Not only wine cooperatives produce great value Barberas, they convey significant social and cultural roles
I’ve been scared for a long time — scared of big producers and their wineries, where among huge steel tanks and dripping water a human being feels lost and detached from the nature and from reality. In Monferrato I experienced another kind of feeling: discovering the cultural and social aspects of cooperative life where the Barbera grape so naturally meets the habits and traditions of dining and working together.
The philosophy behind the big Barbera producers resides in the universe that is opposite to the one we are so used to: with stars-winemaker and winery owners being the sole figures of the story behind the wine. Generations of ancestors take part too, but the individualistic point of view remains strong.
With Lorenzo Giordano, President of a cooperative, we are sitting down right in the midst of the vineyards, which are part of one of the most important wine coop. The enjoyment comes both from the exquisite agnolotti stuffed with meat and the conversation — Giordano, besides being an ordinary grower, is the director of the coop. Born into vines he looks well-fit for this job. The quality of wines we are tasting is extremely good — from base Barberas to more complex liquids aged in wood. The sparkling rose Barbera made with classic method does miracles balancing well the tasty antipasti.
The world that Lorenzo and other vinegrowers of the region live in honors common success more than the individual one; and the individual one is a part of the common achievements shared and valued across the commune. While enjoying the crusty bread with carne crudo I note the easiness they match with the wines from the adjacent hills — some steep, some rolling.
The principles of cooperative happiness are simple: vinegowers are the major part of the company’s management and, thus, commercial goals balance with the goals of making good products and the production needs. To showcase what the coop is capable of Lorenzo brings out the 1990 Barbera that turns out to have aged marvellously showing deep and complex nature of the undervalued grape variety.
I then asked a tricky question: doesn’t Lorenzo dream of his own name on the label of this fantastic wine? Honestly? He took a pause. “We are a big family,” — he then said. “We are a community. We don’t have to put our names on the labels. The cooperative name is our second name. When you are alone, you may well have all the money and fame to yourself, but in the family like ours you take a lot from inside of it”. I tried again and again, but failed to persuade him to change his ways to the production of micro-cru under his own name with a high price tag.