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Diego Planeta Made Wine Brand Ambassador of Sicily

Posted: Thursday, 20 December 2012 18:13

Diego Planeta Made Wine Brand Ambassador of Sicily

December 20: Diego Planeta, one of the most revered wine producers of Sicily who was the President of the biggest co-op winery for 40 years till he retired this year and is founder of the Planeta family-owned winery, was offcially made the wine brand Ambassador of Sicily on Monday with India being his fist stop to promote Sicily as a region for agro products like wine and olive oil, writes Subhash Arora with inputs from Michele Shah in Tuscany.

‘Who knows, this Don with multi-faceted roles may add one more, sooner than he might have thought,’ is how I closed my interview a couple of years ago with Don Diego Planeta, a visionary, philosopher , landowner and founder of Planeta Winery being run by his nephews Alessio and Santi and daughter Francesca Planeta. He had then been the President for 38 years, of the powerful and biggest Sicilian co-operative winery Settesoli which was in Menfi.

The premonition, prediction, forecast or the sheer gut feeling I had about this great visionary whom I have often called the Angelo Gaja of Sicily (with no disrespect to several other great wine producers of Piemonte, of course) came true a couple of days ago when on Monday, Don Diego Planeta was nominated as Sicily’s honorary wine Brand Ambassador. The recognition, perhaps a first of its kind by an Italian region was announced by Dario Cartabellotta, the regional Minister of Agriculture.

Incidentally, as the then head of Sicily’s Regional Institute of Vine and wines (IRVV) Mr Cartabellotta had led the first-ever delegation to India when Subhash Arora and Michele Shah had successfully conducted Master classes on ‘Sicily-its Soil, Terroir and Wines’ in Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Pune, making the organisation come to India in January 2013 again with a much wider scope and agenda.

Announcing the appointment, Mr Cartabellotta said, "In order to internationalize Sicily, it is extremely important that we communicate about our wines under 'Brand Sicily’, bringing in the added value of Sicily's territories. Diego Planeta, thanks to his long sighted vision and expertise in promoting the added value of Sicily's territories (terroir) and their wines, has the competence and authority to relate and describe these qualities to export markets. This is the first time that public institutions and private enterprise collaborate together to sustain and promote an entire territory and not just one single winery. Following Planeta's example, there will be other well-established personalities in the agricultural industry that will follow his example to promote Sicily's range of agricultural sectors."

delWine didn’t receive any response from the free-spirited Diego to our congratulatory message but his nephew Alessio says proudly, ‘I am very please both for Planeta and for Sicily regarding the recent news of the nomination of Diego Planeta as I judge him to be the right person to take on the role of Ambassador. He has lived through the recent yeras that have marked Sicilian wines: that of the courageous pioneers, the great ‘boom’ and now the global consolidation of brand Sicily in the world. Travelling relentlessly, he has been able to acquire a full vision from within the campaigns but also from an external and international view-point, travelling to most of the world’s capitals and speaking a good number of languages.’

His cousin Francesca Planeta, who is a Director at the Planeta winery and looks after marketing is quite emotional about the appointment. ‘To be his daughter is a great honor, especially with the recent nomination. Thanks to his work and to his far vision in believing with conviction that Sicily has great resources to produce quality wines. Today his thoughts are a part of reality and he certainly deserves the title of Ambassador for Sicilian wines.’

Planeta retired as the President of Settesoli only this year after being the President for 40 years. He is the founder of Planeta winery which, within 17 years of its existence, helped upgrade the image of Sicilian wines tremendously. Wine is an integral part of food for him like for any Sicilian.

‘My father used to give me drops of wine in water when I was a kid so that I may not abuse it when I grow up. However, in Sicily consumption is still lower than the rest of Italy due to the Arabic influence during 900-1200 AD.’ ‘You mean they did not drink wine, I had asked him. ‘Of course they used to drink wine regularly - their poets were always singing about wine. But in summers it is very hot here and we drink less. In the North, where it is cold they drink more because of the climate.’ ‘You cannot go wrong with wine as the source is fruits unlike for hard liquor,’ he says.

A passionate Indian lover

72-year old Diego Planeta has been passionately in love with India forever. ‘I don’t even know since when - I went for the first time with an English friend working with British Airways and we went to Rajasthan and I fell in love with India, its people and food. The people are so nice, friendly and warm. I find the Indian food perfect for me. All I tell them is to put less chilies and I love what they make. My only regret is that I find it hard to find a good drinkable wine with food most of the times. For example, I may need to pay only Rs.200 for the food, but I must shell out Rs.1000 for a bottle of wine. This is ridiculous and your government must do something about it-after all it is only a part of food,’ says this Indophile.

Being an experimentalist has been a big factor in the success and a part of his vision. He says, ‘To be successful you need good land, good varietals and enologist and a good winery; but you must also be able to think about the best resources available and know what is best for the consumer. You make wine for him and not for yourself. For us, it was a good idea to make wine from both the local and international varietals but it was also important for us to showcase ourselves to people. We made Chardonnay of a very high quality. Not only was it accepted by the foreign buyers, they became curious about our other wines as well.’

An International traveler

Don Diego Planeta has been an avid traveler all his life. ‘When you do that, you understand how you can be successful. I must admit, being a President of Settesoli helped me a lot.

He is quite an apolitical winemaker unlike many in India who like to hang on to the tails of the men in power, holding their briefcases or carrying a begging bowl in their own hands. I had interviewed him barely a few hours before the big dinner slated at night when he confided, ‘do you know how many politicians will come for the gala dinner tonight? Zero!! Why? Because we don’t depend upon them but make our own path!’

For the last 10 years most of Diego’s vacations have been in India. ‘People there are natural and do not treat you as such because of your money. But I am not involved in selling - Francesca does that. When I go to India, I never go for business.’

Interestingly, his first assignment is visiting India with a delegation of Top quality producers where two of his wines Segreta Rosso and Bianco would be available for tasting. But he will be coming not to promote Planeta but Sicily as a region that produces high quality wines as well.

There are several similarities between Sicily and India. Would he be able to give time if some such request came along? ‘Sure, it will be a pleasure. We have developed a lot of wine knowledge in the recent past with our experimentation. I can make myself available.’

If you would like to meet this visionary and Wine Ambassador from Sicily in Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore and Mumbai on January 21-24, 2013, check out the article:

Top Sicilian Producers to Bring Wines for Connoisseurs

 and write to us at arora@delwine.com

Subhash Arora

Tags: Diego Planeta; Sicilian Wine Ambassador; Sicilian Wine; Sicily’s Regional Institute of Vine and wines; Brand Sicily; Dario Cartabellotta; Planeta Winery; Segreta Rosso;  Settesoli;
       

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