How Luigi Veronelli, a Visionary, Changed the Food and Wine Industry

Luigi Veronelli, an Italian food and wine journalist and avid wine collector, is well-known for his wine-related quotes that continue to be used today. Though, his impact on the Italian wine industry goes much deeper than that. He used his words to influence restaurateurs and winemakers in Italy, urging them toward traditional production methods and local grapes. Thus, pushing Italian vintners to create high-quality “natural wines” they could be proud of producing.

A Sunny Vineyard at Corteforte, Valpolicella, Italy

A Sunny Vineyard at Corteforte, Valpolicella, Italy | Image Source

He best expressed his love through his writing, noting, “Wine gives me pleasure, not because of what it makes me feel but for what the wine seems to express.” [1] While Luigi Veronelli has sadly passed away, his memory continues through his books, quotes, and impact on the wine world.

Below, we explore Luigi (known as Gino to friends) Veronelli’s life and how he forever changed the Italian wine and food industries.

Who Was Luigi Veronelli?

A wine visionary, Veronelli dabbled in many careers from writing to editing, publishing, and cooking, he was truly a jack of all trades. While he had an impact in these areas, he is most famous for being a food activist, wine critic, and guru of all things wine.

Luigi Veronelli

Luigi Veronelli: The Legendary Italian Wine Critic and Connoisseur Who Revolutionized the World of Wine | Image Source

He celebrated smaller vineyards over large industrial wine producers, noting that even the worst wine produced by a farmer was still superior to one made in bulk (aka the best industrial wine). He was a large proponent of using organic wine grape farming. [2]

Did you know? Luigi Veronelli had a large impact on the wine industry, especially with his push toward natural wines. Many aspects of winemaking came to light with his discoveries, such as the importance of carefully selecting grapes. He’s considered a pioneer in the wine world, as he taught Italian winemakers to focus on the terrior and grapes to produce high-quality beverages.

Luigi Veronelli Through the Years

This wine and food enthusiast was born into a wealthy family in Milan. Then, he attended university, where he studied philosophy. After college, he focused on politics and maintained his passion for philosophical topics. Within a few years, he was working as an assistant to the philosopher Giovanni Emanuele Bariè. They created a book together (Veronelli’s first). Soon after, he co-wrote a book with Lelio Basso, another intellectual.

It is said that Veronelli was introduced to wine by his father, an industrial chemist. This was a locally made red wine, perhaps sparking his passion for locally crafted spirits. In the mid-1950s, Veronelli began creating wine and food-focused articles for a local newspaper.

He was briefly jailed for a few months during the last years of Italy’s book burnings due to publishing a book deemed “immoral.” He then began diving into the study of gastronomy after being influenced by one of his friends, Luigi Carnacina, a top restaurant critic at the time.

This decision to focus on food led to the creation of multiple cookbooks, with Veronelli acting as writer and editor for various books. During his 20-year partnership with Carnacina, Veronelli was taught about food, wine, and the art of PR. This information was gained through connecting with top hotels and restaurants, which stressed the importance of wine and food pairings. This friendship helped Veronelli in the world of television due to the public speaking skills he gained. Of course, these skills later translated into his food and wine activism. [3]

Diving into Wine Activism

Unfortunately, many of Italy’s smaller wine producers were underappreciated by consumers. Veronelli knew the importance of high-quality wine, especially the bottles produced by these same vintners leading him to pursue their conservation. Of course, the idea that Italy’s best wines were potentially going to be extinct was another primary factor in his choice to champion these producers.

He strongly opposed the larger industrial winemakers responsible for the “lower-quality wines” in Italy. Thus, he began a constant discussion between himself and smaller winemakers on various factors affecting the wine’s quality. These discussions included the flavors associated with the local grapes in each area, traditional grape varieties, and even producing grapes (and wines) based on the qualities of each site.

The conversations and tireless effort put forth by Veronelli helped propel smaller vintners into the limelight. These smaller wine producers started seeing appreciation from local consumers and eventually gained international appreciation. Some vintners that were positively affected by Veronelli’s efforts include Emidio Pepe and Livio Felluga.

His primary focus in activism was to educate others on Italy’s top wines and wine producers, which was especially apparent in his wine guidebooks. [4]

How to Understand Wine Through Veronelli’s POV

The wine journalist focused on many aspects of winemaking, which can still be applied to those who wish to understand wine more fully. These bits of information gathered by Veronelli in his books were learned by walking through many vineyards, talking to the local vintners, and immersing himself in Italy’s wine culture.

Some takeaways from Veronelli include thinking about how vintners interact with the plants. By going to the source of the wine, you can better understand its essence. For example, he talks about how every step wine producers make in the vineyard, including pruning, helps create more abundant grapes. Thus, studying the cultivation of wine grapes offers deep insight into the final product – wine.

He also believed Italian wine should be “produced in truth.” Meaning it was important to him that the land was studied in each area before producing wine (and food). Understanding the land meant you could more effectively transform it, thus creating great wine. [5]

Ultimately, we can learn quite a lot from Veronelli’s wine and food studies, even if we can only explore the story of the wine through sipping the drink.

Veronelli’s Accolades

One of the most important ways that Veronelli influenced the country was by starting his magazine, Il Gastronomo. This magazine was intended to preserve viticulture and agriculture practices by analyzing the related policies and cataloging authentic products.

He also wrote for/published two other magazine publications – I Problemi del Socialismo and Il Pensiero. These, combined with Il Gastronomo, helped him establish credibility in journalism, even though each magazine was based in a different niche.

The success of his initial three publications led to him creating food and wine articles for Il Giorno, which helped him connect to Carnacina. Carnacina and Veronelli created many cookbooks together, which later became important in Italy’s culinary world.

The Veronelli Gold Guidebooks are highly praised guides to Italian wine based on Veronelli’s travels after WWII. These guides contain information on 16,000+ wines, including details on the size of the vineyard which supplies the wines’ grapes, the cru (and Italian wine classification system), how many bottles were produced in the batch, etc. It also details and rates 2,000+ wine production companies with notes on each company’s location, size, agricultural system, and more. It is considered one of the most complete guides to Italian wine. These guides are updated annually and are currrently led by one of Veronelli’s former assistants.

Another major accomplishment of Veronelli is the Seminario Permanente Luigi Veronelli. This association was created to bring together those in the food and wine industries and wine enthusiasts. The primary focus of this organization is spreading the culture of quality wine and food.

Other accolades include writing for top newspapers and magazines like Wine Spectator, Gran Reserva, and Il Sommelier. Additionally, he appeared on many television broadcasts through the years, including “A Tavola alle 7″. He also published various wine catalogs, directed multiple magazines, and held an impressive wine collection that was recently purchased by Astor Wine & Spirits. [6]

Changing the Wine Industry

A Window Display of Fine Wines on Via Cola di Rienzo, Rome

A Window Display of Fine Wines on Via Cola di Rienzo, Rome | Image Source

While Veronelli was not popular amongst those responsible for marketing and managing the country’s agriculture, he was well-respected by the country’s consumers. His magazine and newspaper reviews featured bold criticisms and high standards for food and wine, establishing him as a critic in both industries. Many of the terms still used to describe wine in Italy were born in his newspaper and magazine writings. For example, he is credited with creating the term vino da favola, meaning fairytale wine, to describe a specific Italian red wine.

His activism and push for traditional production methods helped small winemakers strive for higher-quality spirits. He was known as the champion for these smaller producers, often writing letters of encouragement to the vintners or speaking on their behalf regarding their rights.

Luigi Veronelli ultimately helped create demand for traditional Italian cuisine by pushing for higher quality standards. Before his activism and involvement in the culinary and wine industries, Italy was not recognized as a top destination for either product. Before the 1980s, Italy’s restaurants were known to serve overcooked dishes alongside low-quality wines that left much to be desired. [7] Now, many people consider Italian cuisine one of the best. In fact, TasteAtlas announced Italy is in the top spot for best food worldwide during their 2022 recap. [8]

Did you know? Luigi Veronelli tried Coca Cola one time and disliked it so much that he got the drink thrown out of Italy in 1977. However, this expulsion only lasted one year. Veronelli tried to get the drink removed from the country again in the 1990s but was unsuccessful. He is quoted saying, “Una sola volta ho bevuto Coca Cola. Mi ha fatto schifo e perciò, l’ho esclusa,”. This translates to, “I drank Coca Cola one time only. It made me sick, and therefore, I avoid it.” [9]

This Day in Wine History

February 2, 1926 – Luigi Veronelli was born in Milan.

November 29, 2004 – Luigi Veronelli passed away in Bergamo at 78, shocking the wine world.

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References:

[1] Zecevic, Aleks. “Luigi Veronelli: Looking Back at an Italian Wine Visionary | Wine Spectator.” Wine Spectator, Wine Spectator, December 22 2017, www.winespectator.com/articles/luigi-veronelli-italian-wine-visionary.

[2] Zecevic, Aleks. “Luigi Veronelli: Looking Back at an Italian Wine Visionary | Wine Spectator.” Wine Spectator, Wine Spectator, December 22 2017, www.winespectator.com/articles/luigi-veronelli-italian-wine-visionary.

[3] The Times. “Luigi Veronelli.” Www.thetimes.co.uk, www.thetimes.co.uk/article/luigi-veronelli-6rhq8pwk5kq.

[4] MFA, Susan H. Gordon, PhD. “5 Ways Luigi Veronelli Wants You to Think Deeply about Italian Wine.” Forbes, February 2 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/susangordon/2018/02/02/5-ways-luigi-veronelli-wants-you-to-think-deeply-about-italian-wine/?sh=40ac1e0e89b5.

[5] MFA, Susan H. Gordon, PhD. “5 Ways Luigi Veronelli Wants You to Think Deeply about Italian Wine.” Forbes, February 2 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/susangordon/2018/02/02/5-ways-luigi-veronelli-wants-you-to-think-deeply-about-italian-wine/?sh=40ac1e0e89b5.

[6] “Breve Biografia / Biographical Notes.” Casa Veronelli, 25 Jan. 2012, www.veronelli.com/biografia-luigi-veronelli.

[7] “Luigi Veronelli.” The Independent, 8 Dec. 2004, www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/luigi-veronelli-680228.html.

[8] “TasteAtlas Awards: These Are the 50 Best Cuisines & Food Cities.” Www.tasteatlas.com, www.tasteatlas.com/best/cuisines.

[9] MFA, Susan H. Gordon, PhD. “5 Ways Luigi Veronelli Wants You to Think Deeply about Italian Wine.” Forbes, February 2 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/susangordon/2018/02/02/5-ways-luigi-veronelli-wants-you-to-think-deeply-about-italian-wine/?sh=40ac1e0e89b5.

Categories: This Day in Wine History | ArticlesTags: , , , By Published On: June 8, 2023Last Updated: February 29, 2024

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