Interview taken from Andrea Zanfi's book "Piemonte… la signora del vino", text by Andrea Zanfi, photographs by Giò Martorana, Carlo Cambi Editore, Poggibonsi, 2005 (226-229 pgs.)
Marchesi di Grésy - Tenute Cisa Asinari
Alberto Cisa Asinari di Grésy
I consider myself to be very lucky, because almost for fun, life has given me the chance to experience an "agricultural" life that is out of the ordinary.
I am a pretty easy-going person, someone who gets on with everyone, regardless of their walk of life or level of education, and this is not because I've suddenly been struck with Franciscan goodness, or obliged, because of my great interest in this work and whether I like it or not, to interact with a varied and complex rural and business world.
No! This aspect of my character, which developed over time, is the result of a slow process, which probably began in my childhood, straight after the death of my father, who I lost when I was just four years old. I grew up between this countryside and the city, between the Milan social scene and the simplicity of the Langa, between my university years at Bocconi and evenings spent listening to stories from the oral country tradition that the old people told me when I spent the end of the summer here after the seaside and before I went back to school in Milan. I'd play with my older brothers, but above all with Giorgio Zoppi, from morning to late afternoon, and my over-protective mother would scold me when she had to come looking for me outside the garden of Villa Giulia on the top of Monte Aribaldo hill. A tractor just had to go by and I would run out of the garden and go looking for the fantastic world of vines, stables and cows that surrounded that garden, but above all the friendly Zoppi family, farmers for generations on our Estates.
Renato, Giorgio's father, is an exceptional man who still works with us. His brother, Ercole, Giorgio's uncle, was a true artist, with a natural nobility in his movements and his way of doing things. Above all he was lavish with advice, which he never held back where I was concerned. Ercole was one of the men who played a big part in developing my love of the countryside, and when the time came he made my apprenticeship in this business less burdensome. He encouraged me, he taught me to drive a tractor, to graze the cows, to give orders to the oxen when we ploughed the vineyards. I still recall the scent of the strong shag cigarettes he would roll with infinite patience every time he felt like one. He said an expert smoker could roll a cigarette with one hand while walking in the dark at night… Yet I never saw him tired: in this, his own environment, he moved with distinction, in such a natural way that everything he touched seemed to go perfectly right. However, he was not the only person who accompanied as I approached the world of winemaking. There were others, great characters like Giovanni Fallabrino, manager of my grandmother, Giulia Pellizzari's Cassine estates in Monferrato, Alessandria. Giovanni taught me to love not so much the vineyards as fields in general, the scents and those sensations that can only be understood if you experience them first hand, and which are not easy to explain. He was very fond of our family. During the Russian campaign, Grandmother had sent him a proper overcoat from Cassine, as well as boots, gloves and a hat, all in fur. Thanks to these, he managed to survive and come back to Italy. More recently, two people, two great men have added enormously to my education in the marketing field: Adriano Romanò, our first representative in Milan, and Nino Audisio, our Piedmont agent, a true rock. Between vineyards and sales, I cannot leave out the great Giacomo Bologna, an epic figure in my eyes, who was the first to make me realize the heights that passion for this work can reach, and the importance of product quality.
Certainly, the face I have most in mind is that of my mother, who as a widow with 4 children (I am the youngest), brought us up: private schools, no television and a lot of praying….But perhaps, even more, my wife Giovanna, who even though living in Milan with 3 adolescent children, runs everything to perfection and doesn't hate me when I come home late in the evening and am often away on business. Yes, I believe greatly in women; they know how to be tough and gentle, and when they want to, they have more insight and are more quick-thinking than we men. This is why we have so many in our company, because we have to be meticulous about details, and they are the experts at that!
Coming back from my frequent travels, I love standing in the garden of Monte Aribaldo in the morning and looking at Martinenga on the hill facing the house. Just down there, with its great vineyard in the form of an amphitheatre - every single time I am amazed by the complexity of the colours nature brings to each season, and I realize that I absolutely cannot do without these Langhe now.