Accidental Vino

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What's a guy do with 10 acres of Valpolicella grapes and zero wine knowhow?

Growing up in northeastern Italy, Mariano Buglioni never dreamed of becoming a winemaker. As a young man, he worked in his father’s garment business, which produced sportswear for the family’s 50 boutiques in Italy.

Then, in 1993, his father bought the old farmhouse of his dreams, in the heart of Valpolicella Classico. With the property came a 10-acre vineyard planted to the local red varieties Corvina, Corvinone, Molinara and Rondinella, which are used to make fruity Valpolicella as well as denser Amarone, from raisined grapes.

Buglioni, 22 at the time, and his father, Alfredo, had no idea what to do with that year’s grape crop. Before the Amarone boom of the past 15 years, the area’s grapes were plentiful and cheap—less than $300 a ton.

So the Buglionis approached big-name producers—including Tommasi, Allegrini, Masi and Speri—and offered their harvest.

Buglioni, now 45, trim and elegant with a short salt-and-pepper beard, recalls: “They all said, ‘We don’t need more grapes,’ and we said, ‘But we don’t want money. It’s for free.’”

“They said, ‘OK, we’ll take them, but you have to bring them to us.’”

The Buglionis decided to harvest with the help of garment-company employees. Trouble was, they had no idea how to harvest: “We went back to the wineries and said, ‘How do we cut the grapes? What kind of scissors do we use?’”