is without doubt the most interesting recent wine discovery and has contributed more than any other variety to the renaissance of the great reds of southern Italy, also thanks to the traditional bush-trained grape growing system.

Your sector is characterised by a large number of small and medium-sized businesses which produce their own wines and and sell a high-quality product but in limited quantities. What needs to be done to make the system improve production factors?

We need to focus on consortiums, without any doubt. With 3 companies we can afford to have a whole range of departments, such as marketing and exports, that smaller producers are unable to develop. And the only remedy is to join forces, to cut costs and improve communication. Otherwise, it is extremely difficult to increase turnover, even outside regional borders, let alone abroad... The problem is that many of my colleagues believe in total self-sufficiency and are too attached to their independence.

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