At the heart of the Irouleguy Wine Cellar, amongst the barrels, our new oenologist Federico Giovanneti told us about his passion for wine and his career that led him to our Cooperative.
Who are you?
My name is Federico Giovannetti, I was born in Tuscany in the town of Livorno (Livourne in French.) I grew up in this town and then I moved to start studying Agronomy at the University of Pisa where I obtained my Bachelor’s degree in Oenology. After different work experience all over Italy I felt the need to improve my training skills, so I applied to the Faculty of Oenology in Bordeaux, where I obtained my Masters degree in 2009.
My desire to grow with the wine world had started, with work experience in France, in Australia, in Argentina and then in Italy again. And finally… well here I am !
What does the word oenologist mean to you?
First of all, it’s a passion, a certain life style, because to do this job you have to be open minded to other cultures and skills. It is a career that I adore because it is multidisciplinary, it is not only Biology, but it is also Physics and Chemistry… there is a bit of everything!
The oenologist has to work with nature and in the vines, but also with all the warehouse facilities, whilst respecting the delicacy of every element at all stages. It is a diverse job. To sum it up in one sentence, to be an oenologist, is putting all your possible experience together to obtain a product of emotion.
What’s your first memory of wine?
I became an oenologist for two reasons! My grandparents were wine growers until the Second World War in Tuscany so the link to the vine is a real family history for me.
On top of this when I was at Primary School, our school master helped us make wine one year, it was a great memory for me. Even today, at the beginning of each fermentation, I go back to when I was 8 years old and it reminds me of the wine we made in class.
I would like to add on that my grandfather gave us bread with sugar and red wine for our afternoon snack!
Can you tell us about an important encounter that influenced your career?
The most important encounter was with Giacomo Tachis, he was an oenologist from Piedmont who has studied in France. He is considered to be the greatest oenologist in history in Italy because he created the ‘Supertuscans’, very reputable fine wines like Sassicaia. I met him during my first work experience training on an estate where he was the consultant oenologist. He took me under his wing at the beginning of my career and offered me my first job in this field. When I was 23 years-old he asked me to become the General Director of a Cooperative which produces nearly 2 million bottles per year, can you imagine that!
Niccolò D’Afflitto, Oenologist and General Director of the Marchesi de Frescobaldi firm, a large Italian wine group, has also been important for me. It was thanks to him that I progressed on a professional level. I started working for him, where whatever your job was you started at the bottom and progressed gradually through the years. I worked in the vineyard as an agricultural laborer, then a tractor driver, a cellar man, an assistant oenologist, an oenologist and then Estate Director. That is how I really learnt how to make wine.
In your opinion, how do we make good wine?
To make a good wine, you need to have sensibility ! You must never use a set procedure, it’s what I call having a very strong resilience, being able to find the answer to the question being asked at that time. It’s all a question of listening and adaptability. The environment also plays a fundamental role. I always say that I would prefer to be the worst oenologist on an estate where the grapes are very good rather than the best oenologist where the grapes are mediocre.
What are the qualities necessary to be an oenologist?
The main quality is polyvalence, to have a very complete vision, not only of the technique, the vines, the warehouse, but also having a commercial vision to respond to the consumer’s tastes, whilst conserving the identity of the area.
What is a typical day like?
It’s simple, there aren’t any! Apart from my shower in the morning! Every day there are new challenges and new solutions to find. This is the reason why I love my job !
Why would you like to integrate into and work at the Irouleguy Wine Cellar?
To be honest, chance led me to the Wine Cellar. Being on the spot I discovered the unique character of this area. Even with all my experience, I am learning a lot working with traditional grape varieties. There is the opportunity to develop new techniques to further improve the quality and make super vintages.
The Irouleguy terroir is very distinctive: rainy and moderate winters and then very hot summers. It is neither a continental nor an oceanic climate, it is in between the two. The Irouleguy grape varieties are not very common, so I am lucky to be able to work on this terroir.
Is it a challenge to work on the wines from the Irouleguy Wine Cellar?
Of course, all the wines are a challenge! Each grape variety has a lot of different characteristics according to the millésime, the plot, its orientation… This year we found tannat, coming from the same millésime, with totally different aspects because of their location. It’s up to us to adapt to the history of each grape!
What is the specificity of the Irouleguy wine?
For the whites, with the Gros Manseng and Petit Manseng grape varieties, we can find relatively high degrees of alcohol and a very important freshness, which gives an interesting balance. In my opinion the first specificity of the white wines, comes from the local climate. For the red wines, before arriving I was predjuced about the Tannat which is a very hard and even sometimes agressive grape variety. However, after the first 2020 harvests, I realised that if we work on it gently, we can obtain very sleek and subtle wines.
If I had to describe the Irouleguy wines in one word: fruit for the reds, freshness for the whites. As for the rosés, there is a change of style which is taking place because up until now they were very dark. They almost resemble very pale reds and it doesn’t correspond to the current customers’ expectations. The style is currently evolving.
What are your plans and ambitions for the Wine Cellar?
I haven’t been here for long so I still have a lot to learn, but my ambitions are firstly to convince the farmers to plant more vines. In Irouleguy, there are about 250 hectares planted whereas the potential surface area is 1200 hectares. If we manage just as well to make wine, the objective is to develop the Irouleguy appellation.
What are your feelings about the values of the Cooperative?
In the town where I grew up, 80% of the businesses were Cooperatives. I grew up with a very strong Cooperative sense, it’s normal for me. This system is disappearing little by little but at the Wine Cellar and in the Basque Country, there is the chance to keep this way of life because it is not only a type of business but is also a real way of life. For me at the Cooperative, 1+1=3.
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