Vineyards below the town of Castiglione Falletto, home to the Vietti Winery
(Photo ©Tom Hyland)
Earlier this week, the news that the Vietti winery of Castiglione Falletto, in the heart of the Barolo production zone had been sold, was leaked to the press in Italy and America. Instantly, those on Facebook and Twitter had their say; all were surprised, while others were shocked, with some even being incensed. How could a famous Piemontese producer sell their winery and vineyards to an American family?
As is typical these days, most of the comments were knee-jerk reactions; I personally thought that much of the doom and gloom was unfounded. I based this on the fact that I have known Luca Currado, co-proprietor and winemaker at Vietti for more than fifteen years and have found him to be as passionate and as devoted to the wines of Piemonte as anyone in the region. He is not the type of individual who would make this sale for a quick dollar.
I asked Currado if he wanted the true story written; he agreed and gave me some very enlightening answers, explaining the reason for the sale. The article appeared at wine-searcher.com (click here).
I mentioned that I have known Luca Currado (as well as his wife Elena and his mother Luciana) for several years. I would like to point out that I also know one of the Krause family that purchased Vietti. Last September, while visiting Piemonte, I met Tanner Krause, son of Kyle Krause, who first contacted Currado about the sale and engineered this transaction. I met Krause at the Enrico Serafino winery in Canale (the Roero district), which the family had just purchased.
I’ve kept in touch with him and asked him a few days ago for his side of the story. He was extremely gracious, and answered all the questions I brought up.
A bit of background here: the Krause family owns the convenience store chain Kum & Go, based in Iowa. Tanner’s grandfather and great-grandfather partnered in 1959 to open their first store in Hampton, Iowa. Today, Tanner notes, there are approximately 430 stores in 11 states; Tanner is the fourth generation of his family to work in the business.
I asked Krause how their interest in Italian wineries – specifically those from Piemonte – originated. “Our business interests in Italy came through my family’s Italian heritage and the passion and admiration for Italy, which came through my aforementioned great-grandfather,” replied Krause. “His name was Anthony Gentle, née Antonio Gentile.
“My father’s efforts over the past few years are to reconnect the future generations of our family with the past. We came to the Piedmont region for a love of the wines and stayed for a love of the people. Enrico Serafino, with its rich history of award-winning wines and current prestige of being one of Italy’s top sparkling wine producers is a great opportunity to share the wines of Piedmont with wine lovers everywhere,” Krause says.
While I do not have access to every detail of the sale (understandably), I did learn that the Krause family had been purchasing vineyards in the Barolo production zone over the past year. This total of 12 hectares (29 acres) are now set aside for Vietti. “Luca and his team will have these vineyards at their disposal,” Krause notes. Would the Krauses tell Currado how to use these vineyards? “Any vinification questions will have to be answered by him,” Krause told me.
Krause also gave me a second answer to the question of his family’s input regarding winemaking; it is evident that Currado will have the final say. “Luca is a maestro. We trust him 100%. He will have the freedom to work his magic.”
One final note about Kum & Go, regarding selling wines and the possibility of selling Vietti wines in their stores. Krause told me that they do sell wine in some stores, where the law allows. “However, we do not sell any wine in which we have an ownership interest in our stores and have no intention to in the future. The businesses are completely separate.
“We do not have a separate distribution company for alcohol. With Vietti in both the winemaking and the sales, nothing will change. Business will remain as usual.
“Imagine it this way. There’s a Michelin-starred restaurant with 36 seats and a 100 square meter kitchen. The restaurant now has a 200 square meter kitchen to serve the same number of seats.”
My thanks to Tanner Krause for taking the time to answer my questions about the sale of Vietti to his family.