Interview with Jacopo Cossater

Jacopo Cossater is a very prominent wine blogger in Italy based in Perugia. Amongst the many publications he contributes is the website, one of the most important and most visited wine-related websites in the country. Shortly I will be writing a piece about Jacopo and how we crossed paths as I think he is one of the most singular and fascinating people I met on my trip, not to mention incredibly generous and humble. He showed particular interest the unique nature of the journey I took, and my overall impressions of Italian wine, and so he interviewed me for the Intravino website. Google Translate doesn’t really do it justice so here is the original English version.
Jacopo Cossater in action

Jacopo: Tell me about yourself and your background

Me: My name is James Scarcebrook, I am 30 years old and I was born and raised in Melbourne Australia. I began working with wine almost nine years ago in my local shop, also selling beer and spirits. With a growing interest in wine I began working for Domaine Chandon Australia (part of the global Louis-Vuitton/Moet-Hennessy group) in the visitor centre.

After moving to marketing for the company, I began studying a Masters in Wine Business with the University of Adelaide, which I completed with distinction in 2011. From 2010 until I left Australia I was also managing the wine department of one of Melbourne’s oldest and most respected enoteca stores. My first serious wine trip was in July 2010, when I visited the five main regions for wine in France over a three week period. This was my first introduction to European wine and where my big interest in wine travel began.

J: First of all, why take this trip? It is probably the longest single wine trip ever made. Why did you choose to do that?

M: I left Chandon because I felt I had more to offer the world of wine and more to learn. After I started working for the independent premium wine store I was introduced to many new wines from Australia and the world. I soon realised that the best way to learn about the wines of the world was to travel to as many wine regions as possible and meet people who were committed to producing the best wines. Several people encouraged me to write a blog about my experiences not only to communicate about what I was doing but also as a record of my trip.

I wasn’t aware of anyone else who had made this kind of trip, at least not recently as it has become increasingly difficult and expensive. I had always intended to make a big trip, but until now had not had a real purpose apart from travel itself. Making a long and big trip is now considered a ‘rite of passage’ in Australia, but few can afford to travel without a lot of work, and so they live and work somewhere like London for a period and travel when they can.

J: What was your itinerary?

M: Something that is very well known of in Australia is a ‘Round the World’ plane ticket, which is a very inexpensive way to travel to many continents. There are two major restrictions that I needed to follow. The first is that the travel between continents (five in total) must be in one direction. Therefore I decided to begin my trip in North America, then South America, then Europe and finally Asia. The second restriction is that the travel must be within 12 months, and so I only booked flights to Paris as I intended to travel for more than one year.

I began my trip in California, and I spent four weeks driving up the west coast of the USA to Oregon and Washington. After some time in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto as a tourist, I visited Niagara in Canada and the Finger Lakes in New York. Finally I spent a bit of time in Boston and New York city. My next destination was Chile around Santiago where most of the wine is made, followed by some time in the Mendoza and Salta regions of Argentina. I spent Christmas and New Years in Brazil with friends, before finally coming to Europe.

My European journey was by far the longest of course, and I spent all of 2012 there. Not in order I spent the following amount of time in each;
France (nine weeks, eight regions)
Germany (four weeks, seven regions, Prowein, two months of vintage work with two wineries)
Austria (one week, one region)
Italy (Eight weeks, twelve regions, Vinitaly)
Spain (five weeks, eleven regions)
Portugal (two weeks, four regions)
I also visited the UK, Ireland and The Netherlands as a tourist.

J: How many wineries did you visit?

M: In total I visited about 400 wineries give or take.

J: Having travelled to every major wine-producing region and so much in Italy, what are your thoughts about Italian wine?

M: This is based on my summary post from my blog, which I wrote soon after my initial time there.
1. Italian wine is the most unique and varied in terms of grape varieties, styles and regions.
2. Italian wine is the most accessible, most of the wine is for everyone rather than the elite. It is for everyday consumption, almost always with simple yet delicious local food.
3. Italian people are the most honest, generous, open-minded and unpretentious about their wine. They are proud to make wines of their own in the best way they can.
4. In Italy people don’t have enough courage of conviction to promote and sell their own unique wines, and too often make wine from introduced grape varieties or with indigenous varieties in a very ‘international’ style. They seem to do this for business reasons.
5. Italy seems to be influencing the rest of the world more than ever, with regions around the world growing native Italian varieties and holding Italian wines up as the best.
6. In Italy people are working harder than ever to better understand their own terroir and varieties, utilising technology when it is useful to make better, more commercial and unique wines.
7. Tradition and family are important are respected as much as place in Italy.
8. Most importantly, every region in Italy is different, from the people, wines, food and landscapes. It would take a lifetime to truly understand the country, and it is my greatest regret that I can’t spend a lifetime there.

J: How do you think others around the world view Italian wine?

M: This is a very good question. Something that bothered me was not only how little people involved with wine in Europe didn’t know about Italian wine but also didn’t seem interested. In my opinion they are generally unaware about how much progress has been made in Italy in terms of understanding of terroir, varietals, technology and most importantly creating wines of character and depth.

Much noise has been made about the wines of Spain in recent times with a number of Spanish wines commanding very high prices (sometimes not worthy I think), and there are perhaps ‘cooler’ countries than Italy at the moment, like Hungary, Austria, Greece and regions in France. The Italian regions that are familiar in other European wine-producing countries are of course the most famous (Piedmont & Toscana).
In many new-world countries Italian wine is held up very high; in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and of course Australia and New Zealand. In South America the only reference is French wine and it is mostly the only grape varieties they plant which I think is a mistake, they should plant more southern Italian and Spanish varieties.

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