In the waning days of 2017, opera singer Andrea Bocelli stood backstage at Madison Square Garden in New York; a crowd of some 19,000 people awaited him. It was the tenor's last performance of the year, which meant the end of a weeks-long dry spell—the singer strictly abstains from alcohol while on tour.
“It’s been 20 days since I’ve tasted wine, so at this point, any wine is good,” he replied when asked what he planned to open in celebration. But he was looking forward to one bottle in particular: a glass of his family’s Terre di Sandro Sangiovese, grown and made at the Tuscan farm the Bocellis have called home for centuries. It’s a favorite of the family and a symbol of the winery’s success since Andrea and his brother, Alberto, took the reins from their father in 2000, invigorating the brand with new blends, practices and plans to grow.
Bocelli, of course, is better known as one of the most popular opera singers in modern history, with songs ranging from classical—Luciano Pavarotti was an early supporter—to contemporary collaborations with artists like Celine Dion, Ed Sheeran and fellow vintner Sting. But his family has deep roots in wine; they began selling it, along with growing wheat and raising cattle, on their farm in the town of Lajatico in 1831.
Today, Alberto oversees the management of the winery with assistance from his son, Alessio, 25. Bocelli Family Wines now produces nine wines, including Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Grigio cuvées. (The most recently rated vintage of Bocelli's entry-level Sangiovese, the 2015, scored 90 points and costs $19.) In fall 2017, the family also opened a restaurant and wine bar in Sheffield, U.K., called Bocelli 1831.
The tenor and his brother spoke with assistant editor Samantha Falewée about their unexpected paths to wine, how they've improved on the rustic winemaking of past generations, and why wine and song don't always mix.
Wine Spectator: How did you get into the family business?
Andrea Bocelli: When I started traveling around the world [performing], I had the experience of tasting great wine, and I realized that there was a huge difference between the great wine I was tasting in other parts of the world and the wine that was being made there at home by our family winery, which is the [traditional] way that Tuscans had always made wine. So I said to my father that the minute my brother Alberto and I started making wine, we would be producing a great wine. And so I tried to keep my word, and got to it, and tried to make a difference.
Alberto Bocelli: Since I was young, I always imagined that I would work following my passion, architecture, like my brother with music, but the family farm has always been a source of pride and a source of wonderful memories. For both my father and his father, despite having other jobs, they reserved the best care for the farm. When our father passed away in the year 2000, we decided it was time for a decisive change, and with my brother and my wife, we undertook a series of initiatives to make the big leap: the renovation of the vines, listening to the advice of experts in the field and the launch of our wines in the world. Fortunately, for [a few] years, I have been joined by my son, Alessio, who is now taking the reins in hand, and to whom I wish the same satisfactions of his predecessors.
WS: What type of wines do you enjoy?
Andrea: Well, I like all good wine [laughs]. However, the wine that is closest to us, of course, is Sangiovese, therefore the Terre di Sandro. It’s the most typical grape that we make wine from around here. But I [also] want to mention the wine Alcide. Alcide is the name of my grandfather, so it was named after him. It’s a blend of Cabernet and Sangiovese. This was a real experiment, but it’s been extremely successful.
WS: Are there similarities between the arts of singing and winemaking?
Andrea: Well, actually, it’s difficult to find similarities because there is a saying in Italian that wine makes you sing—when actually, it makes you sing very badly. So when you’re singing, you should be very moderate in your wine-drinking. In fact, you shouldn't drink any at all. However, after you’ve been away on tour, one of the best things when you come back home is to open a good bottle of wine, and that good bottle of great wine spells happiness.
Alberto: My brother's work as an artist is really his own, and to be honest, we have been careful not to capitalize too much on his fame when producing and selling wine. In the last 15 years, we have been slow to promote Bocelli Wines at his concerts, for example, but we are now beginning to, including holding wine tastings at the venues. We've found it is very gratifying for everybody. The combination of emotions, with music and wine, is powerful.
This interview originally appeared in the May 31, 2018, issue of Wine Spectator, "Wine for Asian Flavors," on newsstands April 17. See what else is new, and pick up a copy today!