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Farewell to Vittorio Vallarino Gancia, who wrote the history of Italian sparkling wine

He passed away at the age of 90: he led the family business and brought Canelli sparkling wine to the world, focusing on Asti and Alta Langa
Vittorio Vallarino Gancia

Vittorio Vallarino Gancia, the fourth generation of the family that invented Italian sparkling wine, passed away at the age of 90. The “king of sparkling wine”, as has often been said, played a fundamental role in the internationalization of the company founded in Canelli by great-grandfather Carlo Gancia, who produced the first classic method of sparkling wine, from Moscato grapes, in 1850. Vittorio Vallarino Gancia joined the company in 1957, very young, and the foreign sales offices were immediately his kingdom, and over the years he brought Asti’s sparkling wines to every corner of the world, including China, at the time an exotic destination to say the least.
For decades, sparkling wine Gancia has been the bubble of the end-of-the-year celebrations, the one that accompanied the panettone or pandoro on the tables at Christmas time. But among the merits of Vittorio Vallarino Gancia there is also and above all that of having focused on dry sparkling wine: in 1980 Pinot di Pinot is introduced to the market, made from the three Pinots (white, black, and gray) grown on the farm, and the star of TV commercials up until the 1990s. To that small revolution in taste we owe, in a certain sense, the relocation of Italian bubbles, which many years later, from the festive tables, will become the protagonists of the aperitif. Vittorio Vallarino Gancia was the company’s CEO at the time, and he became president in 1984, a position he held until 1996.
His “political” commitment also dates back to the 1990s: he led the Asti Consortium from 1992 to 1994, and at the same time he was president of Federvini (1990-1993), and then of Unione Italiana Vini - UIV (1999-2001). He was also one of the promoters of the Alta Langa denomination and one of the founders of the Alta Langa Consortium,
demonstrating his faith in the bubbles of northern Piedmont, so much so that for the 170th anniversary of the company, in 2020, he decided to launch an aged Alta Langa 170 months. Although he was no longer at the helm of the company, Vittorio Vallarino Gancia remained a point of reference until the end, and he witnessed the sale of the historic Fratelli Gancia brand to the Russian group Russian Standard, led by Rustam Tariko, between 2011 and 2013.
In addition to his pivotal role in the development of Italian wine, Vittorio Vallarino Gancia had already passed into history many years before, in 1975, when he was the protagonist, despite himself, of the first Red Brigades kidnapping.
It was June 5, and a commando kidnapped him halfway between Canelli and Acqui, for extortion purposes. The ransom was set at one billion lire, but the detention lasted only a little more than 24 hours: the next day, he was freed by a Carabinieri raid, but the Red Brigade member Mara Cagol and the policeman Giovanni D’Alfonso were killed in the shooting.

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