If you come to Naples and don’t eat fried pizza, it’s like going to Paris and not going to see the Eiffel Tower.
Episode 727 of the Italian Wine Podcast is the fourth and last chapter of a very special edition of #everybodyneedsabitofscienza‘s recorded in Sardinia with Stevie Kim during a Gita Scolastica. In today’s episode Stevie and Scienza are joined by Vittorio Moretti, one of the great entrepreneurs in the world of Italian wine and a friend of the Professore for more than 40 years. In 2016, the group he founded bought the Sella&Mosca winery and that’s where this episode was recorded. Listen to Episode 727 on the Italian Wine Podcast and, if you don’t happen to speak Italian, find the English translation below.
Stevie: Welcome everybody this is a kind of improvised “On the road edition” of everybody needs a bit of Scienza. Don’t worry, don’t look at me like that we’ll do it in Italian, ok?
Vittorio Moretti: Don’t worry
Stevie: You’re worse than him, aren’t you? You must be friends, right?
Scienza: Yes, we always speak in Italian.
Stevie: So, I’m here because, we are here with, of course, the iconic Vittorio Moretti and of course, as usual, with Attilio Scienza, the professor. They are friends, so I though this is a good opportunity to talk a little bit about their friendship. Let’s start now. So, Vittorio and Attilio I wanted… you are friends, right?
Vittorio Moretti: We’ve always been friends
Stevie: Has it always been…?
Scienza: Forty years since
Stevie: Okay, 40 years of friendship
Scienza: Even before
Stevie: Even before? But how did you two meet?
Vittorio Moretti: We met because Professor Scienza was at the University of Milan, we collaborated with the University of Milan on a whole series of situations related to agriculture and above all to the vineyard. The professor has always been the greatest expert of vines in Italy. And today more than ever before so… because I don’t know if he has students who can match him so…
Stevie: Your daughter studied with him too, right?
Vittorio Moretti: Yes, my daughter and many of my collaborators also studied with him
Stevie: How was Attilio? Was it love at first sight? Or…?
Scienza: No, not always. We have always had great relationships of friendship first of all and then also, let’s say, a work collaboration, because I used to give a hand to make the plants and to find, I don’t know, the best genetic materials, the rootstocks, the clones and so on. Then, I must say that perhaps the most important moment, at least in that phase of our friendship, was the zoning. It was one of the very first zoning classification in Italy that we did.
Stevie: Where did you do it?
Stevie: Ah in Franciacorta.
Scienza: That was a fundamental element for our knowledge of the terroir, of Franciacorta and therefore in the choice of the quality of the grapes that came from the various sub-zones of Franciacorta, so for them it was also a moment of knowledge to be able to direct the various productions in the various zones. Then the friendship with the collaboration has expanded, has expanded with Petra, we went to France together to choose genetic materials to make a Massal selection of Merlot in Pomerol, for example, in the area of Pétrus, so we brought to Petra extraordinary materials and there was no one in Italy that multiplied. So, we chose the materials in the autumn, during the ripening, collected the wood, made… And Petra has a vineyard made with those original materials, of the best vineyards in Pomerol.
Stevie: So, I know we have to do a tasting so we won’t stay long today though…Vittorio, you’ve been friends for forty years okay? Is there any particular moment that you remember in a meaningful way?
Vittorio Moretti: Well, let’s say that in a significant way it’s difficult because we simply did many things together, let’s say that…
Stevie: Tell me about one of those…
Vittorio Moretti: …the vineyards that we have, they all came from Attilio; so, we started with Bellavista then we moved on to Petra, then we moved on to La Badiola, we’ve gone all the way. And now, here at Sella & Mosca, we’re doing a whole process that he can explain better than…
Scienza: No, but it really is a revolutionary project
Vittorio Moretti: a real revolution!
Stevie: Okay, so explain to me a little bit more
Scienza: So, this company has had a long history but in the last period, this company had invested more in business efficiency and therefore in reducing costs than in a goal of high quality, probably the commercial moment was not so favorable, they did not want wines perhaps special, they did not pay well because Sardinia has always struggled to get paid for good wine. At this point, the winery decided to change everything, to change… of course the varieties remain the local ones, but to focus on two or three varieties, no more. The other important thing is to develop a different kind of oenology, a modern oenology also made of sparkling wines, also made of classic method and therefore raw materials of very high quality because if you don’t have a great base you can’t make a great sparkling wine. But above all, you have to be able to make Vermentini and Cannonau in the next few years, with very efficient modern plants where quality is the fundamental element, where the goal of quality is really what we want to pursue. So, a very deep study of the geology of this territory that no one has ever done, there are no fine geological maps, Vittorio made them, Vittorio made an analysis of these first seventy hectares but in the future the whole company will be subject to a zoning classification, in a very refined way because this company apparently is not very different on the surface but underneath there is a lot of different stuff, there are completely different geological conditions. You have also seen it in your tour, all those huge boulders, all these materials of marine origin, that volcanic angle. All this material, however, cannot be used in a generalised or generic way, but must be aimed at objectives. So, we should put in some soils those rootstocks, those clones, make a mixture of clones to give a certain…so, richness in the bottom because if I use 7, 8, 10 Vermentini each Vermentino, each clone brings something different. I don’t know the Sardinian clones, the French clones from Corsica, the clones from the Tyrrhenian Sea, all the rootstocks, there is a collection of rootstocks because we made sure to calibrate the choice of the graft combination for each type of soil: each soil has its own rootstock.
Stevie: Of course, when there’s five hundred and twenty or whatever, it’s complicated
Scienza: No, it’s not complicated if in the structure, now of the dynamics of replanting you do these 50, 60, 70 hectares per year but you start with a knowledge base that wasn’t there before. We want to make sure that the roots develop in depth, our goal is to make plants that are self-sufficient, that hardly need irrigation water, that have the ability to fend for themselves. So, making deep conditioning to give a site in depth and then… These are innovative things, that are not usually thought about and then the forms of breeding that Marco Simonit suggested, of these sapling vine trainings, in espalier, of great balance, are all elements that complete the picture, the project. Finally, these plantings are made with a precise project, they are no longer made at random, they are made with planning down to the smallest detail. I am sure that this will be the starting point for the winery’s new wines, which will certainly be a new perspective, both commercially and in terms of the winery’s image.
Stevie: So, the last question then I’ll let you do the tasting. You, you bought as a group Sella&Mosca of fairly recently, why did you do that? Because it’s quite a challenge…me just to get there…it’s so hard! It’s literally an island, there’s not even Wi-Fi coverage, I could never live here, it’s a disaster. Why did you choose to take on this challenge and what is your vision?
Vittorio Moretti: Just think that I did this challenge when I was 75, so…With a large…
Stevie: Because in Sardinia, Biondo said you have to drink Cannonau so you can live to be 103. Maybe that’s your…
Vittorio Moretti: Basically, let’s say it’s that. But the basic idea is that I visited this company thirty years ago, and I liked it in a particular way. I told myself…
Stevie: Why did you like it?
Vittorio Moretti: I liked the whole thing, I liked the vines, I liked the farm system, which is a company of great quality. Because…
Stevie: Was Pinna here already?
Vittorio Moretti: No, no he wasn’t.
Stevie: No, he wasn’t here yet.
Vittorio Moretti: No Pinna was not there yet
Stevie: He wasn’t even born yet
Vittorio Moretti: No, there was but…
Scienza: He was studying
Vittorio Moretti: …he came soon after. However, the second time I visited, Pinna was already there, so we’ve known each other for at least twenty years. Anyway, the strength of this company is something extraordinary, because in Italy there isn’t a company this big
Stevie: No, I don’t think so
Vittorio Moretti: Where you can have, where you can work to have various kinds of high-quality products, because there is absolutely the possibility here to do extraordinary things. And they’re demonstrating that in doing the evaluations, the research and so many other things. So, it was kind of love at first sight.
Stevie: Like with Attilio.
Vittorio Moretti: Then, I’ll tell you that our group also needed to have a company that could make some numbers. So, Bellavista and Contadi Castaldi are on the high-quality side and make contained numbers…
Stevie: …it’s a niche market, yes.
Vittorio Moretti: …Petra, even on the high-quality side, is making low numbers, but the market needs lower cost products, a whole different situation to satisfy the market and, above all, to have consistency across the entire range of Italian wine.
Stevie: Yes, to be a more inclusive to the rest of the market
Vittorio Moretti: Exactly
Stevie: Okay. And what do you think…five years from now how do you see Sella & Mosca?
Vittorio Moretti: Let’s say in five years…
Stevie: Pinna will still be here
Vittorio Moretti: It will be an extraordinary company
Stevie: Okay, all right with that.