Recipe for winemaking -- ambition, luck and passion

Tue Jan 6, 2009 4:29pm EST
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By Leslie Gevirtz

New York (Reuters Life!) - What makes a good winemaker? Ambition, luck, passion? Italian entrepreneur Lionello Marchesi would say it is all three.

Marchesi made his first fortunes selling seat belts to carmakers in Australia and Europe, and then non-leaky sunroofs to U.S. car maker General Motors. It wasn't until he approached his 50s that he realized his dream of buying several bankrupt wineries in Tuscany.

He became the first vintner with interests in all three of Tuscany's prestigious DOCGs, or Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, appellations. It is a labeling system that assures the wines are subject to stringent production and quality standards.

"My dream was always to have a piece of land," he said in an interview during a visit to New York.

"Everyone told me I was crazy, including my wife and my lawyer. But I had my dream and I started to compete with myself to prove to them that I could be successful in the wine business," Marchesi explained.

But Marchesi, who was born in 1937 in Cremona, a town famous for violin makers Nicolo Amati and Antonio Stradivari, soon discovered making wine was very different from making seat belts and sunroofs.

"In the auto parts business, you get a piece of metal, you stamp it, you know how much it costs, and you know immediately how much business you can have. In this business, not so much."

His first harvest was a disaster and produced no wine.   Continued...