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A Designer Vineyard in Italy

Alberto Alessi plans to make world-class Chardonnay

Jennifer Fiedler
Posted: November 30, 2010

As the third generation to lead his family’s eponymous design firm, Alberto Alessi has helped to shape the look of many an American kitchen and dining room. Some of the company’s iconic products include the Michael Graves bird-whistle tea kettle and the Aldo Rossi coffeemaker. The 65-year-old Alessi is also an avid wine drinker, and now, having planted a biodynamic vineyard in his hometown in northern Italy five years ago, a vintner as well. In an interview with Wine Spectator , Alessi divulged his current favorite wines from Burgundy and discussed his not-so-modest plans to make the best Italian white wine ever.

Wine Spectator: How did you get into wine?
Alberto Alessi: I’ve always been a good wine drinker; it is an everyday habit in our family, region and country.

WS: Do you have a collection?
AA: I’ve got a nice collection of empty bottles from the best of Bordeaux and Burgundy.

WS: What do you drink on a regular basis?
AA: We primarily drink Burgundy. At the moment, that includes wines from A. & P. de Villaine, Philippe Pacalet, Pierre Morey and Prieuré-Roch. We also drink several biodynamic Champagnes, from Fleury Père & Fils, Françoise Bedel and some excellent Laherte Frères.

WS: When did you begin planning for a vineyard?
AA: In 2000 we came across an old farm, the oldest on Lake Orta, a small, romantic lake in northern Italy where we live. They had been producing wine for centuries there, but stopped one century ago [when phylloxera destroyed the vines]. I was a friend of [Italian food and agriculture writer] Luigi Veronelli, and he encouraged me to start a wine project because he knew it was one of my dreams. The fields were completely wild. We went through a long process of preparation, following strict biodynamic standards—you know, tisanes of herbs and flowers instead of chemicals ... . For [learning about] biodynamic methods, Nicolas Joly introduced me to Jacques Mell from Reims, who became our tutor. We planted about 5 acres [of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir] in 2005 and 2006. Next year, we will plant two-and-a-half more.

WS: What are your plans for the wine?
AA: Our ambition is to produce the best Italian white wine ever. And then we are extremely curious to see what we can do with our Pinot Noir in our lake area.

WS: Do you travel to other wine regions?
AA: Frequently to Burgundy!

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