Well, here we are again.
I have recently had another article published in The Local Italy – this time about what assistance there has been for wine producers here in Italy due to the Corona virus pandemic and what the situation is for producers in Piemonte. I hope that you enjoy it – and don’t forget to become a member of The Local Italy: it’s a great publication and membership is great value! All the yellow are links – click on ’em.
Anyway, that little intro and plug for my article – or ‘piece’ as we published authors call them – leads me nicely into how Corona virus has been affecting me personally and my wine project: Byrne Vini. My issues are tiny by comparison with some, but it has nevertheless affected me, too. As avid reader of this blog will doubtless be aware (I didn’t want to assume the plural would apply there) I bottled 600 bottles of red wine in late January 2020, and it has been sitting in the cantina gathering dust ever since. After many years of my dreaming about doing this, I finally had my own wine, suited, booted and ready to go.
All we needed to do then was sign the relevant paperwork and the company would up and running. I had arranged a meeting with the notaio (notary) in Alba at their earliest convenience and my UK business partner, Ed Bates of Distilled London, had his flight booked for the day in question: BA2579 to Turin on 18th March 2020…
Right, so Plan B, then…
Given that Ed could not get here in person on 18th March, we wondered initially about another appointment – we had no idea at that stage how long or severe lockdown would turn out to be: or how severe Corona virus would turn out to be.
Given that all businesses here in Italy were basically shut until further notice, we could not set another date with any certainty at all. So we considered how we might get legal documents signed by parties in 2 different countries when neither of those parties could travel (I couldn’t even travel outside my own municipality, never mind to the UK).
I asked my accountant if it were possible to get the documents to Ed in London either electronically or by sending originals in the post. ‘No,’ came the answer, ‘he has to be present in person’. This was a blow and something of a bind.
As the weeks went by, I enquired again a number of times, thinking that perhaps some leeway might be granted given the exceptional circumstances. Or perhaps the government here had relaxed official guidelines or legal requirements for the presence of all parties for the same reason.
‘No’, came the answer, ‘he has to be present in person’.
Ed then enquired at some accountancy firms in London that specialised in Anglo-Italian businesses.
‘You can do it relatively easily – you just need to sign a power of attorney.’
I asked my accountant about it.
‘La procura, si.’
Right, so those 6 times when I asked if Ed had to be here in person and you said ‘Yes’, you meant, ‘No’…
By this stage it was early June – my accountant’s insistence had been so vehement each time, that I assumed it was correct. (There is a lesson in there somewhere…) As we looked further into getting the power of attorney, lockdowns were beginning to ease and travel was being mooted again. We decided to hold off a little longer, since it would take a few weeks to complete the procedures and with London-based lawyers involved, cost at least a few hundred pounds. At the same time we kept hearing about an announcement ‘in the next week’ concerning ‘Air Bridges’. Ed & I had a brief conversation along the lines of: ‘If we’re going to spend several hundred quid to get the paperwork signed, wouldn’t it be better get a trip to Italy out of it and drink a nice bottle over a nice meal?’.
In the end, this worked, as we were able to get the paperwork done on 20th July 2020. And it’s a good thing we did – travel is becoming harder again, as I’m sure I don’t need to point out.
There’s only One Word for it…
Now, having bottled my own blend, I am also busy hunting out more traditional gems here: the intention for Byrne Vini is to have two parallel, complementary ranges: Haute-Boisson and Prêt-à-Boire, if you like. Primis, as the name suggests, is the first wine from Byrne Vini, and is Haute-Boisson: a bespoke wine. There will be others to follow: idiosyncratic wines which try to do things that other producers here are not doing. I’ve decided to call that series of wines the One Word Series.
The front label for Primis features an image of vineyards surrounding the hilltop village of La Morra created by my great friend Iain Davidson. I’ve known Iain since our halcyon days at university, and he gave me one of his prints one year for Christmas. Immediately, I knew that Iain was the person to design my labels: not only is Iain’s work beautiful, with each design being unique, but the true artisanal nature of Iain’s work fitted in with the idea I had for my wines. There seemed to be a natural synergy. For the One Word wines, I would like Iain to do all the designs.
His beautiful label was an imagining of Monviso, the village of La Morra and some stylised vines. So I then spent a day driving around the Langhe trying to find a location that would give me an approximation of Iain’s imagination…
In tandem with the One Word wines, I’m also launching the Lazarus Range, these will be more like the classic – in France, at least – négociant idea: scouring the countryside for terrific wines at great prices to slap a label on and sell.
The labels for the Lazarus Range were a reworking of a previous idea – hence the name for the range of wines. It represents the drinker discovering what the wine is by pulling away the black ‘layer’ on the label, reflecting my discoveries here as I find the wines themselves.
Then we realised that, while we had a name for the range of négociant wines, we didn’t have a name for the series that Primis would be the first of: we had one wine initially, so we simply called it Primis. So we had to come up with a name to cover both Primis and all the others that might come along in time. We went through a long list, but nothing really grabbed me. At one point I said to Ed that we needed a one-word title. Still unable to find something I liked, I suggested we simply call it the One Word Series after its slightly difficult naming gestation. Guess that locks us into single-word names for all the others…