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From Montalcino to Gattinara: the investment, between wine and history, of Matthew Fioretti

The entrepreneur, already producer of “La Cerbaiona”, has bought vineyard and reunited the historical underground cellars of the Piedmontese village

Investing in Gattinara means investing in a piece of Piedmont’s wine history. A wine, Gattinara, loved by Mario Soldati, who wrote about it: “a sip of Gattinara. As long as it is true, I do not ask for more!”, and whose first vineyards, according to the sources, were planted by the Romans in the second century BC, and that in 1518, Cardinal Mercurino Arborio, Marquis of Gattinara and Chancellor of Charles V, presented it to the Court of the King of Spain, making it known to the European nobility, as it can be read on the website of the Consortium for the protection of Nebbiolo Alto Piemonte (www.consnebbiolialtop.it). A territory on which, in recent years, the big names of the Langhe have also returned to invest, for example, like Giacomo Conterno, the cradle of the very famous Barolo Monfortino, among others, which in 2018 acquired the winery that symbolizes the territory, the historic Nervi.
And now comes another particular investor, namely the Californian Matthew Fioretti, director and partner of La Cerbaiona, a griffe of Brunello di Montalcino (which, in 2015, Diego Molinari, former airplane pilot, and historical character of wine in Montalcino, together with his wife Nora, sold to the American tycoon Gary Rieschel - who bought the estate together with the same Matthew Fioretti and other partners - founder of several venture capital companies, for years in the “Midas List” of “Forbes”). Who wants to recover another piece of history of Gattinara, namely an underground system of vaulted ceilings, large and breathable, covering an area of 800 square meters, in the historic center of the Piedmontese village. In other words, the oldest and widest cellars of Gattinara, in Via Massimo D'Azeglio (behind the church of San Francesco), with time passed from hand to hand, subject to fragmentation, and now reunited under one property by Fioretti, who also bought vineyards located in an excellent exposure, in the Osso area.
“The goal - explains a note - is to contribute to the viticultural rebirth of an area that, however, over time has gone from 600 to 120 hectares under vine”.
American but of Italian origins, with his family coming from the area between Lago d’Orta and Angera, on Lago Maggiore, Fioretti explored Gattinara in the mid-1990s, entering these cellars to select and purchase thousands of bottles from the 1970s: the marvelous Nebbiolos of Count Ravizza, who - precisely - produced in these cellars from the second post-war period to the 1980s. But their history is much older. It is believed the vaults themselves date back to the eighteenth century, confirming Gattinara’s centuries-old bond with the world of wine; after all, in the newly born Italy, right in these structures behind the church of Saint Francis, the first Royal Experimental Oenological Station made its debut in 1872. The fascination of Gattinara’s enological culture, and the idea of coming back to it, have always been alive in Fioretti, never subsided even during the twenty-five years of activity spent first in the export and distribution of fine Italian wines and then as a producer in Montalcino. “Viticulture leaves its mark on place and landscape. However historical and economic changes can put at risk the existence of this culture and make vineyards disappear. This - underlines Fioretti - happened in Gattinara and in a large part of Alto Piemonte. When that viticultural culture thrives for centuries and resists to the threats of time, then we can talk about the great terroirs of wine. The winemaking world of Upper Piedmont is moving again, but it has a gap to fill that was, frankly, an existential threat. The historic cellars on Via Massimo d’Azeglio in Gattinara bear witness to this past, and have been awaiting redevelopment for many decades. The same goes for the woods on the hills that are asking to return to what they once were: vineyards. As a viticulturist, I would like to concentrate my efforts where I can grow the best grapes possible, so as to produce a wine of rare excellence. At the same time, if I could contribute to keep alive and carry on that cultural chain of terroir, I would go in search of this further challenge. As for the historic cellars, where necessary, we plan conservative restoration work with philological respect for the building, its history and the specificities of the territory. The aspiration is to bring back to full activity wineries that are a historical monument of Gattinara and Alto Piemonte”. According to Fioretti, “in order to regain terroir, the land most suitable for vineyards must be vines as it once was, not woods. The terroir that was Gattinara was there, on the hills: all of them with vineyards. Today there are two challenges for Gattinara in particular, and for Alto Piemonte in general. The first one comes from the massive presence of woods that often extend where once there were vineyards. Besides taking away space from vineyards, woods block sunlight, cause humidity and too often create the habitat for animals and insects, enemies of vineyards. In other words: if you have a land and a place highly suited for vineyards, it is a pity to let them regress to woods. Surely there is no lack of places in the plains where it is possible to plant trees and give habitat to fauna. The other challenge - adds the Italian-American entrepreneur - is the extreme fragmentation of untilled land. There remain uncultivated and wooded parcels, little more than pieces of ownership paper. But for the winemaker and farmer, the land is alive and is constantly being tended and worked: it is not paper. A change of pace is feasible only on the condition of uniting the many parcels and make them become valuable vineyards again. It would take the collective will to see again Gattinara as it appeared in the postcards of the last century, with its hills covered by vineyards, watched over by Monte Rosa. The possibilities of reviving the glorious history of Gattinara and its crus and terroirs are widely achievable”.

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