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India's Openness to the World Impresses Frescobaldi

The man who represents the 29th generation of one of Italy's oldest wine-making families charms Delhi and gets impressed by the Indian ability to accept the best of each country, writes SOURISH BHATTACHARYYA

Ferdinando Frescobaldi

When Ferdinando Frescobaldi was vacationing a couple of weeks back in Barbados, he had a meal with Tony and Cherie Blair. Britain 's best-known couple, who are known for their fondness for the wines of Montalcino, where the Frescobaldis own the Luce Estate, kept talking about the West Indies . Frescobaldi figured out that they talking about the Caribbeans, but he couldn't resist saying that he'd be visiting the East Indies in the coming week.

I don't whether Frescobaldi sense the irony of the occasion, but here was a man bearing his family name dining with the British Prime Minister, 1,000 years after an ancestor of his, who was one of the world's earliest bankers, started lending money to English kings to wage wars. One of the kings refused to pay and when one of the banker Frescobaldis asked him to repay his head, the royal demanded his head. With great difficulty the man escaped the angry king and his country and settled into the more civilised profession of wine-making. The Blairs were unwittingly making up for the king's historical act of injustice.

Ferdinando Frescobaldi may not have dined with the Prime Minister in New Delhi , but the patrician "humble farmer" charmed the swish ladies who were served the heavenly drops from his family's Tuscan estates. They were quite in the dark about merlot, but they loved the Lamaione 2000, a 100% merlot from Castelgiocondo, the Frescobaldi estate in Montalcino. And they asked a lot of questions.

This intense thirst for wine knowledge confirmed Frescobaldi's gut feeling that he was right in setting apart an allocation for India . "Indians are travelling more and more, and international tourists are arriving in greater numbers, so you are getting exposed to the global lifestyle," observed Frescobaldi, who has been seeing India since 1971.

He drew a parallel between India and Italy - both countries have long histories, but both are open to change. "You are more open to accepting the best of each country," he said, and then he made a political statement, which made a lot of sense in these difficult times. "If we have an open world, we will understand each other so much better," said the Frescobaldi Vice-President.

The Luce Estate in Montalcino, which started as a joint venture between the Frescobaldis and the Mondavis, but is now owned 100% by the Italians following the Mondavi acquisition by the Constellation Brands

Frescobaldi knows India better than most Italians because his eldest brother, Dino, is a respected Italian commentator on international affairs who was associated with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Josip Broz Tito and Gamal Abdel Nasser, the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement. Dino's daughter, Tiziana, handles the media for the Frescobaldis; Ferdinando's elder brother, Vittorio, heads the firm; his younger brother, Leonardo, is also a vice-president. Vittorio's son Lamberto, a UC Davis grad, is the wine-maker at Luce Estate, the Frescobaldi-Mondavi joint venture in Montalcino that is now owned 100% by the Italian company following the Mondavi acquisition by the US-based Constellation Brands.

(The concluding part of the story will appear in tomorrow's delWine .)


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