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A Family Affair

A Family Business

In the wine industry, it’s very common to work with your family. You pass the winery onto your children, your children pass it onto their children. And so it goes for generations. But what happens if your son or daughter don’t want to make wine? What happens if you don’t have any children? What happens if you disagree? Or, worst case; what happens if you don’t get along?

Winemakers are people, just like you and me. Do we always get along with our family? Do we always follow in the footsteps of our parents? No. My whole family works in one industry, and I chose another. But is it easy to chose a different path when you’re raised in the family business? I know that some of the Oddero family members became doctors instead of winemakers. Nicola at Trediberri studied business before he became a winemaker. Something that often happens, is a winery “splitting up”. Example: one sibling continues with the same winery while the other sibling starts up a new one. In La Morra you have Revello Fratelli and Carlo Revello & Figli, where the two sons decided to split up and do their own thing. Now, “splitting up” doesn’t have to be the cause of a fight or argument. Sometimes it’s just the right thing to do. Maybe they have different visions or strategies. Maybe they both have multiple kids who want to continue the tradition, and it makes sense to divide and conquer.

Complicated Also For Wine Lovers

I am not saying that this is as bad for us wine lovers as it is for the families involved, because it is not, but that is not to say that this phenomenon does not influence the lives of someone who just loves to enjoy wine.  I mean, have you ever thought about how many wineries have the same or similar names?! How many Boillots are there in Burgundy? Moreys? Colins? Or to make matters worse, someone decides to call their son Colin-Morey. It’s not weird that you sometimes feel confused when buying wine. Which one was the Colin you wanted? Pierre Yves Colin Morey or Marc Colin? Or a completely different Colin. The strangest part is that some of them are actually related, while others just have the same last name. Which just makes it harder for us consumers to navigate the vast world of wine.  

Did I Say Complicated?

For long, this was a burgundian “problem”.  In Piemonte, for example, the next generation just kept the name of their fathers.  But now with changes at the Fontana, Revello, Vietti, and Veglio wineres amongst others, one really needs to pay attention to be on top of which wine is which, and who makes what.  Take this example from La Morra:  A few years ago, news broke that Andrea Oberto’s son left the winery. But not only did he stop working with his father, he started his own winery, mere feet from his father. What will happen to Andrea Oberto now? Will his daughter (who I believe does some office work for the winery) step in and fill the shoes of her brother? Will Andrea have to pass his legacy onto someone outside the family?

A consequence of Fabio Oberto starting up his own company, La Collina di Dioniso, is that the wines of Andrea Oberto are no longer available in Norway. But you can find Andrea’s wines in La Morra, Piemonte, at the local restaurants and the local wine store. Interestingly enough, you can’t find Fabio’s wines there. What do you think that means?

And what does it mean for the consumer? For the producer? For the importer? This is so complicated I don’t even want to try to analyze. But just think about it next time you find Fabio Oberto’s wines instead of Andrea Oberto’s. So much is happening behind the scenes – at the wine store, at the importers office and in the homes of these wine families.

Andrea Oberto & his wife

Happily Ever After

What does a happily ever after look like at a winery in Piemonte? My answer would be: Happiness is in the eye of the beholder. I mean, who are we really to have an opinion on whether a winery stays in the family, if they split up or stay together, or even sell? Most of us have no clue what is going on in each of these families, and it’s up to them to find out what suits them the best.

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