Above: publishing mogul Paolo Panerai at his Rocca di Frassinello winery in Tuscany earlier this year (image via Melodia del Vino’s Flickr, Creative Commons).
To this day, Italian publishing mogul Paolo Panerai — the “Bloomberg of Italy” — contends that he is not the owner of the Gambero Rosso, publisher of Italy’s most influential wine guide, including the coveted (and highly lucrative) “Tre Bicchieri” or “Three Glass” award.
In 2008, Gambero Rosso editor-in-chief and founder Stefano Bonilli (who died last week) was abruptly and wrongfully fired by the publication. In 2011, after winning a law suit that he brought against Gambero Rosso for wrongful termination, Bonilli revealed Panerai’s financial relationship with the publication in an interview with the Italian online magazine Il fatto quotidiano. As early as 2006, it had been rumored that Panerai had acquired the Gambero Rosso. Panerai, according to the 2011 article, denied that he was financially involved with the Gambero Rosso.
Even Daniele Cernilli, who took Bonilli’s position as editor-in-chief after Bonilli was fired, conceded in a subsequent interview that Panerai’s publishing group, Class Editori, had bailed out the masthead in 2006. Otherwise, he claimed ignorance, noting that — despite the fact that he was then editor-in-chief — he did not have knowledge of the masthead’s financial dealings.
In October 2013, in its preview of the 2014 Gambero Rosso Guide to the Wines of Italy, WineNews.it reported that Panerai’s winery group won more Tre Bicchieri awards than any other.
Angelo Gaja, whose family owns three of Italy’s most prestigious wineries, was awarded just one Tre Bicchieri award in the 2014 guide.
Italian readers should not miss honorary Slow Food president Roberto Burdese’s profile of Bonilli, published earlier this week by Il fatto quotidiano (Burdese writes that Bonilli was born in 1945 and thus was 69 when he died last week; mainstream media had previously reported that he was 67).
And for Italo- and Anglophones, be sure to watch this YouTube (below), also posted this week. In the short clip, Bonilli tells the story of the birth of the Gambero Rosso and the enogastronomic ethos of the time (the late 1980s) in Italy. He will be sorely missed.