In many countries the annual wine guides wield a huge influence over consumers. In France, for example, you have Guide Hachette and Italy you have l’Espresso’s annual wine guide. But this year, there has been a revolution in the Italian guide. The editorial team has been completely replaced, the focus is changed and the first woman ever to be included in the Italian wine guide’s editorial team has been named, Alessandra Piubello. BKWine Magazine’s Åsa Johansson got an interview with the Italian pioneer.
In the autumn the Italian wine guides typically come out with their new editions with what, according to them, are Italy’s best wines. In no other country are there so many wine guides as in Italy. One of the most famous is l’Espresso’s wine guide. In the spring of 2016 there was great commotion in the Italian wine press when l’Espresso sacked and replaced the former editorial board. In the new group of wine writers we find Alessandra Piubello. She is the first woman ever to be in l’Espresso’s team of professionals. BKWine was accorded an interview to find out who she is.
L’Espresso’s wine guide is published on October 14th.
Name: Alessandra Piubello
Age: I will never reveal my age, not even under torture
Lives: In the city of lovers, Verona
BKWine Magazine: How did it come about that you started working with wine?
Alessandra Piubello: My father made wine in Valpolicella and when I was six years old I got to taste my first glass of wine diluted with water. At eight years of age I was allowed to taste without water. Wine has always been part of my family’s culture. I helped to harvest and worked in the wine cellar. I was curious about everything that had to do with wine. I remember everything; scents, colours and flavours.
Being able to bring together my two great passions, wine and journalism, was fantastic
BKWine Magazine: How did you start writing about wine?
Alessandra Piubello: I wrote my first article in 2004. A wine producer asked if I could help him with the technical descriptions of his wines. I felt I was in the right place and that this was what I wanted to do. I was already a journalist and being able to bring together my two great passions, wine and journalism, was fantastic. I began to study wine and took different courses (Onav, WSET, University of Bordeaux, Vinidea and others). I continue to study, with humility as it should be in the world of wine.
BKWine Magazine: How does your work look today?
Alessandra Piubello: Today I work with fifteen different specialized wine publications. Most are Italian but also some international, and now also with the Espresso wine guide. I would also add that I work only as a journalist. I do not organize events and do not work as a communicator.
BKWine Magazine: How many days of travel do you have each year?
Alessandra Piubello: I am on the road every day. Sometimes it is shorter distances but often it is longer trips in Italy and abroad. In recent years, I have never spent a whole day in Verona. I’m always looking for new wines, food, restaurants and beautiful places.
BKWine Magazine: How many wines do you taste each month?
It’s about a real passion for finding the wines that are really worthy of attention.
Alessandra Piubello: It is difficult to give a precise answer. I never keep count. It is not a contest of how many wines you taste. It’s about a real passion for finding the wines that really are worthy of attention. I can taste 130 wines in a day in some “primas” (primeur tastings) of new vintages or four wines per day. But one thing is certain, not a day goes by without tasting wines.
BKWine Magazine: How is it to work as a wine journalist in Italy today?
Alessandra Piubello: It’s tough. I must admit that it’s really tough. It is a circus where bloggers and “so-called” journalists write about wine without inhibitions. Many improvise and I have chosen to work quietly and try not to be “prima donna”. Therefore, I have not received much attention but it is a professional choice that proved worthwhile in the long run.
BKWine Magazine: How does it feel to be the first woman to write in the wine guide l’Espresso?
Alessandra Piubello: I’m really excited about my appointment. I will do my best, as always.
BKWine Magazine: How is it to be a woman and work in the Italian wine world?
Alessandra Piubello: It’s hard. The Italian wine world is made mainly of men who do not see with a good eye when women take initiatives and make achievements. Would you ask them they would obviously say that they are for a greater equality and then do everything possible to try to prevent us from working. Or worse, expose us women inequitable treatment. It’s a macho society, and we are far behind other countries. I see that when I travel abroad where things seem to work differently. Slowly but surely things will change here but the situation is still discriminatory.
You really don’t need any wine experts to know if a wine is good or not. For some time, journalists, sommeliers, producers and oenologists have gone another route and claiming a leadership position, claiming a position of knowing everything and being right. This has meant that many [consumers] have started to prefer beer and spirits instead of wine.
BKWine Magazine: How will Espressos new wine guide look?
Alessandra Piubello: The only thing I can say is that it will be completely different than the previous version. We will target more the consumers and it will be more accessible than before. The influence of the “wine priests” who think they know everything has resulted in that many consumers have drifted away from the wine world. In Italy the wine has always been a part of everyday life, you really don’t need any wine experts to know if a wine is good or not. For some time, journalists, sommeliers, producers and oenologists have gone another route and claiming a leadership position, claiming a position of knowing everything and being right. This has meant that many [consumers] have started to prefer beer and spirits instead of wine. We must get back to the simplicity and the core of the world of wine.
BKWine Magazine: Which wines have made the greatest impression on you recently?
Alessandra Piubello: I am often impressed by the variety of wines. But here are a few favourites: il Barolo DOCG Dardi Le Rose in 2010 from the producer Poderi Colla, Romanée-Saint-Vivant Grand Cru 2008 Domaine Leroy, Riesling Hohenmorgen Grosses Gewächs Bassermann Jordan 2011, il Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Phenomena 2010 from Sesti.
Åsa Johansson is BKWine’s person in Italy. She lives in Florence since the early ’00s. She has a passion for all things Italian, so much so that she married an Italian and stayed in Florence after having come there to study political science.