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Gianni Zonin Wine Enthusiast Man of the Year

Posted: Saturday 21 September 2013 14:36

Gianni Zonin Wine Enthusiast Man of the Year

Sep 21: One of the most influential personalities in the Italian wine world, Gianni Zonin, the patriarch owner of possibly the biggest family owned wine producing company of Europe-Zonin, with over 40 million bottles out of its wineries in 2012, has been declared as ‘Man of the Year 2013’ by the Wine Enthusiast magazine, writes Subhash Arora

Announcing the annual Award, Adam Strum, Editor and Publisher of Wine Enthusiast said, "Gianni Zonin has succeeded in an unparalleled number of achievements over the course of his lifetime. From building Zonin into the largest wine business in Italy, to being the first to look beyond not only his own Italian region, but across the ocean for opportunities in China and America, he embodies what it truly means to be a wine industry pioneer. Gianni Zonin's courage and innovation have helped to make wine into the global industry it has become today."

"I'm very proud and honored to learn that I'm going to receive this prestigious award and to join the ranks of the celebrated names from around the world who have won before me," says Gianni Zonin, according to a Release by the Wine Enthusiast. He adds, "It’s not just an honor for me, for my family and for those who work with us, but also for Italy. It's a confirmation of how well Italians are working in both viticulture and winemaking."

Encounter with Gianni Zonin

I met Gianni Zonin for the first time in 2006 during Vinitaly and several times since. I had been invited as an international journalist judge at the Vinitaly wine competition held a week before the Show, when I met Franco Giacosa, who was the then Director of Wines for the Zonin group (since retired) and now a fellow judge at Mundusvini. When he told me he worked with Zonin, I gave a spontaneous chuckle and said, ‘oh, the company that makes industrial wines!’ Instead of getting offended he smiled and insisted I must meet his boss. Despite my feeble protestations, he persisted and fixed up a meeting on the following Sunday at noon at the Show. I was very touched that Cavaliere Gianni Zonin, the patriarch of then €80 million Company and the President of the Co-operative Bank of Vicenza, came to the Show at the appointed hour, primarily to chat only with me.  

 Zonin wines were being imported then by Brindco and were not known for quality but low prices and were considered value-for-money quaffable wines. When I told the patriarch that his may be a popular brand internationally but it was linked with the low end of the quality spectrum, he did not flinch. "When I entered the family business 49 years ago, customers wanted cheap wines," he reasoned. "We followed the market. We started by selling to the supermarkets and people think it is a low-quality product. Others were selling to the restaurants where the image is essentially different. But in the last 10-15 years there has been a change in the taste of our customers and our quality has accordingly been improving significantly. It will take some time to change our image."

First one in Italy to have spread his wings out of his own region by buying Friuli's Tenuta Ca' Bolani, he went out and bought several wineries in other regions in the coming years, including one in Virginia in the USA in 1976 when everyone laughed at what they thought was his folly - there were no vines grown at that time in Barboursville; today there are 250 wineries!

Zonin in India
Zonin wines are being imported into India and distributed actively by Aspri whose Directors Arun Kumar and Jackie Mathai were with me at the dinner organised by Gianni a day before Vinitaly was inaugurated this year. Gianni had visited India in 2006 to inaugurate the Delhi branch of the co-operative bank, Banca Populare di Vicenza which he heads as the President since 1996.

Arun Kumar is very happy that one of his key principals has been recognised by a powerful US media group which claims to be the biggest if one combines the online sales of wine products and accessories too. ‘Mr. Zonin is not only supportive of our company he is also very patient with us and comprehends the Indian difficult situation very well. Since we started doing business with them in 2008, we have achieved a double digit growth every year and Zonin range is an imported part of our portfolio.’ He adds, ‘Aspri has also been able to break the monopoly of Brindco at the Duty Free Shops in Delhi where we have positioned 6 labels and in Bangalore where have 7 of the Zonin labels,’ citing unstinted support as a big factor.

Gianni Zonin has been evaluating investment in India as he feels there is going to be a huge demand in future. ‘But unfortunately, the current development is not in the best region, Maharashtra which I feel is a bit too humid for the grapes and the maximum temperature gets too high.’ He is quite clear in his mind, ‘North of Delhi in the foothills of Himalayas.’ When I told him during the exclusive interview in 2010 at his head quarters in Gambelara in Veneto region, not far from Verona, there were people scouting around in Uttaranchal and Himachal Pradesh, his eyes lit up as he said, ‘that is the area I am talking about.’ He further added that he would feel more at ease with an area where the maximum temperature did not go beyond 35° C and colder than -7° C with an annual rainfall between 800 and 1300 mm.

Gianni Zonin is a wine patriot with an abiding passion for quality, but he doesn't wear either attribute on his sleeve. He labours on, as if he were still a newcomer in the industry. He deserves well the Award for his pioneering spirit, astute marketing acumen and bringing honour to Italy’s name.

delWine and I congratulate fellow Cavaliere, Gianni Zonin for this special Award, to be given in New York at a Wine Star Awards dinner being held on 27 January, 2014
For an earlier article regarding my first meeting in 2006 with Gianni, visit: Zonin Patriarch Upbeat About India's 'Interesting Market'

For an extensive interview with him in 2010, please visit:

Star Interview: Visionary Cavaliere Gianni Zonin

Cavaliere Subhash Arora

Tags: Italian wine, Gianni Zonin, Zonin, Wine Enthusiast, Adam Strum, Italy, Franco Giacosa


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