RETURN TO THE LAND OF WINE, MANUEL MARCHETTI
FROM TEXAS TO TURIN
We left Manuel Marchetti and the incredible story of his life (READ PART 1 HERE) when he left Mexico for Austin and was forced to make a difficult decision: continue studying in Texas or return to Piedmont, as his family wished him to? It was a choice that Manuel made without hesitation. He was born in Guatemala, lived in Mexico until he was 18 years old, and experienced the efficiency and vitality of an American university climate. Though he grew up in the Americas, Italy represented his roots and the very concept of family.
CINZANO DID NOT EXPAND TO CALIFORNIA AND YOUR FATHER DECIDED TO RETURN TO PIEDMONT. WHY DID YOU FOLLOW HIM?
When the company accepted my father’s transfer, he began to work at the historical seat of Cinzano in Santa Vittoria d’Alba. We went to live in Trofarello and then Bra, closer to his workplace. Up to that point, to me Italy represented summer vacations, where we returned to visit relatives for a few months. But on a deeper level, Italy was my personal concept of “family.” In Mexico, there were only my parents. In Piedmont, my relatives were my roots. Even though I was born in Guatemala, I always felt that I came from somewhere else, from the land of my ancestors.
The Marchetti Family in Guatemala
HOW WAS YOUR ARRIVAL IN THE BEL PAESE?
Actually, it was dramatic. Even though I felt an emotional attachment to Italy, reality was much more difficult. I grew up in chaotic countries with complex socio-economic situations, but nothing could prepare me for Italian bureaucracy. I enrolled in the university in Computer Sciences, but I couldn’t follow lessons, what with moving classrooms, absent professors, and impractical learning spaces. I even risked becoming a “deserter” of my homeland.
HOW DO YOU MEAN?
I was of military age, and this was when military service was mandatory. I presented myself to the Carabinieri to ask for a deferment because I was a university student. When they saw I was Italian but born in another country, they didn’t know what to do, and I was passed around between the police headquarters and commissariat. By the time I finally arrived at the recruiting center, I’d lost a lot of time. There, in front of the general, it came to light that my deadline for the deferment had expired eight hours ago. He shouted at me, “You’re a deserter.”
HOW DID IT END?
People who were waiting in line listened to the whole conversation. They also noticed I had difficulty with the language, since I only knew Spanish. They banded together in my defense until the general was “forced” to accept the deferment. And in the end I was exempt completely from military service for problems with my vision.
DID YOU CONTINUE TO STUDY?
Yes, but I chose a new path. I enrolled in the school of Business Administration, an excellent major. I studied really hard to improve my Italian and finish my studies in time—my father had new projects with wine that he wanted to involve me in.
Old wall advertisement of Cinzano
WHAT TYPE OF PROJECTS?
In 1984, we founded a company for exporting wines to the New World. It was during the boom years of Italian wine, and my father had a thousand contacts in the sector. Our goal was to valorize Piedmontese wine in one territory—the Americas—where it was still relatively unknown. We began to move around between wineries and producers. After two years of getting contacts, we were ready for our first export. And then the methanol scandal happened and ruined our dreams.
AND NOT EVERY CLOUD HAS A SILVER LINING.
The scandal destroyed our sales, but it opened the door to an overhaul of the quality of Italian wine, in Piedmont especially. You could even say that the scandal was my fortune, and the export business venture was actually how I met my future wife. She comes from a family of producers in La Morra, Marcarini, who has produced some of the best Barolo in the zone for years. I fell in love with her practicality, because I was an incurable dreamer.
WAS THIS HOW YOU DECIDED TO MAKE WINE?
Not right away. Before getting married and dedicating ourselves to her family’s winemaking business, there were still two or three adventures: a job as the owner of a stationery store, the director of a big textiles industry in Alba, and finally a transfer to Spain. But we still didn’t know about any of that…