Award-winning vintner Mattia Vezzola reveals the secret that brings them together
Ten years have passed since Bellavista Franciacorta winemakers teamed up with Teatro alla Scala in Milan to toast the reopening of one of the most prestigious opera houses in the world. Since then a relationship has grown and aged. A three-year love affair crowned the last three season premieres with ‘Vittorio Moretti 2004 Teatro alla Scala’ limited edition sparkling wines, and after a decade is primed to create a new vintage dedicated solely to its Milanese partner.
A concept takes root
It’s early spring in northern Italy’s Franciacorta winemaking region. Snow-capped Mount Guglielmo rises up from Lake Iseo, over Bellavista vineyards that reach across the valley to the shore. The lush view from my room at the Vittorio Moretti family-owned luxury L’Albereta Relais & Chateaux, a luxury hideaway chaired by Carmen Moretti, also the chief executive officer of L’Andana Luxury Resort in Tuscany, has me wondering if I really want to venture out. The 19th-century house plucked up by Moretti, president of the Terra Moretti Group, in 1993 was transformed into a resort on the 190 hectares that make up the Bellavista vineyards. I could golf at one of Franciacorta’s many manicured courses, or undertake any number of outdoor pleasures offered in this protected microclimate —a kind of Italian Eden— but I’ve got wine on my mind, and the cellars are just up the street.
The hilltop mini-kingdom that includes the hotel, winery, and private home of the Moretti family was founded back in 1977 when Vittorio Moretti decided to expand his thriving enterprise into the valley’s first winemaking business, today managed by his daughter, Francesca Moretti —winemaker and chief executive officer of the family’s four wineries in Franciacorta and Tuscany. At the heart of Terra Moretti Group is the Moretti Industria delle Costruzioni construction company and subsidiaries, which specialize in prefabricated buildings.
In Franciacorta, about six million bottles line the Bellavista cellar with a wine that’s home-grown and hand-tended throughout the entire process, curated by three-times Gambero Rosso Winemaker of the Year, Mattia Vezzola, who’s been with the winery since 1981.
When Teatro alla Scala reopened its doors on December 7th, 2004 with Antonio Salieri’s ‘Europa riconosciuta’ under the baton of Riccardo Muti, two years after launching a €61 million restoration project, Bellavista —whose harvest had been exceptional that year— brought the 1995 vintage to help celebrate. The 237-year-old theatre is one of the leading opera and ballet houses in the world, and a symbol of Italian excellence. “Our family has always been close to music,” says Francesca Moretti. “Just like wine, music is an international language that fosters discussion and builds friendship.”
After the opening, the winery continued to be the appointed wine for La Scala premiere on December 7th each year, a well-heeled music and social event where Italy’s jet set sees and is seen. But the relationship is more than just prestige, with Vezzola the expert conjuring his own opuscule among the vineyards. The winemaker returned to the 2004 vintage in 2012 and paired three operas with three disgorgements —Wagner’s Lohengrin for 2012, Verdi’s La Traviata for 2013, and Beethoven’s Fidelio for 2014— each from the Vittorio Moretti Reserve and weighing in at about €175 a piece. The three-bottle project raised funds for La Scala Theatre Academy —one of the world’s foremost performing arts academies in music, dance, backstage, and management with over 1,000 students— setting opera and wine on a common path in support of cultural sustainability.
Wine to drink music: an aperitivo with Mattia Vezzola
With a glass of sparkling Alma Cuvée Brut in the loft-like tasting room overlooking Bellavista’s main foyer, Vezzola reminisces about the close of the three-year project and turns his gaze toward the future, poised to create a brand new cuvee.
Allison Zurfluh: Will you make a special blend just for La Scala?
Mattia Vezzola: We didn’t want to make a wine without having understood the spirit of La Scala. We wanted something genuine. You have to wait for the wine, listen to it. It takes time. It’s taken us 10 years to feel ready to make a sparkling wine specifically for this theatre, to really understand who La Scala is, what drives it, where it comes from. Now, after a decade, we begin to have an idea that is not based on a marketing relationship, but on a genuine one.
Zurfluh: The Vittorio Moretti Limited Edition Fidelio 2004 is dressed and packaged in the famous words taken from a letter written by Beethoven: ‘I write that the things of the heart may come out’. Do you make wine for the same reason?
Vezzola: It is exactly the same thing, a method of expression through which harmony and finesse are made evident in a single wine. I grew up among vineyards, and to me wine is poetry. Poetry is in the heart of every man.
Zurfluh: After 10 years, what would you put into a wine created specifically for La Scala?
Vezzola: It’s still early to say, but to me La Scala is magic. It is also tragedy. Someone always dies in the opera. When La Scala asked me to create another wine for them, I asked which one. For a tragedy, we said. For La Traviata, no? The opera that embodies this great theatre. So I pulled a colleague aside saying we could make one wine that represents that tragedy.
I’d start with 50 percent Brut —which is the stage, or terroir. I would add 10 percent Satén for woman, elegance; the class of an extraordinary spouse. I might incorporate 10 percent Pas Operé for the male protagonist, and 30 percent Vittorio Moretti Reserve for direction, wisdom.
Zurfluh: It appears as though you’ve thought things through.
Vezzola: Yes, but wait. The rub of an operatic tragedy is what? It’s woman! So actually, I said, let’s use 60 percent Satén for woman, 10 percent Pas Operé for man, 30 percent Brut for the stage. My colleague asked me: but where is the Vittorio Moretti Reserve for wisdom? I told him: we can put just a dash for good measure. After all, there is no wisdom in a tragedy!
New harvest, new horizons
Franciacorta remains one of Italy’s most refined wine producing districts, using Champagne methods for a Franciacorta product that is unlike any other sparkling wine. Relying on a second, natural fermentation, the wine —most traditionally a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc and Noir grapes— can last up to five years and is an elegant medley of precision and artistic inspiration.
Bellavista wines are created in a rare atmosphere where attention to quality and workmanship are not only required, they’re cherished. About 120 separate harvest selections, depending on the exposure of each vineyard, launch a production that engages some 1,600 228-litre barrels for fermenting musts. Nearly 60 of those selections create the Bellavista Alma Cuvée Brut, made with at least 15 percent of wines fermented and matured in small white oak casks, and shelved for four years before leaving the winery.
Bellavista’s relationship with Teatro alla Scala supports a cultural heritage that injects life into a national identity. “Just as a single instrument is identified among an orchestra— you can hear it sing,” says Vezzola, “so good wines stand out on their own.”
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Article by Allison Zurfluh