Style icon Coco Chanel once famously cooed that “fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” In Italy, fashion extends into the wine world, and the two cultures are overlapping more than ever.
Wine and fashion in Italy are linked by a generation of fashion designers and moguls, who not only express themselves in terms of color, texture and fabric, but in terms of grape variety, cellaring and territory. Together, the two industries represent the pinnacle of Italian export success: wine is Italy’s number one gastronomic export and fashion is among the country’s top exports overall. In the U.S. alone, Italy sells some 1.3 billion euros ($1.7 billion) in wine and 6.5 billion euros ($8.4 billion) in fashion each year.
“The world recognizes Italy for two things: fashion and wine-food,” says Villa Sandi owner Giancarlo Moretti Polegato. Villa Sandi is a firstrate producer of Prosecco sparkling wine and Giancarlo’s brother, Mario, founded the popular footwear company Geox. “They are our patrimony and symbols of ‘Made in Italy’ excellence,” he adds.
Who are the players in the wine-fashion crossover? The extended Ferragamo family has diverse wine holdings. The enormous patrimony of the former Florentine shoe cobbler now includes the Il Borro estate and winery near Arezzo in Tuscany. Owned by Ferruccio Ferragamo and managed by his son Salvatore, the 1,755-acre property boasts Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese vineyards. Chairman Massimo Ferragamo owns a 4,500-acre private membership estate in Montalcino called Castiglion del Bosco and presents a bold and modern vineyard-designate Brunello di Montalcino named Campo del Drago.
Diesel founder Renzo Rosso makes wines, Bianco di Rosso with Chardonnay, Rosso di Rosso with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and Nero di Rosso with Pinot Nero. His 250-acre property is located in Marostica, which is in the Veneto region of northern Italy.
In 2007, eccentric fashion designer Roberto Cavalli and son Tommaso celebrated the debut of his new super Tuscan red from the Tenuta degli Dei, located in Panzano (in the Chianti Classico region). His upper range wine Cavalli Collection wine comes in a leopard-skin box with the initials “RC” embossed on the front.
Fashion mogul Antonio Moretti (partner of Miuccia Prada’s husband) is coproprietor of the “Car Shoes” brand and owns the Tenuta Sette Ponti, which produces one of Italy’s best super Tuscan blends called Oreno. Moretti also owns a wine estate in Sicily called Feudo Maccari. Ottavio Missoni, the designer from Trieste known for his uniquely patterned knitwear, owns wine properties in the Langhe, Piedmont and Sicily.
“Our family started in wine and then moved into fashion,” says Giancarlo Moretti Polegato of Villa Sandi, who has also played an important role in the recent legal changes to protect the geographic origins of the popular bubbly wine Prosecco. “In most cases it goes the other way. Some start in fashion and then move into wine as part of a lifestyle choice.”
One of the most significant marriages between fashion and wine comes thanks to media tycoon Paolo Panerai. CEO of Class Editori, Panerai counts several fashion magazines and satellite television channels among his holdings. Attracted to the world of wine, the businessman owns two wine estates in Tuscany. The first is the historic Chianti Classico Castellare di Castellina estate. It produces a well-received Sangiovese-based wine called I Sodi di San Niccolò. Panerai also built a veritable cathedral of wine in Maremma, southern Tuscany, called Rocca di Frassinello in a joint venture with Domain Baron De Rothschild-Lafite. Architect Renzo Piano was hired to design the winery’s amphitheater- like cellar, which remains among the most impressive in Italy from a design point of view.
In Sicily, Panerai directly involved Italy’s biggest names in fashion — Versace, Valentino, Missoni, Carolina Marengo, Alberta Ferretti and Gianfranco Ferré. Under Panerai’s Feudi del Pisciotto line is a Valentino Merlot, a Nero d’Avola designed by Donatella Versace, a Cabernet Sauvignon by Missoni and a passito dessert wine by Ferré.