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Impact Stories: White before Red

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An Interview with Winemaker, Giuseppe Franceschini, by Christine Havens

Born in Padua, Seed’s talented winemaker, Giuseppe Franceschini likes to think of himself as a gypsy. He studied enology at the University of Udine, following graduation, his wanderlust and curiosity led him to Veneto, Friuli, Sicily, Mendoza and most recently, Slovenia. From these experiences, Giuseppe absorbed a lifetime of regional winemaking styles, each with unique challenges and rewards that combine to make him one of the most creative, passionate winemakers on the planet.

Over the years he’s racked up an impressive trove of gold medals, some of which include the Concours Mundial de Bruxelles for his work at wineries in Mendoza and Italy. His 2007 Bacan Malbec was recognized as one of the top 60 wines of Argentina from Austral Spectator Wine Guide, and his 2013 La Giostra del Vino Saltimbanco Pinot Noir scored 93 points from the Wine Advocate, and his Cabernet Sauvignon from Bodega Caelum scored 94 points from Guia Penin. So it’s no surprise that he’s just been awarded a gold medal for the 2014 Seed Malbec from The Drinks Business’ prestigious 2016 Global Malbec Masters competition.

Giuseppe’s focus on white wines early in his winemaking career has enabled him to bring a sense of elegance and nuance to his reds—something he refers to as a specialty. These influences, along with his innate creativity, have shaped his palate and have enabled him to elevate the Malbec wines he creates for us at Seed.

Tony and Giuseppe tasting from barrel.
Tony and Giuseppe tasting from barrel.

Christine Havens: First off, and this is a question I ask most people, what inspired you to become a winemaker?

Giuseppe Franceschini: I spent a week in central Italy at a typical agriturismo hostile before joining the military—I saw these beautiful landscapes and the vineyards and knew that was what I wanted for my future. After military service, I studied viticulture and enology at a university outside Padua. Winemaking and the wines of the Friuli informed my winemaking approach. For me, Friuli is magic.

CH: How did working with white wines influence your winemaking style today?

GF: You are a little more manic in your vinification! Every step is critical. Making white wine is more technical; you need to be cleaner at every step, especially in the beginning with the press fraction of the grapes—that’s one of the most important steps. And then the treatment of the musts requires special care. Fermentation must be clear and straight, not too fast or too slow.

As a white lover; it’s important to have this kind of knowledge because you automatically look for the elegance in wine. I visualize all white and red wines this way, and now, 80% of the wines I make are reds. If you have the sensibility to make outstanding whites, you have a different point of view with reds. It is a specialty.

CH: In addition to your work with Seed, you also manage harvests and fermentations in Italy and Slovenia. Isn’t that a stretch?

GF: [Laughs] I am like a gypsy! I love to travel, and I am very unquiet. I started managing two harvests per year to increase my experience. Working in both hemispheres allowed me to increase the frequency of the challenges I face. With increased the problems, you have to solve more of them; it forces you to become a better winemaker.

My family is Italian, and my wife is Argentinian. I didn’t want to live in Italy, and I didn’t want to stay in Argentina all the time. So, I’ve been traveling and working in both hemispheres since 2007. When I see a nice vineyard, and I taste nice grapes, I feel a great desire to make wine with those grapes. I keep increasing my production. That’s why I’m now making wine in two different regions in Slovenia. They are similar but different; these regions are like the difference between Friuli and the Veneto. In Mendoza, my work takes me from the extreme north to the extreme south. I try to maintain my interests. I live.

CH: Any favorite wine regions you’d like to talk about where you aren’t currently making wine?

GF: I visit new places every year because I love wine and want to understand how winemaking varies from place to place. One of those places is the Priorat. It’s totally different, totally unique, and unlike any of the regions I work in. Slovenia and Friuli have lots of layers, but the Priorat is eruptive. The soils are volcanic, lots of stony black slate and quartz, and high acidity. Oregon’s Willamette Valley is very interesting, too.

CH: How did you get involved with Seed?

GF: I met Tony thanks to his ex-girlfriend, he was visiting Mendoza many times per year, spending time there. When he mentioned that he’d be curious to try his hand at winemaking, she offered him of one of my wines. It was very quick—the link. As I am not so good in English, but we understood one other quickly. We share lots of ideas, and we both like sports. I was a professional swimmer. I understand the sacrifices of training and working hard. And so he is very similar too, we have a good connection.

Ultimately, we decided to look for an old vineyard. The oldest vineyards are in northeast Mendoza. Eventually, our search took us to Altamira, then the Uco Valley. It’s one of the most renowned places. I found a vineyard that was more than 40 years old; the altitude was 1,000 meters high, and the soil a mix of clay and sand. We knew with this site we’d be able to make elegant wines with lower alcohol. It’s nice because you have finesse, but there is concentration too.

CH: And can you share your thoughts on the upcoming release? The 2015s?

GF: I like the elegance; the Malbec and Red Wine blend are very delicate wines. Especially the Malbec, it’s vertical and fresh. The 2015 vintage is very delicate and strong at the same time. It’s like the secret of Pinot Noir—it’s a red wine in a white dress.

CH: And your thoughts for future vintages of Seed wine?

GF: I hope to increase our volume. Our current vineyard in Altamira is small. We’ll look for new parcels to add. In my opinion, we’ll have to find a top level site. Tony is a guy that works at the top in everything he does. Alex too. So the vineyard we’ll look for has to be a different place, like a Grand Cru of Malbec. It’s difficult to classify a Grand Cru, as the soils in Mendoza are quite a patchwork. But I know exactly where to go to to make this kind of wine in Altamira. Everything is ready.

Winemaker Giuseppe Franceschini and Tony Hartl bottling Seed's first vintage.
Winemaker Giuseppe Franceschini and Tony Hartl bottling Seed’s first vintage.
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