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Star Personality- Luigi Rubino of Puglia

Posted: Monday, 09 July 2012 13:20

Star Personality: Luigi Rubino of Puglia

July 09 : Winery owner and President of the consortium Apulia Best Wine, Luigi Rubino belongs to the young generation of Pugliese producers who are not only committed to quality but also to claim recognition in Italy as a part of a quality wine producing region and not as secondary producers and want the world to know about the true identity of their wines, writes Subhash Arora who recently met him again at the second edition of Apulia Wine Identity

Click For Large ViewIn a country, in a region where every producer claims he is the best, especially with several harvests under the belt, it is not an easy task for a young man with much less experience to carry the quality producers with him, but Luigi Rubino has been doing just that for a few years. Two years ago, when I first met Luigi at his winery, his global vision was clear not only in terms of the type and range of wine but also by his apparent passion and commitment that is not difficult to spot in many young winemakers throughout Italy, who have changed the course of wine making and the reputation of Italian wines - a movement that was perhaps led by Angelo Gaja in Barbaresco, in the nineteen sixties or internationally perceived as such.

Last year was a first test for Rubino and his small band of producers-Cantine Due Palme, Conti Zecca, Candido and Consorzio Produttori Vini di Manduria, Agricole Vallone and Tenute Mater Domini when they organised the first edition of Apulia Wine Identity in the city of Trani. They got together 21 producers to take part in the first edition that was meant to showcase the best of Puglia wines to around 50 journalists from Italy and overseas, including India.  As Luigi admits, the response from the producers could be considered good, but this year the producers have been very excited about the event. They understand that in order to showcase the changed quality profile of their wineries and the wine, the world must know through top journalists - there have been 26 producers this year and about 60 journalists including 2 from India. I was privileged enough to be invited for both.

Luigi is as excited about the gastronomy of his region, thus bringing in a synergy with Apulia Opera Food, a programme that showcased 22 of Apulia’s best Chefs- many quite young, from 19 restaurants throughout the region. ‘We wanted to present our best meals and best chefs to give the best gastronomical experience along with our high quality wines,’ he says.

Different than the rest of Italy

‘We are different than the rest of Italy (meaning North Italy). Our terroir is different- we don’t have mountains but we have a lot of sun. We are close to the sea and our food and wine are Mediterranean in nature. We produce the best olive oil. We are among the top 3-4 wine producers in quantity (Veneto, Piemonte and Tuscany are the leaders). We want to be a part of and not secondary in the Italian system of gastronomy,’ he says passionately.

But Puglia, along with Sicily has been dubbed as a bulk wine region, I comment. ‘That was true over 20 years ago as the business demanded it then. Today more and more producers are producing quality bottled wine. For instance 52% of our total production is either doc or igp and the ratio is going up. The interesting thing is that all the cantine sociale (co-operatives) used to make bulk wines earlier-many even exported grapes to Tuscany. But today, they are producing quality wines and are bottling more and more rather than selling in bulk.’

He is undeterred about the process taking time. ‘The situation in Puglia is the same as in Veneto a couple of decades back. They were also making bulk wines. Amarone was not so popular 20 years ago as it is today. With the advent of internet and top journalists like you, we know we can reach the world faster and can establish our quality-price ratio superiority much faster and easier,’ he says with confidence.

Exports from Puglia

How is the export of its members increasing and which are the important markets for Puglia?  ‘There was an Increase of 9.6% in 2011 over the previous year. It was one of the few regions of Italy that registered an increase in exports despite recession’, says Rubino. Our main market is Germany followed by UK, Sweden and Benelux countries, with a total of 59% of the share. Europe at large-Switzerland, Norway and East Europe etc account for 30% exports, with Switzerland topping this segment. In USA, Canada and Brazil we increased our share in 5 years from 5% to 7.5%. In Asia- Japan and China - we have seen only a slight increase but they are our steady markets.’

Limited membership of Consorzio

Why have many known producers stayed away from becoming members and what are the criterion for becoming a member of the Consorzio? ‘The membership is open to any producer who is committed to quality and there are no rules of admission. It is voluntary and there are no membership charges,’ says Rubino, adding ‘some producers have not completely thought through our idea of joint promotion of Puglia region and feel they can do their marketing themselves. It is unfortunate but since the membership is totally voluntary, we cannot force our decisions on anybody.’

Hopes on India

Like any other region Rubino is quite gung-ho about the Indian market and the potential. ‘Unfortunately, your taxes are too high and though India is very much on our radar, we are going slow in promoting in your country,’ he says. Interestingly, wines from this region have a very god quality –price ratio, provided the producers do not insist on producing the best and charging higher prices than the average quality wines at low prices. Some of the white wines are very decently priced and Primitivo is mildly sweet and attractive for the palate, I tell him. ‘We will certainly look at this model though we don’t want to promote bulk wine sale or bottling,’ he says.

Luigi Rubino is very dynamic and a visionary who is ambitious enough to plan a steady growth for his winery Tenute Rubino using modern techniques though keeping traditions intact and will go far in bringing his wines and the region to the attention of wine market at large. He may be contacted at

Subhash Arora


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