Tullio Masoni makes one of the most exclusive wines in the world, but he doesn’t want you to drink it.
A rambunctious entrepreneur, art collector and former investment banker, he has created what he says is the smallest vineyard in the world atop a 16th-century palazzo in the heart of Reggio Emilia. The city is famous for being the birthplace of the tricolor Italian national flag. It’s also sandwiched between Parma and Modena, on a stretch of land that has given Italy some of Italy’s most famous exports, including Ferrari and Lamborghini supercars, as well as culinary delights such as lasagna, tortellini, Prosciutto di Parma and Bolognese stew.
That Masoni wine doesn’t make it to many tables with such edibles probably makes sense, given its origins. He grows his grapes on the roof of Via Mari 10 – the address of the building and the name of the wine itself – a remarkable place because in 1859 it was visited by Giuseppe Garibaldi, the revolutionary who helped unify Italy.
Tullio Masoni at the entrance to Via Mari 10, notable for the fact that Giuseppe Garibaldi entered during a visit to Reggio Emilia in 1859. Credit: Rossana Mazzieri
“My father was a winemaker,” he said in a telephone interview. “I inherited a real vineyard in the countryside around Reggio Emilia, but when I looked at the books, I realized that I would have spent more money on it than I would have earned, so I sold it.”
“However, 20 years later, I regretted it, so I made myself a pocket-sized vineyard.”
At just over 200 square feet, Via Mari 10 produces just 29 bottles of red wine a year, which Masoni then rates at a mind-blowing 5,000 euros (about $5,000) each. Considering the cost, the bottles are not sold at the liquor store, but at Bonioni Arte, an art gallery just a few blocks away.
The Sangiovese grapes on the roof of Via Mari 10 produce only 29 bottles of wine per year. Credit: Rossana Mazzieri
“My wine is a form of artistic expression, a philosophical provocation, something to keep in your living room so you can talk about it with your friends and tell them about the madman who planted a vineyard on his roof,” Masoni said. who compares his city vineyard to French artist Marcel Duchamp’s “Bicycle Wheel” – a real bicycle wheel he mounted on a stool in his Paris studio in 1913. It then became the basis for Duchamp’s famous series of ordinary art objects called Readymades.
“If you see a bicycle wheel in the living room and not in the repair shop, you understand how beautiful it is,” Masoni said. “My vineyard is like this: it is unexpected, stimulates the brain, awakens new thoughts.”
The connection between wine and art begins with fruit, because the vines grow on espaliers, which are actually works of art by local sculptor Oscar Accorsi. “My grapes fight for art as soon as they are born,” Masoni said.
The wine is aged in oak barrels, which are also sculptures by another local artist, Lorenzo Menozzi, and are designed to depict a man and a woman. Masoni also asked Giuseppe Camuncoli, a renowned Reggio Emilia-born Marvel comics artist, to draw a special edition wine label. As a result, he encourages his customers to never open the bottles, but to treat them like works of art.
“I’m the only wine producer in the world who says you shouldn’t drink his wine,” he said.
The oak barrels are sculptures made by a local artist. Credit: Rossana Mazzieri
The vines, which are Sangiovese, feed on eggs, bananas, algae and nightingale droppings, according to Masoni, but he says their “diet” also includes voices from the neighborhood—quarrels, curses, and various dialects that enrich and pollute the fruits, giving them an advantage over rural grapes that enjoy only silence.
Masoni rejects the idea that his wine can be judged in traditional ways, such as highlighting the aromas in his bouquet. “There is no skin or red berries in my wine,” he said.
He can’t hide his disdain for what he sees as the snobbish aspects of the wine world, especially the fact that most of the great Italian producers are noble families. This may seem inconsistent with the price of his product, but he is somewhat silent on the actual sales figures, showing that most of the bottles are either given away or added by the Bonioni Gallery as a gift to buyers of significant works. According to its website, 10 bottles of the most recent 2019 vintage remain, with many previous years out of stock.
The wine is aged and bottled in the same building where the vineyard is located. Credit: Rossana Mazzieri
Speaking about what kind of wine the wine in the glass actually is, Masoni offers some unique tasting remarks: “There is a lot of bewilderment on the first sip, but after a few seconds, something comes to life in your mouth that opens your mind to new sensations. dimension,” he said, carefully weighing each word.
“My wine doesn’t bring calm, rather it draws a red vertical line inside your mind, which conveys a sense of infinite speed.”
Of course, most will just have to take his word for it.