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Credits: © Gabriele Valota Oenologist
Gabriele Valota, born in Bergamo in 1992, is a young Italian oenologist, but with an important professional curriculum. Graduated in Viticulture and Oenology at the University of Milan in 2016, he began his professional career by collaborating with the Consortium for the Protection of Franciacorta, the University of Milan and with some prestigious wineries in a project aimed at contrasting the effects of climate change, thanks to the recovery of the native Brescian grape Erbamat.
For several years, he has been a member of the Technical Taster of Doc and Docg wines of the Lombardy Region and participates as a member of the jury in various national and international wine competitions. He is a lecturer in institutional courses for ONAV wine tasters and lecturer in viticulture at the Accademia Symposium.
Since 2019, he is Coordinator of Youth Assoenologists of the Lombardy Liguria Section and National Secretary of Youth Assoenologists.
Currently, he works as an oenologist consultant throughout Italy, mostly in Lombardy and Switzerland, mainly dealing with sparkling wine with the classic method, organic viticulture and varieties resistant to fungal diseases (Piwi).
How and when was the passion for wine born?
The passion for wine was born by chance, attending the last year of studies at the Agricultural Technical Institute G. Cantoni in Treviglio. During the 5th year I had the opportunity to study the vine and wine, I actively participated in the micro-vinification laboratory and, between one pumping over and the next, a passion for enology was born.
When did you decide that the oenologist would become your profession?
The year following graduation. As soon as I graduated, I immediately found employment at an important food company in the area, the Salumificio Fratelli Beretta but, after a year of work, despite the esteem and trust gained by my colleagues and employers, a sense of dissatisfaction led me to ask myself: do I really want to do this job for the next 40 years? Perhaps, is it not the case to find a job that can enhance the scholastic path undertaken so far?
I resigned and enrolled in the graduate course in Viticulture and Oenology at the University of Milan.
Subsequently, during my university studies, the internship and the thesis led me to work in Franciacorta for the Barone Pizzini company where I was lucky enough to sign an open-ended employment contract even before obtaining the degree and therefore the title. of Oenologist. However, even in this case, after a few years of work, ambition led me to ask myself: do I really want to be a cellarman for the next 40 years? What are the growth prospects and the goals that I could reach in the medium and long term?
In the end, after several months of indecision (because, anyway, I loved that company and my job), I resigned and opened the VAT number as a winemaker consultant.
How important is it for an oenologist to empathize with the people who take care of that vineyard and those hills?
I would say fundamental. Empathy is the key that allows you to stay on the same wavelength. I think that a good winemaker, to be the interpreter of a philosophy and a territory, must be a good listener and a good walker. Walking in the vineyard, as well as in the cellar, allows me to get to know the territory, the characteristics of each vineyard and the people who work closely there. Only in this way is it possible to translate its viticultural potential into the cellar; only in this way is it possible to make the most of the differences of each single plot.
In the collective imagination of wine lovers, therefore, non-professional, 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?
Meeting numerous wine lovers, I often had to explain to them the difference between an oenologist and a sommelier.
The oenologist is a technician, generally with a degree, who mainly takes care of the entire winemaking process, from harvest to bottle.
The sommelier, on the other hand, is a professional who has passed a course or training and who takes care of the selection of wines and their presentation, serving and food-wine pairing. In my opinion, they are two complementary figures.
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?
Personally, in producing a wine, I put personal and producer satisfaction first, and if this also meets the taste of consumers, I am happy. Right now, I am lucky enough to offer my advice to small and medium-sized companies which, by their nature, are not clearly affected by market trends. However, the more companies grow, the more they inevitably have to accommodate, within certain limits, the fashions of the moment.
One of your merits and flaws, professionally speaking.
Usually, I let others judge me. In any case, one of my flaws is that of being very critical of myself and of the companies I collaborate with even if the wines get recognition and consensus from consumers.
One of my merits is to work with passion. I am very keen to offer the companies I work with quality advice rather than quantity. I love to cultivate human as well as professional relationships, which is why I tend not to waste my time during company inspections.