ITALY (San Petro in Cariano) – Once upon a time, the Buglioni family offered its grapes to the large regional producer, among them being Tommasi, Allegrini, Masi, and Speri. Today, Mariano Buglioni remembers this time and says: “All producers to which I offered our grapes told me they didn’t need any more grapes because they had enough. And I said I don’t want your money but I’ll give you the grapes for free. Ok, they says, we accept the grapes but you have to bring them to us.”
His love for wine was not predestined. Mariano’s home region is in the north of Italy. It was there where he grew up, and he never thought of being a vintner. As a young man, he worked in his father’s boutique, who then produced sportswear and supported over 50 stores. Then, one day, his father Alfredo fulfilled his dream. It was in 1993 when he purchased an old farmhouse in the heart of the Valpolicella region. It included ten hectares of vineyards, planted with the local varieties Corvina, Corvinone, Molinara and Rondinella.
Then, Mariano was 22 years old. He and his father had no clue what to do with the grape material. It was the time of the Amarone boom, and the grapes of the region were sold off – then, a ton cost about 280 euro. The Buglionis gave away all their grapes – incredible, but it is true. It was clear what the recipients would do – they vinified fruity Valpolicella, and out of the dried grapes, they made dense Amarone.
The first harvest was a nightmare. “We had brought my father’s employees to the Valpolicella region and were standing in front of the ripe grapes but didn’t know what to do now”, Mariano remembers. “We went back to the wine estates and asked how to cut the grapes and what tool to use, and if we should sort them out, and how.” This was how we scraped along for several years, until Mariano’s father brought himself to start a serious winemaking. They contacted Celestino Gaspari, a wine consultant who then worked for Guiseppe Quintarelli, his father-in-law and the patron-saint of Amarone. (Please read as well our obituary: “Guiseppe Quintarelli, the Father of Amarone, Died”, ID 7978).
This is how the Cantina Buglioni began. From then on, a modern wine cellar was built below the farmhouse, and as from the 2001 vintage, about 1,000 bottles of it were filled. In the next year, the Buglionis hired an enologist who took over the winemaking. Since, Diogo Bertoni, who was trained at the San Michele all’Adige Institute for Enology, Trentino region, has been responsible for winemaking. Then, in 2004, the first Amarone was ripened, together with other wines, and was ready for release. Mariano started to sell it. “I contacted wine traders but always got the same answer”, Mariano reports about his beginnings. “I heard: That’s your hobby. Why should we commit in so young a wine estate without any reputation?”
As underdogs, the Buglionis need a good idea. Mariano understood he had to find a different approach to acquire customers. In January, 2005, the Buglionis emptied their boutique in Verona downtown and established a wine bar there, the Osteria del Bugiardo. They did not furnish the wine bar with elitist furniture but they had produced seats and tables out of old wooden barriques. They offered wines by the glass, together with cheese, salami, and fresh pasta. That was it – typically regional. The wine bar quickly became an appreciated meeting point for locals as well as for tourists.
Now the situation turned. Within a few months, those wine traders, who had rejected Mariano’s first attempts, came to the wine bar to do business. “Ok”, they said. “Now, you are good enough as to be taken serious”, Mariano remembers. During the past eleven years, many things happened. The Buglionis gave up their clothes shop and extended their vineyards in the Valpolicella region to just under 120 hectares. The turn towards natural viticulture is in full progress, and a new wine estate was established.
Today, the Buglionis sell almost half of their grapes to famous colleagues from the Valpolicella region at fair prices, and the other half is processed by themselves. Meanwhile their fill about 250,000 bottles with their own label, most of which is sold by European traders, but which are also exported to the USA and to Asia. In the Osteria del Bugiardo and in the Locanda del Bugiardo quality restaurant alone – which is located in San Petro, Cariano, which is led by Mariano’s sister, and which includes an agriturismo – 5,000 bottles of it are sold each year.
The collection of the Cantina Buglione includes nine products, among them being a white wine out of the Garganega variety, a rosé, a sparkling wine, and a grappa. But the red wines are the heart of the collection. During international tastings, Buglioni’s red wines often reach 90 scores, among them being three times Amarone, twice the sweet Ricotto, and once Ripasso. “From today’s view, we have done everything right”, Mariano says. “As wine producers we feel better than in the fugacious world of fashion. I discovered the passion for wine, and I understood that I have to follow nature so as to reach everything.” (red.yoopress)