The wine was perfect, the champagne superb. This gathering was as much about family as it was about the wine. It had all the hallmarks of a big family event bursting at the seams. The extended table was set for members who have come from all over Europe for this little get together, the inside jokes, the teasing, the nudging, the respect for elders. And some of the best wines in the world. This is what wine dreams are made of.
The event – a luncheon with the PFV, Primum Familae Vini – the first families of wine of Europe.
The PFV was established in 1992. Its 11 members share a commitment to excellence. Each member is a family-run operations. The legendary Robert Mondavi was the 12th, until he sold to the Constellation group. Membership is by invitation only. Together they share the passion and the challenges, and when they get together, it feels like you have been invited to Sunday dinner.
I had the pleasure of sitting beside Priscilla Incisa della Rocchetta,. Her family produces Sassicaia, the queen of the Super Tuscans. She talked about the birth of the brand. Her grandfather Mario, a lover of Bordeaux wines, in the 40s defied tradition and experimented by planting Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in Tuscany’s Bolgheri region.
Those of you who have tried wines from Bolgheri DOC will know that you can rarely go wrong with anything from that region. If you haven’t, buy a bottle tonight!
“People thought my grandfather was mad,” said Priscilla. But the quality of the wine, which came as no surprise to her grandfather, led her father to believe there was an opportunity here.
With the help of his cousin, Piero Antinori – of the Italian wine dynasty, Nicolo Incisa della Rocchetta began to sell his wine commercially. Sadly, her grandfather died in 1983 before knowing the extent of the success of Sassicaia. Tenuta San Guido also produces Guidalberto ($52.95) and Le Difese ($31.95) – wines typically available at the LCBO.
Priscilla said without her grandfather’s vision, Sassicaia would not be the grand wine it is today. “It is a great legacy” she told the small group gathered to hear the stories of the great families of wine, and even better to taste their finest offerings. At Christmas, they send each other one bottle of their finest.
The group spend three days together once a year. Asked how long does it take to recover, Thomas Perrin of Famille Perrin laughed. Another inside joke.
Each time they meet, they debate inviting one more member. But getting 11 strong personalities to agree takes time. “It must be the right fit with the entire group,” said Priscilla.
“The walls and the wines have stories to tell,” said Laurent Drouhin, whose family founded the winery in 1890. He chose a to showcase a crisp and delicious Chablis – the afternoon just kept getting better.
And behind each story – a wine dynasty – like Vega Sicilia that began selling wine to the Spain’s royal family in 1876 or Miguel Torres – whose family winery was established in 1870 . I have been drinking (and recommending) his wines for years. Torres paid tribute to the group. “We are all of us a real family,” he said between signing autographs.
But the purpose of the PFV is more than public relations. At their annual meeting, which rotates among members – they share best practices, help each other develop new markets, create new memories. and then there’s the wine.
I started off with a glass (or two) of Pol Roger Champagne – I would have happily sipped this all day. But then I would have missed my journey into Red Wine Heaven.
All the wines served were simply spectacular. My two personal favourites: Solaia and Sassicaia. And while guests sampled from of the finest wines of Europe, the event was really was the vines that bind.
“It’s all about the family” said Allegra Antinori.
Family and tradition, a perfect pairing.