During VinItaly Special Edition 2021, I moderated a sustainability and wine panel as part of Wine2Wine, with Pasqua Wines CEO Riccardo Pasqua, Marta Mendonca from the Porto Protocol and Michele Manelli from Equalitas (VP of Italy’s sustainability & wine certification programme).
It was interesting to see how a large wine producer like Pasqua are engaging with sustainability challenges by adopting a journey strategy. By this I mean they are pushing in several areas that correlate to the 3 pillars of suitability: economy, environment and social. In this interview I recorded after the panel, Riccardo talks about the journey to learn and share, as well as engage the community.
I particularly like the interface with the arts community that they are engaged with because it opens a new dimension of possibilities for expressing brand values. The immersive exhibition that took place during the fews days I was in Verona was strikingly memorable (you can see elements of it in the video excerpts of the interview) and lend themselves to the concept of as experience, which is something we commonly seek when opening a special bottle of wine.
We have more of these interviews with wine producers grappling with issues around sustainability to publish in the coming weeks. It is a fascinating journey that is not just about action but also articulation.
Nick Breeze: What climate impacts have you noticed in the vineyard and what have you been doing to counter those, or have they had any impact on style, or anything like that?
Riccardo Pasqua: The impact over the last few years is quite noticeable. As a matter of fact, summers are warmer, and phenomena that used to be extraordinary are now becoming really ordinary. Every year we have hailstorms, water bombs, so the change is happening.
You know, Nick, in our area, we are very good at drying the grapes. Amarone is our ambassador wine and it is mainly, partially dried grapes. In the 90’s and in the 2000’s, we, as a system, used that technique also for other wines such as ripasso, Valpolicella.
But now, it is not a secret that we don’t need it as we needed it before. Before we needed a little drying process to get to the right ripeness. Today with climate change, this drying process is definitely much less needed.
It is also true on the other side of the coin, very important markets for us, like Scandinavia or north America are getting more and more educated and are looking for more leaner and more agile wines.
So these two things together collide but it is indeed a fact that climate change has changed the style of our wines.
What is Pasqua doing?
RP: Well Pasqua started a process in 2018 with a project called Brasa Qu’erte, which is a natural wine and still is a small project. We involved a very strong consultant from Piedmont called Lorenzo Corino to help us understand how to approach this business. It is more than a business, it is a research and development project.
It was just 1.2hectare at the time. What I can say with confidence, it is a first effort that will accelerate a lot of moving parts of our organisation.
NB: Okay, so you are in the process of getting qualified with Equalitas, which measures and audits all the actions that you are taking. How do you express what you are doing to your consumers? How do you make the sustainability process part of your brand personality?
RP: We made a couple of good activations that we believe gave us a good return. The first one was a podcast series. We commissioned and financed a programme with Wired, an innovation magazine, very well known all over the world.
Reigning Queens Series by Andy Warhol
UK Dealers in Modern Contemporary Art
They interviewed [experts] around best practices around fashion business, private equity and finance, and in the education side of it. So that project was very useful for us to learn and the communication we wanted to give was that we want to learn, that Pasqua is learning but actively.
Pasqua is starting to put funds and resources to learn, first of all, in order to be prepared for when we will put the foot on the gas.
That is one project. Another project that I am very proud of is called ‘Tannin never tasted better’ which was launched in 2018. Here we are on the social sustainability on what we did for our community.
Talent Never Tasted Better has seen Pasqua as mentor to 3 Veronese talents who have in common many values with Pasqua. Pasqua helped them complete their dreams and project so that they can bring their project all over the world and start a domino effect on their careers and be an inspiration to others.
So, from Veronese talents which became the face of our communication platform, so the way Pasqua spread out the message of their values, we stretched the programme towards other Italian talents, different disciplines, different arts, and then to International talents.
So since 2018, basically 20 collaborations between Pasqua and those talents that ended up here in Verona, VinItaly Special Edition, with this immersive installation which we commissioned from a Roman collective of artists called Nunn. They made this incredible piece of art in the Galleria Mercadato, open to the public for free.
We are celebrating dreams. Dreams are the fuel of creativity. Without dreams we couldn’t have the vision so we are celebrating with this last effort, 4 years of collaboration, 20 artists.
NB: I think this is important because when the industry talks to itself, you talk about bottle weight or very technical things. When you are talking to your drinkers, people who like the experience of Amerone or your other wines, you have to be creative, you have to think sideways.
I was at the exhibition yesterday and I thought it was an experience.
RP: Absolutely. Creativity is the first value of our house. All of our most important wines have huge creativity content from the winemaking side and to the wine labels and on to how they are communicated.
So, this is who we are and indeed this link between Pasqua and art is a very distinctive link for us. It is what makes Pasqua unique in our environment.
NB: Can you leave us now with your message about how you think about the future we are facing when all of these things come together?
RP: My overall message is starting from the wine and I am not only talking about Pasqua, not only Verona, not only Veneto, we are talking about the whole Italian wine industry, I am bullish for the future.
I think we need to go out there conscious that Italian wine is second to nobody, also conscious that we have a lot of investment to do in order to keep increasing our value, in order to close the gap to other categories.
But we can do it because we have great entrepreneurs, great artisans, great winemakers. 'Made In Italy' by itself has a very powerful leverage all over the world.
In terms of sustainability, my message is that we have to be brave, we have to be ambitious. We need also our European policymakers to incentivise us in different ways.
But the message here is 'let's go', let’s start, we need to move it forward and be ambitious because at the end of the road, the future consumer, the young kids, will evaluate this as the key thing. So it is strategic for our reputation.
Last but not least, communication. We were talking about creativity and my message is that we need to speak the wine language in a less self-celebratory way, less complicated way. Still of course technical but we need to catch the hearts of the millennials and consumers of the future.
Again be brave and try to use their codes and their language and always have a lot of respect for our heritage, always leveraging the generations of know-how in making wine but try to see the wine industry from their point of view.