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Carlo 
De
Biasi

Turning Wine into Poetry

 Now, if you're a regular reader of Winefullness Magazine you will have detected my obvious enthusiasm for the wines of Cantina Toblino. I find it so rare to be sent a collection of wines where every single one reaches out and grabs your attention.

 With this in mind I just had to speak with Carlo De Biasi; the man who has steered this passionate group of winemakers into a position where their wines are sought out as not just prime examples of the 'Valle die Laghi, in the beautiful Trentino region, but as representatives of just what beautiful wines Italy is now producing at all price points.

Winefullness Magazine: Could you tell Winefullness Magazine a little about yourself and what brought you to Cantina Toblino?

Carlo De Biasi: After graduating in Agricultural Sciences in 1995, my professional path began in one of the most important co-operative wineries in Veneto as an agronomist. Some years later, precisely at the beginning of 2000, I joined Casa Vinicola Zonin taking the role of Agriculture Director of the Zonin Family Estates, 10 wineries located in 7 Italian regions and in the United States. During the 17 years at Zonin I had the opportunity to strengthen my agronomic, oenological and business management skills. At the same time, I had the chance to visit many international wine regions and to collaborate with national and international research institutes, actively working with world-class experts in the sector like Prof. Denis Dubourdieu and Prof. Attilio Scienza.

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 My professional growth helped me being appointed as a member of the Italian Academy of Vine and Wine, successively Vice President of the International Association Lien de la Vigne in Paris, and from November 2021 delegate to OIV International Organization of Vine and Wine. In 2013, I was rewarded with the Green Personality of the Year Award by The Drinks Business thanks to my commitment in the development and adoption of sustainable wine models over the years. 

 At the end of 2016 I accepted the role of General Manager of Cantina Toblino, a leading wine-growing reality in Trentino, my homeland. Soon I felt a strong bond with Cantina Toblino, sharing values like passion, respect, quality, tradition, patience and, above all, the importance of people. Since 1960 Cantina Toblino brings all these elements into its wines. More than sixty years ago, in the beautiful wine region of Valle dei Laghi in Trentino, a small group of local wine growers joined together in a co-op, at the time devoted to the production of Schiava and Nosiola based wines. Soon after, the wine growers noticed the ageing potential of Nosiola grape variety especially for the production of a traditional sweet wine called Vino Santo Trentino (awarded "Tre Bicchieri" and "The Best Sweet Wine of the Year" awards from Guida dei Vini 2020 - Gambero Rosso) and age-worthy whites. 

 I can quite safely say that over 25 years of experience in the international wine sector have allowed me to acquire significant experience in various areas of quality wine production, leading me and Cantina Toblino to new challenges and projects.

Winefullness: What was your first wine memory?

Carlo: My first memory of wine dates back my childhood. One day, I saw my uncles Andrea and Vittore making wine with grapes from the Schiava vineyard planted by my grandfather the year my mother was born. Today that vineyard still exists and produces the grapes that we vinify every year at Cantina Toblino. A wonderful story that makes us understand how wine is the red thread that connects our life.  My family started from that vineyard, I had the opportunity to travel and discover the vineyards all over the world, but in the end I returned to the same vineyard of my childhood.

Winefullness: Is it difficult to make sure that all the producers follow the same path when it comes to organic viticulture? I imagine that it leads to one or two heated discussions?

Carlo: The path that led us to develop organic viticulture is a long journey over time. The first winegrowers started to produce organically before 2010, our Azienda Agricola Toblino srl received the first organic certification of the grapes in 2012. At the beginning, there were just a few winegrowers committed to adopting organic practices but thanks to our efforts on spreading knowledge, experience and skills, in addition to a strong spirit of emulation, more and more winegrowers have started the process to get the organic certification on their grapes. Cantina Toblino winegrowers are cultivating grapes and vines in a very favorable territory for organic viticulture thanks to the L'Ora del Garda, a wind that regularly blows from south to north every day providing an excellent defense for the vine. But again, people are the key to success. It won’t be possible without the commitment of my colleagues Giuliano Cattoni and Nicola Caveden, in charge of the agronomic business area at Cantina Toblino who every day help and support our vinegrowers.

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Winefullness: What is a typical day like for Carlo De Biasi?

Carlo: There is no typical day, work days are very different from each other. Some days are dedicated to office activities, business organization and meetings with collaborators, others are destined to carry out inspections in the vineyard with the agronomists to see how the season is progressing and what’s the vineyards status at the moment. This is an excellent opportunity to meet our winemakers. At the same time, there is no shortage of inspections in the cellar with our oenologist Claudio Perpruner and sometimes with consultant Luca D'Attoma to taste the wines together, follow them during the maturation and blending of the wines. Other days are dedicated to relations with the Italian and foreign commercial network, to meeting with customers, restaurateurs, winemakers and journalists presenting our wines, terroir and culture to let them feel the passion that every day we put into our work. 

 Other days are dedicated to updating skills and knowledge. In this case, it helps a lot being part of the Lien de la Vigne Association, built on the principle of pooling innovative efforts in various fields of the wine sector, being a place of exchange, an independent lab for technological and economic research. It was in 1992 that a few wine professionals and researchers from different nationalities formed the Lien de la Vigne, bringing together scientists and professionals from all over the world convinced of the importance of developing innovation within the profession. Moreover, actively participating in the activities of the OIV International Organisation of Vine and Wine requires time and attention to bring your contribution and expertise in the elaboration of the resolutions that regulate wine production worldwide.

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Winefullness: You produce a great variety of wines. Was this decision made to make Cantina Toblino different from other co-operatives?

Carlo: Cantina Toblino produces and bottles the wines that represent the identity of the Valle dei Laghi. Mountain vineyards, often cultivated in small terraces, a manual hard work all over the year. To value this strong commitment, Cantina Toblino has the duty of producing high quality wines developing an organic and sustainable viticulture in Valle dei Laghi and maintaining the fertility of the soils preserving biodiversity. All these distinguish us from others in the market, in addition to the choice of selling our wines only in the national and international on-trade. 

Winefullness: Since the Covid pandemic how has your strategy changed?

Carlo: We think that the health emergency has changed the way we communicate, present wines, approach the markets, connect to each other. But at the same time, it has strengthened our belief that the future for Cantina Toblino is to work hard to improve quality of the grapes and wines year by year, always keeping in mind our values, culture and identity. It’s the only way to reach the top and overcome this uncertain period.

Winefullness: For those who are new to the wines of Cantina Toblino, which would you say typifies your brand, and which are the wines people should seek out as unusual?

Carlo: I would say that the wine that represents Cantina Toblino and the Valle dei Laghi more than any other is the Vino Santo Trentino. It has the charm of exclusivity, a rare, unique, memorable nectar. So incomparable that it is "A Wine to stop the World for".

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Winefullness: Italy, like France, seems to be a wine nation that is embedded in regulations. Is this a blessing or a curse?

Carlo: Like all things, the wine legislation on the one hand is a guarantee of the authenticity of the wines, on the other it often slows down and complicates the activity. For years, wine producers have been asking for clear, but simple, rules in order to reduce the bureaucracy that slows down the wine sector.

Winefullness: What do you do to relax?

Carlo: I dedicate my free time to my family, my wife Federica and my daughters Carlotta and Benedetta. I spend time in the mountains with them, skiing in the winter and walking or cycling in the summer. We do not miss a few trips together, sometimes to

renowned international wine-growing areas. The last trip we made together in November was in Burgundy with a focus on Chablis. The first one was in Medoc and Saint Emilion.

Winefullness: Apart from your own wines, which are your favourite?

Carlo: I don't have a favourite wine to be honest. I love tasting wines that tell me about territories, climates, vines and the history of people. I am lucky enough to taste wines from all over the world. In the past I have visited wineries and producers from all continents and I have been fascinated by their identity. If I really have to choose, the answer will seem trivial, but my favorite wine-growing region is Burgundy.

Winefullness: There’s a lot of emphasis on the exciting Nosiola grape. When did this start to become a feature of Cantina Toblino?

Carlo: Since its foundation, Cantina Toblino winegrowers have been committed to expressing the charm of Valle dei Laghi in our wines.  They promote with passion Nosiola and Vino Santo, icons of Trentino winemaking. Throughout the Valle dei Laghi, but especially in the Toblino area, the native Trentino white grape Nosiola is cultivated with excellent results as the elegant L’Ora, a Nosiola Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT demonstrates, celebrating the famous local wind in its name. 

 From the Nosiola grapes left to dry for five months and pressed, traditionally, during the Holy Week, Cantina Toblino produces one of the best passitos of Italy: Vino Santo Trentino, a proper jem in the crown of Cantina Toblino wines. We live in an era where everything flows quickly. The splendor of...fast. Of 'everything and immediately', with the widespread diffusion (contagion) of "web and social networks" that allows us to seamlessly access news, facts, events, without even giving us time to think, reflect.

 We are constantly immersed in a vortex that regulates the progress of our time. This also has repercussions in the world of wine, where market demands lead us to harvest, vinify and bottle quickly so that the new vintage can always be sold earlier.

 Then there is the vineyard that marks the times and rhythms of nature and brings us back to the true and authentic meaning of what it means to do our job. But fortunately there is a wine, now a rare pearl, which forcefully brings us back to a forgotten dimension. It is the Vino Santo Trentino, which we like to define as 'the wine of waiting'. It is the wine we have to wait for: both when the Nosiola grape, a pure Trentino identity, is in the vineyard and must become ripe, golden, and when - placed on racks - it will have to patiently wait for Holy Week to be pressed. For further waiting. Expert fermentations, marked by the evolution of the moons, evolution and aging that lasts over the years.

 To conclude its magical process only 10-15 years, bottled after the 'Easter' pressing of the grapes. A wine that we take care of with care and that we will proudly leave to future generations. By relaunching the fascinating secret of Vino Santo: patience.

Winefullness: Your Hosteria has quite an expressive menu. Are the dishes constructed to support your wines, or is it the other way around?

Carlo: Our Hosteria plays a fundamental role in the completion of our wines. We are in a wonderful valley between Lake Garda and the Brenta Dolomites. A tourist area where people come from all over Europe to do sports, relax, discover nature, art, food and wine culture.

 In this context, our hospitality is focused on the cuisine that enhances the purity of our wines. It is a complex job, made of continuous confrontation between the Chef Sebastian Sartorelli, the manager sommelier Franco Zanella and the oenologist Claudio Perpruner.Winefullness: The idea of a co-operative usually seems small and contained, but Cantina Toblino appears to be quite a large business. Do your rivals underestimate you before they meet 

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you and taste your wonderful wines?

Carlo: In reality, in the Italian production context, characterized by mergers between cooperatives, Cantina Toblino is a small wine 

co-operative and it could not be otherwise given the mountain context in which we operate. We are considered a high quality cooperative inserted in a territorial context with a high viticultural vocation.

Winefullness: Where is the best view in Cantina Toblino, and what would I see?

Carlo: The winery is located in a panoramic setting surrounded by the beautiful landscape of Valle dei Laghi and Dolomites. Close to the winery you can see Lake Toblino with its lake castle, one of the wonders of Trentino. On the sides the mountains with the Monte Bondone chain on one side, on the other the Brenta Dolomites and to the north the Piccolo Dain, a vertical rock face that drops sheer to Toblino. To the south you can find a beautiful valley with the Sarca river, Lake Cavedine, the Marocche in Dro, Arco and Riva del Garda.

Winefullness: Europe has been suffering a series of poor harvests. Has this been the case for you, and does it add to the potential problems of farming at the higher altitudes of the Trento DOC?

Carlo: The 2021 harvest was a poor harvest throughout Europe due to a series of climatic factors which, from spring to summer, led to a sharp drop in wine production. In our case, the harvest was substandard but the shift in altitude of our vineyards linked to the effects of climate change can mitigate these effects. First of all, postponing the germination due to the altitude reduces the risks of spring frosts which in recent years have caused a lot of damage to viticulture. A shift in altitude that will allow the Chardonnay grapes destined for the production of Trento DOC sparkling wines to mature in the periods following the summer heat, effectively preserving freshness and fragrance, an opportunity to continue to improve the quality of our Trento DOCs.

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Winefullness: Outside of Italy, where would you say is the biggest market for your wines?

Carlo: For us the most important market is the Italian one, we are starting to work on some focus markets abroad but what we consider the most important is the UK.

Winefullness: How would you describe the wines of the Valle dei Laghi compared to other areas of Italy?

Carlo: In a very simple way, the wines of the Valle dei Laghi are vertical wines like the mountain walls around us. They are age-worthy as shown by Largiller Nosiola, symbol of Cantina Toblino, which is now on sale with the 2013 vintage: a combination of honeycomb, raisin, hay and apple character makes this a very distinctive dry white that’s remarkably fresh for its age. Quite powerful and slightly oily in texture. Always fresh, thanks to mature soft tannins from grapes and oak ageing, crisp acidity and a graceful long finish.

Winefullness Magazine: Is there a question you wished I’d have asked you, and how would you have answered it?

Carlo De Biasi: The identity of Valle dei Laghi. It all begins with the wind, the identity of a territory such as the Valle dei Laghi. Holm oaks, olive trees, especially vines. Few other Alpine areas can boast such a singular cult of the vine. Vines and wines of a place, between beneficial waters and breezes. A valley where the rows almost merge into the blue of the water mirrors and the clear blue alpine sky. Vines for centuries cultivated on fields torn from the mountain.

 This is why the wines in this valley still stand out as they tell the story of the territory where they are born. They contain knowledge. Not just flavors. But how to understand this valley? Just let yourself be guided by the landscape. Following the wind...”Vènt”, breezes, gusts that transmit voices, sounds, condition microclimates, and therefore crops and cultures.

Winefullness: Where next for Cantina Toblino?

Carlo: Our vision is to be a winery that, through the improvement of the quality of the work in the vineyard and consequently of its wines, through a commercial policy of enhancement, through the increase of brand awareness and brand reputation, is able to guarantee its winegrowers a sustainable income that allows them to sustainably cultivate the vineyards in the mountains, for the benefit not only of their families but of the whole community.

 If this conversation doesn't convince you to try the wines of Cantina Toblino, then you are denying yourself a real treat.

 These wines are not just honest drinkers, they are the sort of wines that stay in the memory, the kind that you put on your list of fine drinkers that evoke people, like me, to rhapsodise. It would be easy to try to put you off so that I can have my pick, but then I would be hiding something very special, and as wine is such a social medium this would be a major insult.

 Now, I've gabbed too much. You get a bottle, I'll get a bottle and we'll drink to the wines of Cantina Toblino and the interesting words of Carlo De Biasi

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One to Try

Vino Santo 2004

This is, approximately, what I wrote in the last edition. 

So far, so very interesting. I only hope the beauty will last!

It's a dessert/pudding/aperitif wine (you choose) and this 2004 is offering revisits to the Nosiola grape that I enjoyed earlier.

I'm looking at the colour and it almost could be sherry with it's honey, marmalade and toffee colour. It's certainly caught my attention so far.

Give your nose a workout and you're getting fig, honey, vanilla, nut and peel with smokey wood on the back burner. Before I go in for the kill I'm very excited!

It's candied fruit, raisins, honey, a contained sweetness that never overwhelms my tastebuds, and there is bags of interest. I'm going in for some more and finding heated toffee, dried apricot and caramel.

This has more going on than a shop full of gossips who are witnessing something worth gossiping over!

7 out of 7

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