The lucky subscribers of Oinos Vivere di Vino magazine will find, in the latest issue, a nice article on Gianni Panizzi and the Niccolai family, now managing the company. From this starting point, since we have him available, let's hear what Simone Niccolai, head of Panizzi since 2005, has to say with a little more detail about the story of his family and about how he inherited one of the most representative makers of Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Enjoy!
Three generations of Niccolai
Winemaking has always been a tradition in the Niccolai family: it began with the paternal grandparents, then went on with Simone's father Luano and continued with Simone and Sabrina, born (four years apart) and brought up in the countryside, where the wine is an inevitable protagonist.
Simone: "Let's begin with my grandparents: they were mezzadri, sharecroppers. This peculiar land management formula forced them to be, in fact, entrepreneurs. From the land portion they managed they were forced to provide the resources the resources required to pay the landlord and keep the family going. They had to do so by force of arms and a necessarily careful management. At the beginning of the century (the twentieth century) their land products, including wine, were sold by word of mouth and exchanged for essential goods and services, so their focus was productivity and quality. "
Now it's Luano's turn: he launched his business and entrepreneurial career during the years of Italy's economic boom. His domain was automotive, the true symbol of Italy's economic growth.
Simone: "My father first worked as a laborer with a trailer factory and then he had the idea that soon the time for traveling tourism would come. Shortly thereafter he became one of the first motorhome manufacturers in Italy, founding and directing Rimor Autocaravan and Duerre. Wine, however, remained always his great passion, so that with the first earnings of his business, he invested on the family farm and continued the tradition of his parents: cultivating and quality winemaking. Vernaccia di San Gimignano, of course. In the mid eighties, it was also among the first people to open a farmhouse in San Gimignano, which is still in business today."
It is Simone's turn: in the mid-late eighties the real marketing of Tenute Niccolai wines began.
Simone: "While still a student, I used most of my free time to tour Italy and explore the facets of viticulture and winemaking outside San Giminano. That's how I have learned so much and became so passionate."
These are the years of the growth of the wine culture in Italy and the increase of sales of Italian products all over the world, of the importance of Italian wine fairs, globally, Vinitaly in the head.
Gianni meets Luano
Meanwhile, in San Gimignano, Gianni Panizzi staggers the still small world of Vernaccia with his personal revolution. He is no winemaker, but an entrepreneur with a clear plan in mind: make it clear that Vernaccia di San Gimignano is the best white wine in the world if treated in a certain way and drunk after a few years of bottle aging. He is a subborn visionary.
Simone: "The contact points between Gianni Panizzi and my father are so many: they were both entrepreneurs, both innovators, both wine lovers without being winemakers."
When Gianni Panizzi and Luano Niccolai met and established a solid friendship, Panizzi's fate became clear. Gianni had no children and, in 2004, he agreed with Luano upon his gradual exit. But the same fate was also cruel: Luano suddenly passed and Simone took over Panizzi and has accompanies its evolution since then. So here is the new Panizzi: a company that has faced a major generational change, stepping up after a period of inevitable adjustment, while maintaining its strong innovative character. Innovators face the hardest challenges but it pays off, just like pursuers of not only of quality but of true excellence. And the Panizzi is both..
Simone: "I saved the best of what I inherited. First of all its oenologist, one of the real assets of the company that has supported the Panizzi from the beginning of its revolution. And then I continue to invest regularly in latest generation equipment, vital for quality. What I changed are some key people in all company operating areas, from accounting to cellar management, and replaced them with others more in line with my entrepreneurial vision. Vineyards surface has increased, now summing up to 60 hectares, new vineyards in Larniano and Montecucco have been acquired; 200,000 are now produced every ear; our olive trees have gone from 500 to 7000 for our etra virgin olive oil; new wines have been created, the Pinot Noir and the brand new Passito di Toscana. The plans for the future are many and there is still much to do and to tell."
Have we intrigued you? Stay tuned for much, much more.