Mattia Tabacco: Senior Wine Buyer & Head of the Anti-Fraud Unit
What brought you to Pollenzo for the three-year degree course, and since when have you been passionate about wine?
I am lucky, I fell in love with the world of food and wine very early, so it was easy to understand that I should dedicate myself to it. It was all extremely spontaneous, but once I understood this, I searched for and chose what I believed to be the best: Gastronomic Sciences and Cultures in Pollenzo.
I was lucky enough to find a job immediately after graduation, so I didn’t continue studying at the university, but I continued to learn through other courses. I am convinced that in another life, I would do the Master in Wine Culture and Communication: the cast of professors, from Armando Castagno to Nicola Perullo, indicates an extremely high level. I know that it is a valuable Master, and together with Oenofuture Ltd, the company I currently work for, we have sought two new figures from Pollenzo to be included in our team.
The beauty of Pollenzo is the solidity of the network. Leaving Pollenzo was not easy; the Langhe is a small paradise in Italy, making the step towards social growth was a tricky one, which is why I am very proud to continue to collaborate with enthusiasts trained there. The Langaroli open their hearts to you but not from the first moment; as, in all places with a strong identity, one must enter on tiptoes.
From Milan to Miami to London: what are the most stimulating stages of your career, and how has your vision of wine changed thanks to them?
In recent years, I have seen different realities in which wine was perceived in a very different way. In the United States, the level of wine culture is not very high, and the approach is polarized and manipulated by the tasters of the sector. Polarizing the taste of wine leads us to the loss of critical thinking. There I learned the cheaper side of work, which, we know, is also important in the philosophy of ‘good, clean and fair’. I learned what it’s like to work under pressure for a wine import and distribution company.
It was an important experience, but when it comes to wine, the most important experience is the one I’m having now in London. London is the Premier League of wine, the level of culture that exists here is very high. The consumption of wine is done properly, and the wine is allowed time to mature. The attention is even greater than in the Langhe, where wine is drunk very young, which I consider a big limitation.
During my career, I had the opportunity to taste many wines; I came to try about 120 a day for two years. Thanks to this, I discovered the details and started talking to the wine. Talking with wine is essential for those who love it. It is frustrating for many tasters not to understand the words that wine wants to communicate to us. With patience, concentration, attention and study, I have developed critical thinking and taste. London is the capital of wine; they were the first to import, speculate and consume them. I highly recommend those who want to work in the world of wine to gain experience in London.
What does the “authenticity” of a bottle mean?
There is only one private company – the one that unmasked the Rudy Kurniawan case (the most famous wine forger of the modern era) – where 13 certifiers work. With my team, I realized that a monopoly had been created and that it was still possible to make errors in the authentication. Often, wine artisans bottle using a second production of labels or a second batch of corks, which creates inconsistency in the details of the bottles and it is these details that are essential for authentication.
After taking a course with this company, I analyzed, together my team and collegaes at Oeno, the details and key points, and we combined the learned vestments with others that we defined. As a result, we found 92 key points on a bottle that must match our data to be judged authentic. Also, collaborating with many other merchants, we have analyzed many techniques, from the use of ultra-high definition microscopes to UV lights to pads for checking ink or glues used for bottling. This is the real problem: the bottle is not fake, but it had already been uncorked and is now being used for another bottling. I am proud to say that we have never sold a fake bottle until today, and it is a great satisfaction!
I specialize in looking for the latest gems around; for me, they are pieces of art, pieces of history, and I want to give them the respect they deserve. These parameters concern the secondary market, which is only 10%. For the primary, I have inserted an eight-level security hologram that provides prevention to possible counterfeiting in the future. My dream is to see merchants from all over the world united and see any bottle moved in the market with its passport, as it happens in the world of art. This is the only way to have a controlled wine market.
What do you think of the natural wine that has now become popular all over the world?
Natural wine does not exist just as conventional wine does not exist. I did my thesis on this almost ten years ago, or maybe 8; I don’t know, time flies! With “conventional wine models and natural wine models”, I really enjoyed discussing the non-essence of wine. It must not be divided into such clear-cut categories. All the drinks we want to call wine must express the territory, a great territory suited to viticulture; if it has a lot of “makeup”, it will take longer to bring out the territory. If it has less, it will express it from the beginning; in any case, if the territory is there, it will come out, which is why speaking of “natural” in my opinion is not avant-garde and not a good approach to the world of wine. We must speak of quality and wines that express the land. Pollenzo made me think a lot about this topic.
I like to challenge myself, and I think it is important to continue developing the thinking, ideas, philosophy and approach. Always get involved; sometimes, every professional has to make a clean sweep and start over. I am lucky, and I cannot find peace of mind; I try to put the pieces of the puzzle in place by studying and talking with the producers, and my thoughts are constantly growing. I am still close to the thought that I consolidated in Pollenzo, but it has evolved. There are wine producers who wanted to get out of the box and were revolutionary; they deserve to be remembered and supported; they were pioneers. Many natural wine producers try to copy these revolutionaries and hide the flaws of their wine by justifying that it is natural; this is misleading and confuses consumers!