Blonde, blue-eyed Andrea Sartori, president of Sartori di Verona, enjoys Cuban cigars, has a mean golf swing, and even speaks with a slight Midwest twang. All three characteristics were honed over two decades of traveling throughout the US – but belie his heritage as a scion of one of Italy’s most influential winemaking families.
Andrea is the great-grandson of Pietro Sartori, who founded the Sartori di Verona winery in 1898. Today one of the Veneto’s “Big Five” wine producers, Sartori di Verona has expanded significantly under Andrea’s leadership. It is a testament to Andrea’s success and to the reputation he enjoys throughout the Italian wine industry that he was called upon to serve an unprecedented two terms as president of Italy’s principal wine producers’ trade group, the Unione Italiana Vini (Italian Confederation of Vine & Wine), from 2004 through May 2010. The UIV represents some 60% of the Italian wine industry by turnover.
In his dual capacity as owner of a major Italian winery and former head of the UIV, Andrea has benefited from an eagle-eyed view of the wine business in Italy and the world. “There is little demand for good quality wines. Today they have to be very good indeed!” Sartori drily observes.
Andrea’s global perspective started early. After three years studying business at Verona’s University of Economia e Commercio and attending the Cuoa business school in Vicenza, Sartori perfected his English while attending classes at New York’s Columbia University. Back home Andrea started selling Sartori wines in the Italian market, but the world beckoned. Before long he hit the road, helping to expand markets in the US, Canada and Europe. In 1998 he was appointed Managing Director of Sartori di Verona and was named President of the company in 2000.
Soon after assuming the reins at Sartori di Verona, Andrea embarked on an ambitious range of initiatives designed to help Sartori stay ahead of the global competition. Early in the new millennium, Sartori di Verona joined forces with Cantina Colognola to assure a reliable supply of high-quality grapes. The high-profile enologist, Franco Bernabei, was recruited to consult. Sartori and Bernabei collaborated on the launch of a new premium collection of wines from a Sartori-owned estate in the Mezzane Valley, followed by the acquisition of the pioneering Mont’Albano winery in Friuli to act as anchor for its collection of organic wines. Sartori subsequently went on to diversify yet further afield, through joint ventures with Cerulli Spinozzi d’Abruzzo and Feudo Sartanna in Sicily.
Underlying much of this activity is extensive research conducted in partnership with the University of Verona Department of Agriculture. “Nothing is left to chance” says Sartori. Since 2002 more than 2 million Euros have been spent on a complete analysis of all Sartori vineyard holdings. Andrea feels strongly that research is vital in order for both Sartori and the Veneto to enjoy a competitive edge in the global marketplace. Therefore the Sartori family has also been instrumental in securing funds for the region as a whole. But this significant investment in the Veneto over the past 20 – 30 years represents just the start. The impact of climate change, for example, is considerable and, Sartori contends, must be addressed by all. One solution is to revive higher altitude plantings, for which Luca Sartori, Andrea’s brother and current president of the Valpolicella Consorzio, has successfully secured government funding.
The realization that the future must be faced together has made Andrea an active member in a host of influential organizations: Assindustria in Verona; Confederazione della Vite e del Vino (president from 2004 to 2010); EME which organizes Simei — the big wine equipment and technology trade fairs (president); Premio Morsiani which awards a yearly prize to wine personalities and university researchers (president); Federvini (vice president from 2005 to 2010); the marketing group Italia del Vino (board member); CEEV to lobby the EU in Brussels (board member from 2005 to 2010) and the Veronese bank Crever (board member). And is if that wasn’t enough, Andrea also contributes to Corriere Vinicolo, the weekly journal of the UIV.
But this well-connected, consummate diplomat can also have strong opinions. Andrea is not a fervent fan, for example, of the widely used ripasso technique, where young wine is pumped over the pomace of recently-fermented Amarone to obtain greater alcohol and body. He likens it in many cases to “reusing a used teabag.” Navigating a tough market can require forceful words and actions! But that strong competitive sense is matched with a keen sense of community responsibility.
This unusual combination of competitiveness, diplomacy and community leadership has made Andrea Sartori a popular, effective and well-respected leader at his family company, in the Veneto and throughout Italian wine industry.