A Brief Chat With Zonin’s Franco Giacosa


I was lucky enough to have the occasion to chat with Zonin’s chief enologist Franco Giacosa during the Gala Italia event last week held by the Italian Food and Wine Institute. Giacosa has been with Zonin for 11 years. Prior to that time, he was in Sicily with Duca di Salaparuta for 23 years. He is one of the people credited with reviving the Nero D’Avola grape and one of the world’s experts in terms of its cultivation. Franco Giacosa was at the event to present two different wines: one called Deliella Nero D’Avola IGT 2005 from Feudo Principi di Butera and a Chianti Classico DOCG 2006 from Castello d’Albola.


Both wines were a true joy to taste and I always get excited when I speak with an enologist. Giacosa manages 32 enologists on staff who look after Zonin’s 11 wineries and properties. Giacosa and I spoke mainly about the need for wine makers to stay in the same property or near the vineyards.

I spoke with Giacosa about his view of the role of the enologist.

“Most of the corrections to be done in the winery are small ones. Being far away for long periods of time makes these types of small adjustments impossible. You have to be near the wines on a constant basis to make sure everything is going according to schedule and if something is out of line, you need to be able to adjust it in as brief a time as possible,” Giacosa said.

I then asked what he thought about the concept of flying winemakers as a philosophy. “Traveling to different areas is very important in order to get new ideas but to be a talented enologist, you really have to be at the winery or close by,” said. “Quality wines require a lot of attention, short cuts are impossible and always fail.”


Many people debate the issue of flying winemakers and wine consultants who handle multiple properties. I have heard both sides of the argument. “One transfer of wine that was mishandled can ruin the vintage if you are not careful or distracted,” Giacosa added.

I don’t feel qualified to put in my two cents with my two home made vintages of bad wine. I do know though that even on my humble level, distractions can be costly. Franco Giacosa’s ideas made a lot of sense to me. I imagine that the same is even more true in terms of being an agronomist in the vineyard.

I also asked Giacosa what he thought the upcoming trends are in the wine world.

“There had been a trend towards making excessively alcoholic wines in the last 15 years thanks to lower yields which produced concentrated sugars in our very ripe grapes. These inky colored wines were lovely but are not easy to drink. What we need to do is to lower alcohol levels in the wines in order to make them more enjoyable and easier to drink.”

The Zonin family has been active in Italy since the 1800s and has been in the United States for many decades. The family has had a winery in Virginia since 1976. Zonin’s wines from the estate in Virginia, Barboursville Vineyards, were served at the inauguration of the President Barack Obame of the United States.


The wines served were a Cabernet Franc 2006 and Octagon 8th edition 2005. The Cabernet Franc was served at a reception which preceded the formal dinner. The Octagon was served at the formal dinner.

Giacosa suggested that I try the Nebbiolo made in Virginia. I guess it’s time to visit Thomas Jefferson country.

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