Luca Maroni is a journalist, a wine specialist, a writer, an event organizer, and the owner of the richest existing website dedicated to wine. He defines himself a “Wine Media”, and considers the diffusion of enological culture a personal mission.
“Pleasantness”: that’s the key word to explain the theoretical and practical method he invented in 1994 “for the knowledgeable tasting” of any kind of wine. He pushed away most of the technical rules typically followed by experts and declared that the most valuable characteristic a wine should have relies on its capacity to give you pleasure. This almost philosophical approach gave him extraordinary fame, so that in 1995, he penned the “Wine tasting” entry for the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia.
Luca is also the organizer of Sensofwine Roma, that takes place every year in Rome in November with the participation of more than 300 producers, 1000 operators, and more than 23,000 visitors.
This is the third edition of Sense of Wine. How has it changed compared to the past?
It has changed just like Italian wine has changed. We always try to represent its continuous transformation. Being, together with the national cuisine, one of Italy’s flagships, we are conscious that it is its genuineness that make it one of America’s favorite products. We are here to introduce to the American market new vintages, brands, and flavors which we know will do very well in this country.
I am also proud to say that 2010 is the first year that my Sense of Wine is part of the greater event “Italian Wine Week” organized by the Italian Trade Commission under the auspices of the Ministries of Agriculture and of Economic Development and in collaboration with BuonItalia and Vinitaly. Ours is a “corollary” event, if we can call it this way. In fact, while all the other exhibitions at Vino 2010 are designed for experts that judge the different brands and labels according to technical standards, we aim to reach new trendy businesses, closer to younger generations. Furthermore, I must add that this collaboration with the government is also very important since I consider it as one of the few cases in which the public and private sectors cooperate in such perfect synergy towards a common goal.
How many producers and importers are attending this year’s edition?
Although the economic crisis is challenging the growth of sales of Italian wine in the US, this time we have more guests than at past editions. My event is “open” to all the producers that want to participate but, of course, it is on the absolute condition that the quality of their wine must be outstanding according to my parameters.
Do you think that Italian wine has somehow changed lately?
It has radically changed. Today we have wines that I consider “technically perfect”, and that are also competitive on the market. They can also be defined “organic”, most of them having a “zero impact” on the environment. Producers, in fact, have adopted new, modern, techniques to preserve their vineyards from soil impoverishment. This is certainly the era of the “Italian Enological Renaissance”
The era of pleasure…
Yes, indeed. The wine tasting method that I invented is actually based on the concept of “pleasure”: I don’t judge wines from a technical point of view, but from the level of pleasure that they give me. There are three parameters by which I judge a wine. The first one is consistence: in other words it must be rich, not watery. The second is the balance of flavors: if the flavor of a wine is as “soft” as it is “bitter” and “sour”, drinking it will be pleasant; otherwise, it will remain in the glass. The third is “integrity”, the technical parameter that is determined by the ability of the winemaker in the enological transformation of the product.
The best grape in the world, in fact, can become vinegar instead of wine, if not properly treated.
Since the producers are generally working well on each of these three aspects, I would say that the quality of Italian wine has increased by the order of 25% in recent times.
You recently published your “Annuario dei migliori vini italiani 2010” (Yearbook of the Best Wines of 2010). According to what you just said about your method, there should be many new and different wines from last year’s edition…
A good wine producer is always good, but his products can change slightly and be ranked on a lower or a higher position every year. Thus, the contents of my book can also vary in the different editions: the vintage and the manufacture processes are never the same, and are fundamental factors in the final judgment. Moreover, I am also very open to new proposals and labels, and I give them considerable space in my writings.
You provide information on wine using every possible means of communication. Besides TV, newspapers, and publications, in 2000 you also created what is now considered to be the richest Wine website in the world…
I consider it a mission to inform the widest public possible on the quality, variety, and versatility of our national brands. The website features more than 320,000 pages: it is a significant financial investment, but I believe that spreading free information on our wine benefits both the consumers and the producers. And using the web as a media, I feel the responsibility not only to inform but also to create a bridge between these two worlds.
Why do Americans like Italian wine so much?
Our wine has two characteristics that make it unique. The first consists in the extraordinary variety of grapes we have. We are not exporting a “Chardonnay” or a “Merlot”, but a “Primitivo”, a“Pecorino”, or a “Cococciola”…Exotic names that attract wine lovers.
The second consists in our competitive prices. Italian producers, especially the youngest, are aware that in order to enter the US market their wine must be not only good but also “fairly” priced. In these harsh economic times, and with the USD-Euro exchange rate being so disadvantageous for our exportations, these two factors are the keys to success.
What about the competition with Latin American wines, or even Californian and Australian wines?
Americans admire Italy for several reasons. They consider our production excellent and all we really have to do is live up to our fame. This done, our wine will keep selling itself.
How will this event enhance our sales in the field?
Just consider that every producer that participates in this event goes away with at least 20 new contacts, and 20% of them – according to the statistics – become orders. Needless to say, given this, it is well worth it to participate.
Luca Maroni's long career began in 1987 when he started writing for L’Etichetta magazine and founded Ex Vinis, Italy’s first wine-oriented newsletter.
In September 1990, Luca started the Lm editing company by creating The Taster of Wine, a magazine dedicated to wine and wine-tasting.
In 1994, he concluded a five-year research on the existing relations between the chemical-physical components of wine and its sensorial behavior: he managed to identify a formula representing the chemical structure of the pleasantness of wine. The technical reproducibility of a given pleasantness – already discovered and applied to food – was finally a reality for wine as well.
He is the author of several books, including Annuario dei Vini Italiani (1993); Degustare il vino (1995); Guida dei Vini Italiani (1996) - a new and improved version of which is released every year - Guida dei Vini del Mondo (2000); La piacevolezza del vino (2000); Conoscere il Vino (2004); Guide ai Vini Italiani più piacevoli, convenienti e reperibili (2004).
Aside of writing articles for important magazines and newspapers such as Le Monde, Panorama, Il Corriere della Sera, in 1995 he also penned the Wine tasting entry for the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia,.
In 2002 Luca was elected Consultant to the Task Force in charge of promoting the Italian wine industry, presided by Undersecretary to Forest & Agriculture Policies, Hon. Teresio Delfino. In 2003 he was asked by the Presidency of the State Cabinet to write the chapter illustrating wine and food in their publication Le Eccellenze Italiane (“Italian Excellence”)