Wine & Other Stories

Gianni Giardina: profession winemaker

Written by Piero Pardini

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Credits: Gianni Giardina Enologo

Gianni Giardina has been an ONAV teacher for twenty-five years and a Master Taster. He works in a land with a high enological vocation such as Sicily, an island in which he has held and holds various positions and which makes him a true ambassador of Sicilian wine culture. Precisely to disseminate the quality of Sicilian productions, Giardina participates in the most important wine competitions as an international taster commissioner, coordinator and member of scientific technical committees.

How and when was the passion for wine born?
My family, all engineers and architects considered me “atypical”: as soon as I could distract myself from my studies, I went to work in the vineyards of Uva Italia, in Canicattì. Then, some agronomist friends showed me the right path, the studies to undertake and the specialization. Since then, wine has become my greatest passion.

When did you decide that the oenologist would become your profession?
After a few years of apprenticeship and experience in numerous wineries in the Agrigento area. I was co-owner of an associated oenological studio that provided advice to 24 companies. Various professional internships have been added to this activity in analysis laboratories, vineyards, wineries, consortia and even a scholarship. The path I took made me realize that the oenologist would become my profession. In 1994, through a public competition for exams, I entered the prestigious institution of the Regional Institute of Vine and Wine in Palermo. Here, I began to carry out the role of oenologist in the central laboratory. A role that allowed me to perfect the tasting technique: having to analyze the numerous samples of wine from a chemical and organoleptic point of view, I had the chance of constant training.

© Gianni Giardina

How important is it for an oenologist to empathize with the people who take care of that vineyard and those hills?
In my area, Terra dell’uva da table Italia PGI di Canicattì and, in the last twenty years, also Terra dell’uva da vino Nero d’Avola and beyond, the people who take care of the vineyards are considered great professionals, in some cases of real artists of the wine sector. Commitment, competence and innate entrepreneurship are the characteristics that have always distinguished them: it is therefore easy and physiological to empathize with them.

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 have been an oenologist and wine taster for over thirty years and I maintain, with full knowledge of the facts, that the two figures are not in opposition but complementary (in some cases they can even coexist). Both have the aim of enhancing, exalting and making known this splendid product of the earth considered the nectar of the Gods, each through their own skills.

© Gianni Giardina

Pandemic and state of health of the wine sector (Italian and International), what can your current experience tell you?
In the latter period, many companies that operated almost exclusively with the HORECA channel have suffered greatly, while those who conveyed their products also in large-scale distribution have, in part, been saved. Some companies have increased their turnover. It is clear that, in general, in the face of a pandemic event like the one we have experienced, sales are falling and companies are floundering. It will take some time to get back to normal but I am very confident. First of all because we Sicilians are resilient, and secondly because our wine has an edge. Tradition, quality and affordable prices are those characteristics that will make us a leader in the field worldwide.

© Gianni Giardina

The winemaker is also a controversial figure, acclaimed by most, but also the subject of strong criticism from 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?
The oenologist is, first of all, a person: character, cultural background, personal and work experiences converge and combine with the professional aspect. When making a wine you need to know how to reconcile all these factors to always get the best. The oenologist must “indulge” the consumer for commercial reasons without neglecting his identity. A wine must also excite, it must have its own personality, its own typicality. This is the goal of an oenologist before responding to the “canons” of guides. Otherwise, wines are created that are all the same, without identity. It is necessary to listen to the needs of the consumer and to use one’s professionalism to reconcile expectations and characteristics of a grape variety.

One of your merits and flaws, professionally speaking.
I am a straightforward person, I always say what I think without many frills (an advantage and a defect at the same time, in my opinion). I am very meticulous: when I find myself evaluating and tasting oenological products (wines, grappas, armagnac, etc.), I observe them, smell them and taste them, trying not to miss any detail.
A flaw: I am very demanding in the professional organization of an event, a meeting or anything related to the world of Bacchus.

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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