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Q&A: Masi export manager Giacomo Boscaini

Having recently celebrated Masi’s 250th harvest, export manager Giacomo Boscaini speaks with db about how the company intends to put itself at the centre of Valpolicella, dealing with the challenges of climate change, and what the future holds. 

What has been the most major change to Masi over the last 250 years?

As a point of reference in the appellation, the path of growth has to be something to follow. The structure of the company now is even more solid and defined. We have managed, during the last years, to improve a lot in different markets around the world. Wherever you are, you can have a bottle of Masi thanks to our commercial network.

It was also important for us that we decided to go on the stock market. We are the only winery, at the moment, to be on the stock market, with 23% of the total capital. The rest is divided among the three Boscaini brothers [Sandro, Bruno and Mario] – we are still a family-owned winery, but at the same time we are open to investors.

How has being a family-run business helped with the brand’s longevity?

You can only celebrate this kind of anniversary if there is a family, I think. There are seven members of the family involved in the winery, including my uncle [Sandro Boscaini, Masi Agricola president] and my father [Bruno], who is head of production. Then there’s me in the commercial department, together with my cousin, Alessandra, sales director. Raffaele, my other cousin, is marketing director and co-ordinator of the Masi technical group. Also my sister [Anita] is working in the winery, she has a PhD in biotechnology. My second cousin, Alessandro, is also involved in our very important hospitality programme, the Masi Wine Experience.

How can Masi’s new headquarters, Monteleone21, put the brand at the centre of wine tourism to Valpolicella?

This is a long-term project for us. It is fundamental for us to welcome guests here in our winery, to explain what we do, to show our vineyards, and to provide a full experience. That’s why we decided to open Masi Wine Bars, including one at the new facility.

We think our wines are super, but we know that other wineries are also producing super wines. So at this point it’s also important to communicate what we do. As my uncle says [in Venetian dialect]: ‘saver far, far saver’, ‘know how and communicate that’. Know how to do things, but at the same time communicate how to do these things. Being able to follow all the processes, from the work in the vineyard to serving you a glass of wine, is amazing.

Part of the anniversary celebrations has been the launch of a podcast, Buon tempo! 250 annni di Masi. How is Masi using digital channels to communicate with consumers around the world?

This is something we are approaching step-by-step, as it is new for us, but we are receiving very, very good feedback. For most of the last 250 years we have been very traditional, but in the last two or three years, because of the pandemic, we decided to find new ways of communicating, and the podcast is receiving very interesting feedback. From now going on we are going to follow this kind of communication. We have also decided to have people dedicated to communication over social media.

Another way of talking directly to people is through e-commerce. It’s a brave choice because our strength is our traditional commercial path. For example, in Italy, we have a Masi representative in every city, basically, and all over the world we have importers. It’s a traditional and very deep commercial strategy. To open up e-commerce could be a risk to our commercial net in a way, but we have done things very carefully with respect to that. With e-commerce you can communicate directly, presenting the labels, writing things about the wine etc. It’s not a substitute to our commercial net or regional presence, it’s something to improve it.

Another sign of this modernisation has been the Fresco di Masi range – how did this come about? 

It’s a project that started five years ago. The message is that though Masi is a historical winery, we can create wines for the younger generation, as well as our signature wines. We also wanted to show how much we care about the environment by making something sustainable. Wherever it is possible, we cultivate the wine organically, but sustainability is much, much more – it’s not only in the vineyard, it’s in the production side, trying to use renewable energy as much as possible.

We decided to use these two labels to talk about low-intervention winemaking, with 11% alcohol for the white [made from Garganega, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio] and 11.5% for the red [made from Corvina and Merlot], produced with no drying process, with no ageing, inside an organic vineyard on sandy soil next to Lake Garda.

From the next vintage, we will also have a dedicated bottle for Fresco di Masi, designed for us by Piero Lissoni. It is lightweight packaging, weighing less than 400 grams, when a bottle is usually more than 500.

What challenges does climate change pose to Valpolicella, and how is Masi responding to them?

Global warming is everywhere. We are in a very lucky area – global warming has less power here in Valpolicella than in other regions. This year has been a very difficult year because it was very, very warm, so completely in line with global warming everywhere.

Last year, we harvested from the end of September to the beginning of October, like the old times. I’ve been in Bordeaux recently, and the vines are really suffering, I don’t see the same here. We can have warm vintages, yes, but the impact isn’t the same – it’s Lake Garda for sure, and also the Adige River in the south, the Alps in the north.

One thing we are doing to fight these changes is to come back to the regional training of the Pergola Veronese, which creates shade with the leaves. We have done studies and saw that we can four to five degrees centigrade in temperature both of the grapes and the soil. I think with all the parcels that we add in the future, we will use Pergola Veronese. In the past 50 years, especially at lower altitudes, all the vines have been Guyot trained, which permits you to have lower yields and much more quality. We are coming back to Pergola Veronese, but with much more work in the vineyards to control the yields.

What does the future hold for the business?

I hope me, my sister and my cousins can maintain what was done by our predecessors, especially Sandro. Masi is what it is thanks to Sandro Boscaini. Of course, he benefited from the long history of the Boscaini family, but with Sandro there was a big revolution in Valpolicella. With other producers, like Franco Allegrini, who unfortunately died this year, Sandro has helped to make Valpolicella a wine region known across the world. We have to absolutely maintain that, but we must also keep things up to date. We will see year-by-year what is coming for us.

To read more about how Masi celebrated its 250th anniversary, click here.

To read about a vertical tasting of 13 vintages of Masi Amarone, from 1958 to 2015, click here.

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