Primo Franco’s latest wine is a new edition of «Sassi bianchi», a still Prosecco with a screw cap, a return to origins. A touch of nostalgia in an ironic and cultured man who, with his wines, compels the detractors of Prosecco Superiore to change their minds.
Between these Tom Stevenson, British critic, world authorities for Champagne and sparkling wines. «For the first 25 years of my professional life – he writes – I ignored Prosecco. The reason? Normal arrogance and snobbery, I suppose. ‘ He also speaks of snobbery and of “Prosecco-phobia only Italian” Robert Camuto by Wine Spectator, who defined Primo Franco as «a Maestro» of the DOCG, in the article in which he celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Nino Franco winery. He is not snobbish Kerin O’Keefe by Wine Enthusiast who elected Rustico Nino Franco as the best wine in the world in 2019. And neither Arrigo Cipriani, who at Harry’s Bar uses the Franco family’s wine for Bellini.
Primo, 72, is the winemaker who signs “the most characteristic Prosecco on the market, they reveal unusual aromas to the nose and palate, such as hints of grass and celery seeds”, as well as notes of white pepper. Stevenson claims this in the introduction to Primo’s book (Cinquesensi publisher), the best autobiography of an Italian winemaker, between memory and sarcasm. As in the last pages when he enjoys describing the sometimes obsessive industriousness of the Venetians: «For a lifetime I went to the office at 7.15 am and slept at 9.15 pm. Then one day, due to a back injury, I discovered that I could go to the office at 8.15 am and everything worked the same ».
For Primo Franco, wine is not just fermented grapes to be bottled. “It is a way of thinking, a hypothesis, a dream, an idea that grows, the recognition of one’s creativity, the reflection of one’s ego, the ability to imagine what to expect in the future, and to create a dialogue with time, personal memory and collective history, science, knowledge and tradition ». If you follow this vision, you understand its wines.
It all starts with his grandfather, Antonio Ferro, born in 1886, a wine merchant, especially red. After his grandfather, it was his father Giovanni, known as Nino, “a 1.90 tall colossus who weighed 130 kilos, handsome like Gary Cooper, or so my mother claimed. An oak tree felled by lightning at the age of 61. At that point I had to prove that I knew how to make wine. Make it good, sell it well and take the money home ».
Primo wanted to be an architect, he read Towards an architecture by Le Corbusier and Vincent Van Gogh’s letters to his brother Theo. He had met Annalisa Bolla in London, “prototype of a feminist sixty-eight”, descended from the family of wine producers. He married her in 1977. Since then he has traveled the world to present his wines, now also with his daughter Silvia.
One year after his father’s death, Prosecco Primo Franco was born, the first vintage, from a single vineyard and with the name of the producer. “Success came in 1983 – he says – with a Prosecco that had a higher sugar content than that used in the 60s and 70s, when the public demanded only brut”.
The second wine was the Prosecco Vigneto della Riva di San Floriano. Single vineyard: now it is taken for granted, at the time an innovation. «It was the way – he explains in the book – to demonstrate the profound difference between a Prosecco to drink every day and a Prosecco, expression of single and small plots with inimitable prerogatives “. Then came the Grave di Stecca, in gestation from 1991 to 2007. And the Nodi, from the Col del Vent vineyard in Valdobbiadene. All with a common denominator: «Not only aromas of apples and bananas, they have the style of a basket of fresh fruit like those of Caravaggio. I think we did it. But neither I nor Giulio, the historical winemaker, will ever reveal how ».