Wine & Other Stories

Dario Parenti: profession winemaker

Written by Piero Pardini

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There are professions that take shape with the individual’s growth path. This is the case of Dario Parenti who, from a young age, believes that nature and man must live in unison. Dario, a native English speaker, has the advantage of always dealing with different cultures, the key also and, above all, to pursue a career as his wing.
Parenti graduated in viticulture and enology at the University of Florence with a thesis on the export dynamics of Chianti Classico in the US market, thus establishing a deep bond with Tuscany and its winemaking realities. During the period of studies he established relationships with colleagues from all over the world on techniques and protocols of vinification, aging and stabilization in white and red (in New Zealand, at “Villa Maria”, in France at “Domaine de Saint Benezeth” and, subsequently, at the “Cave cooperative de Cazaubon”).
Parenti strengthens his university knowledge in the profession of oenologist, first in Tuscany at the “Ruffino spa” and in California at the “Gallo of Sonoma” (quality production winery of the E&J Gallo group) where he perfects his knowledge of the various aspects of the vine process – wine, from the grape to the final bottle.
Since 2006, with the company “Le Uve”, he has been working as a wine consultant. Since 2009, he has been a professor of wine marketing.

How and when was your passion for wine born?
In high school age. It was at that time that the intertwining of nature and human work in cultivating vineyards and producing wine began to fascinate me. Being of dual American and Italian citizenship, the wine and its production represented for me a strong identity bond with my Italian and, even more, Tuscan side.

When did you decide that the oenologist would become your profession?
During the military service as a firefighter. I tried to take the admission test to the degree course in Viticulture and Oenology at the University of Florence which, at the time, was limited: 20 places for almost 200 applicants. I was studying in the barracks, between the exit of one intervention and the next, and a dear friend of the barracks, at the time graduating in forestry sciences, questioned me about the various disciplines required by the test. Fortunately, I was able to join the ranks of future winemakers. At that time it was not easy, given the low number of places available.

How important is it for an oenologist to empathize with the people who take care of that vineyard and those hills?
Basic. Nowadays, the means and skills to achieve at least satisfactory quality levels are more or less available to everyone. But only when the winemaker understands the needs, the personality, the identity of the people who work in a specific vineyard and cellar every day can he accompany, objectively direct the vision of a producer in the glass. Always making sure that the quality prerequisites are respected but influencing the process as little as possible with its own stylistic imprint.

In the collective imagination of wine lovers, therefore, non-professionals, the sommelier is the best known figure within the “wine” chain while the oenologist works “behind the scenes”. How much, according to your experience, are the two figures (if they are), in opposition and how much, on the contrary, are they (if they are) complementary?
The two figures are not in opposition, on the contrary. The sommelier is very often closer to the real world than we oenologists are. Too often we get stuck in the interpretation of technical parameters and analysis of peculiarities which then, in practice, risk disconnecting us from the final picture as a whole. Listening to sommelier friends during a tasting enriches me because I feel how much, actually, there is real and concrete in a glass without excessive technical-theoretical considerations, often too fine in themselves.

How much has your profession changed, more or less positively, compared to your beginnings?
Surely, today the oenologist must have an overview, take into consideration the many, complex aspects that unfold from the interpretation of a wine’s style, costs and identity. Of course, it has become a more interesting and exciting profession as it has to escape from the general approval that, ten or fifteen years ago, the sector sought with more insistence.

Pandemic and state of health of the wine sector (Italian and International), what can your current experience tell you?
Working with small and medium-sized companies, I was able to experience first-hand the suffering of the catering sector, which, at a national level, has probably suffered the most damage in Italy since the beginning of the pandemic. But also on the international level, companies have been affected by the various lockdowns that have affected practically all countries at different times.

It is very interesting, however, to note how our sector has grown on the web, not only for the increase in sales on portals dedicated to wine (a trend, all in all, predictable), but also for the quality and evolution of communication. between sector operators on social networks and beyond.

The winemaker is also a controversial figure, acclaimed by most  and criticized by others. You are accused of “creating” wines that must meet the canons of the guides, in short, please everyone. Fantasies, or is there, in some cases, a basis of truth?
I think it is a fortunately outdated concept (at least I hope so) as guides, like consumers, are looking for an emotion, a differentiation from the standard of parameters boxed in stylistic homologation. Certainly, many wineries still seek this way, even to the detriment of a territorial expression, but more and more we see the will (and satisfaction!) of producers who express an interpretation of wine that is their own and unique.

One of his merits and his flaws, professionally speaking.
I am very picky: sometimes it is a virtue, sometimes it is a defect.

About the author

Piero Pardini

Founder and editor of "The Wolf Post", Italian based International digital wine platform.
Freelance Journalist.
Wine critic and Sommelier.
He has also written about sports and technology for some specialized magazines.
Co-author of the authorized biography "Gianni Clerici - The writer, the poet the journalist", Le Lettere, Firenze.

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