The Accidental Winery
"What do we do now?" That's what the Buglioni Family said in 1993 when they looked out the window of their new house and saw a 12 acre vineyard full of grapes a month from harvest.
The Buglioni Family was in textiles. All they intended to do was buy a house the family could share. They had not planned on a vineyard, a harvest or being winemakers.
But here it was. Acres of grapes. So they sat down and set a plan.
"We went to the best wineries in Valpolicella asking if they wanted our grapes," says Mariano. "We were not asking to sell the grapes. We just did not want to throw them away."
When the winery saw the quality of the grapes, they were very interested in the crop. OK. Sure. But, now what? Mariano tells us that he asked the winery to send people to guide The Buglioni Family through the process of harvest.
The Buglioni Family did have one advantage in this difficult situation. Being in the textile business, they had a lot of employees handy with a scissors! After being advised on the correct type of scissors for cutting grapes off vines, that being a secateur, 30 textile workers set to harvesting!
"One of our friends rode through the vineyard on a scooter with a basket offering paninis for the workers," Mariano says."We completed the harvest in 3 days!" The harvest was a hit and The Buglioni Family decided to do it all over again every year. "We harvested the grapes this way from 1993 to 1999!"
Things started to take a turn for the future along about 1998. "My father began renovations of the old house," Mariano says. "He decided to set aside a room just in case the family decided to make their own wine."
In 1999, construction was finished and, in 2000, a winemaker was hired! But the winemaker and consultants were making the same wine at Buglioni that was widely available. Mariano says the family decided they wanted wines with "our own style, our own personality."
What do we do, again? Mariano went to the university and requested names for the 3 best winemakers. Diego Bertoni, 23 years old, was hired and he remains the winemaker.
Buglioni was in the wine business! The winery started selling and selling to the point of needing an agent. But the family hit another snag. "Since the agents knew we had been in the textile business," Mariano says, "no one took us seriously."
That said, The Buglioni Family, now mightily determined to break into the wine business, came up with yet another plan. They opened Osteria del Bugiardo in 2005 in Verona. The wines were a HIT. Buglioni got the respect they so well deserved. And they landed an agent.
The first wines exported outside of Italy went to Switzerland and that country remains one of the biggest markets for Buglioni, particularly Buglioni Amarone. The Buglioni style is appealing to the international travelers who frequent Switzerland for banking and commerce.
Mariano poured Buglioni Gargenaga, Valpolicella Ripasso and Amarone here @MertoWines for about 40 customers. We found the Gargenaga, think Soave, smooth with better body than you might expect. The Valpolicella Ripasso was bright and and full without being overpowering, and the Amarone was easy on the palate and just well done. I get why they like it in Switzerland!
Mariano suggested pairing his amarone with langoustein! Say what? Charlie Stanley of Cork & Fork @MetroWines says:
"While most people associate Amarone with richer, red meat dishes such as braised beef, osso buco, or short ribs, it has much more flexibility.
Consider the wine makers suggestion of a simple seafood pairing. Begin by procuring 3-4 high quality langoustien, more commonly known as Norway Lobster in Europe. Now here is the crazy part. Don't cook them. Split each langoustien down the center axis creating two mirror sides. Now drizzle a small amount of high quality, extra virgin olive oil over the langoustien followed by some finely chopped Italian flat leaf parsley.
There remains just one more step. Open a bottle of Amarone that has a slight chill on it, and enjoy your feast."
Back to the story....Now, having been successful in both endeavors, does Mariano prefer the textile business or the wine industry? "Definitely the wine business because it is true, it's real," says Mariano. "Wine is shared at tables all around the world with food and friends."
And so we tested his theory! Mariano joined us for dinner at Chiesa in Montford where owners Robert and Melissa hosted us at the community table.
"Valpolicella means," says Mariano, "the valley of many wines." Valpolicella was, according to Mariano, one of the first wine making regions in Italy.
And it is monumentally beautiful. About 15 miles from the heart of Verona and from there about another 30 to Milano, this is pretty much a dream world.
Over dinner, I asked Mariano where a person who lives in Valpolicella !! goes on vacation? "Greece, Sicily. This year, maybe Puglia."
Is there is a winery dog? "Yes. A boxer."
I wonder if Mariano needs a dog sitter while he is in Puglia.