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From luxury automotive accessories to wine: Michele Marsiaj has launched the Amistà boutique winery in Piedmont

Amidst the new territories of the Region, in the Nizza Monferrato DOCG, 12 hectares (extending to 50 hectares in the future) for cult wines and signature Vermouth

It is just a short step from luxury automative to a boutique winery in one of the new Piedmont wine territories. Or rather, at least it was for Michele Marsiaj, businessman from Turin, third generation in the family that has been producing, since 1947, (together with the holding Marsiaj & C., owner of the Sabelt brand), car seats and seat belts for high-end and racing cars (primarily Ferrari). In 2019, he created the Amistà project - 12 hectares in the splendid hills of Monferrato, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the winery’s cart, there are two wines, Nizza DOCG and the Nizza Riserva DOCG (created with the prestigious advice of the famous Tuscan winemaker, Luca D’Attoma), and a signature Vermouth. The project also includes hospitality in a luxurious country house designed for International wine lovers.
Marsiaj, who boasts the physique du rôle of the classic Piedmont gentleman - tall, elegant, an easy going attitude, habitué of the International jet set(his cousin, Gregorio Marsiaj, is the husband of the top model, Eva Herzigova, ed.) - told WineNews that he decided to launch into the wine adventure for two main reasons. The first is his deep-rooted love for the land (“I was born and raised in the hills around Turin”, he explained, “I remember that as a child I crushed grapes with our farmers”). The second, and primary reason is the desire to create a long-term project for his son, Jacopo Marsiaj, a student at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, who is in love with the countryside. Therefore, in 2017, Marsiaj hired a team of experts in the territory of the small DOCG Nizza Monferrato (one of the last denominations created in Italy, in 2014) to search for the best plots of land.
The research led them to a small winemaker who had always cultivated his Barbera grape vineyards organically (currently a 5% shareholder), whose plants range from 30 to 90 years old. The Amistà project officially began in 2019. To date, there are 12 hectares of vineyards, but the goal is to gradually expand, to reach a maximum of 50 hectares over the next several years. “One of the things I’m most proud of is having started this project during the Pandemic, when most startups were virtual and online”, Marsiaj said.
Obviously, the choice of production is aiming for excellence, a distinctive trait that Marsiaj has brought with him from his experience in the world of luxury automotive accessories, where production is essentially tailor-made. He explained to us that “the leather for the seats comes from Made in Italy brands, such as Poltrona Frau and Cassina”. Consequently, the order of the day is maximum care of the vineyard and the product, paired with the exceptional advice of an internationally renowned winemaker, such as Luca D’Attoma, who, for the first time, has worked in Piedmont.“I convinced him by showing him the vineyards”, Marsiaj explained, “I spent an entire day with him, before buying them. We explored them inch by inch, and he gave me his “blessing”. Since then. I have given him carte blanche in the winery”. The approach has been from the start, to protect the environment, and 2024 will be the first 100% organic harvest, also using the most advanced technology, thanks to devices that allow constant monitoring of the vineyards. Marsiaj is aiming higher, though, and would like to soon certify the entire company, in view of total sustainability. Amistà has focused (the only producer in the area to have made this choice) on only two types of wine, Nizza DOCG (average annual production today of 25.000 bottles) and Nizza Riserva DOCG (around 3.000 bottles), and the packaging is extremely elegant and minimalist, reflecting the stylistic approach of the winery. The leading markets are primarily the United States, followed by Asia and Northern Europe. Distributors have been selected using the “cherry-picking” perspective, given the limited production.
And, there is more. “Considering the low yield of our vineyards, around 50 quintals per hectare (definitely lower than the amount required in the Nizza DOCG specifications), we also wanted to make another product. Although I am an great gin lover, I wanted to focus, like a good Piedmontese native, on Vermouth”, explains Michele Marsiaj explained, “a drink that has been part of the tradition of our aperitif since the end of the eighteenth century. Nowadays, most of the Vermouths on the market are for mixology, but I wanted to produce a Vermouth to drink in purity. Here, too, I wanted to aim for excellence. So, I contacted Revel Chion, the oldest Piedmont distillery, which in the past also produced grappa for the Savoy family. At first, they were hesitant, since they had never made Vermouth, but then I convinced them. So, together with them, an expert of the caliber of Fulvio Piccinino, and Luca D’Attoma, we have created this pure Barbera Vermouth, without the slightest addition of caramel or white grapes”. It is a niche production, thanks to which this year Amistà has become part of the Turin Vermouth Consortium. Finally, a luxury hospitality project was necessary to complete the project. Therefore, a small and elegant country house will welcome wine lovers, buyers and International journalists, “especially Americans”, Marsiaj said, “ as a visit to the vineyard and the winery is part of the all around welcoming experience”.

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