Rome (Ign) - Tradition and innovation. These are the guiding principles for the winery of Conti Tasca d'Almerita, who for 7 generations in Sicily have been producing quality wine known all over the world. The Tasca d'Almerita family was the first to believe in the dignity and competitiveness of the autochthonous grape variety Nero d'Avola. In the estate of Regaleali - a natural oasis on the border between the provinces of Palermo and Caltanissetta - they are experimenting on over 40 varieties of grapes from all over the world, in particular Greek, French and Spanish. Alberto Tasca d'Almerita is responsible for the creation of a commercialisation system with a direct presence in the most strategic areas. Giuseppe Tasca d'Almerita deals with production, and has created an eco-friendly system for creating an ideal equilibrium between natural assets and the work of man. This is why there was the strategic decision to focus on wines based on local grapes, renewing them over time to satisfy consumers' changing tastes.
Your company was established in 1830, and your family has been in the sector for 7 generations. How much has remained today of the "traditional" way of making wine?
The philosophy has definitely remained the same, while the techniques have obviously changed: we have reached an extremely high technological level, which allows us to achieve turnover of €15m and to produce 3 million bottles per year. But the "heart" of the company has remained the same.
Tasca d'Almerita won the 2004 'Wine Oscar' awarded by the Italian Association of Sommeliers. What is the product you are proudest of?
It's impossible to say, there are so many: today the company produces fifteen different types of wine, each with its own market and different aims. Rosso del Conte is one of Sicily's most appreciated wines thanks to its wonderful aroma and taste, and we sell 1.2m bottles of white Regaleali a year in 60 countries thanks to its excellent value for money. Today we manage to serve many world markets (we export 40% of what we produce), including Germany, the USA, Switzerland and the Netherlands, precisely thanks to our versatility.
Your sector is characterised by a large number of small and medium-sized enterprises which produce on their own and sell a high quality product but in limited quantities. How can production figures be improved?
There is no doubt that there is strength in union, and so the policy of consortiums is the right way to follow. But the Italy's wine industry needs a system: so far we have been unable to draw up well-defined company strategies, because there is no planning culture or skill in studying the market and demand. The challenge of large-scale production needs to be faced with suitable marketing projects. Too many companies today have no direction, and fail to follow a well-defined philosophy, merely putting their trust in entrepreneurial genius, which obviously helps, but is not enough on its own.
Italy, the second largest producer of wine in the world after France, risks losing its position of leadership to Spain, which has made significant progress. What moves do you feel the sector should implement to prevent this from happening?
This is also a matter of planning. There is too much autarchy among Italian businesses, and at times a lack of planning skills. Moreover, our sector is made up of a few large companies at the cutting edge and many small businesses with obsolete vines which they are unable to modernise. Because the financial question is also an important factor: a new vine needs four years before it can start producing, and it is obvious that this can cause difficulties for a business. Today, the EU gives non-returnable contributions for redevelopment, but many companies take advantage to produce grapes for distillation, and not for wine. This means that a great deal of resources are wasted, and this is a real shame, because ours is one of the best raw materials in the world.