The interview: Luca Gardini

He has been working as a sommelier for twenty-seven years, but he is not just any sommelier. Rather, he is the most famous sommelier in the world. We interviewed Luca Gardini, enfant prodige who has been able to conquer the Gotha of Italian catering, but also the one who has revolutionized the way of describing wine through a contemporary and transversal approach that combines simple and direct communication with the lightness, sharing and pleasure that have always belonged to him.

Italian wine culture in the world. State of the art.

— In Italy we are lucky because for years now we have ranked, along with France and Spain, among the top countries where wine is a protagonist in terms of production, consumption and criticism. If we talk about strengths of Italian wine on the international scene, we have at least two. The first is that we are a very versatile nation, with the largest concentration of native grape varieties and a regionality that leads us to a variety of local productions that is unique. Think of the iconic areas we have: Chianti, Barolo, Montalcino, to name the most historic, but also a younger area like Etna, which is winning markets and palates of all tastes.

The second is undoubtedly determined by the value for money that we offer. In France to drink well you spend enough, not to say a lot. In Italy we have wines that make it possible to drink well while spending the right amount. Take Vino Pop, an event I have been participating in for years now, which presents and awards the best fifty wines whose market price is under fifteen euros: there are fantastic wines! Today Italians are drinking better and better, including the younger generation, because the focus is on quality, both on the part of the producer and the consumer, which is not necessarily linked to the cost of the bottle. —

Lightness and sharing: watchwords of a new oenological communication.

— Precisely because of the very high quality and variety that we offer, I find that we should improve from the point of view of communication, an area in which Italy has remained old style, that is, self-referential, closed, while the world of wine is about open-mindedness and sharing. I believe that oenological communication should have a simpler approach than what we have always had, an approach that goes straight to the glass and based on a few concepts, but well expressed to be understandable to everyone, not just experts. For example, making wine known through enotourism that allows contact with territories, with people, with traditions, as well as bringing it to the sports newspapers or digital platforms.

Personally, in addition to a talent that is certainly recognized as a technical plus for those who do my job, I believe I have achieved the success I have over the years not only because of my palate, but also because I am a pioneer of a communicative approach that aims to break certain dogmas that have always belonged to wine criticism and communication, and to smoothly transfer the awareness, culture and pleasure of wine to the world. —

Wine display: an experience that adds value.

— Image is also important in our world. If I were in charge of a major restaurant today, I would not hesitate to include in the décor a large display case for the wine list that would allow the offert to be complete with whites, reds and sparkling wines. The customer wants to have an experience, and that starts with the visual, cognitive aspect. It is the evolution: it means giving a fundamental service to enhance that valuable experience and offer greater awareness to the customer.

I know CIAM showcases, I have seen many of them in the company when I have been their guest and I know the value related to the elegance of the design, the variety of materials. In this case, I find that the display of wines is enhanced certainly by the design of the showcase, but above all by the technological aspect that makes it possible to guarantee the high quality of the product displayed, representing an important added value to what is being sold. Today, people want and demand extreme quality, and CIAM display cases, with their minimalist, transparent, neat design, give visibility to the product by elevating the wine itself, as well as offering the customer a tasting at the correct temperature, since at the technological level they are designed to allow storage at different temperatures depending on whether they are whites, reds and sparkling wines. Which I consider to be fundamental. —

Identity strength between territory and label.

— Identity is everything in our world, and the identity of wine is made by the soil, the grape variety, the philosophy of the producer and the recognizability of the product. What does recognizability mean? It means that that wine has to be territorial, it has to talk about its origins and respect them, talk about its producer, tell a story that belongs to a culture, a way of life, a philosophy, and again I think that image is the basis of identity, so if we talk about a visual narrative we also talk about labels.

Obviously in our world the goal is to create a great wine, but if we then dress it up with an inappropriate label we will have flopped. The label of a wine, on the other hand, must know how to reach the eyes because of its uniqueness, which I personally find increasingly corresponding to minimalism, simplicity, and essence: a bit like the CIAM display cases that hide high technology behind a minimalist design. The label, just like the wine it represents, must aim at its identity strength and recognizability, but above all it must know how to conquer. —