Remembering Giacomo Bersanetti, a wine design great, victim of COVID-19.

Above: Giacomo Bersanetti, “designer optimus,” the “ideal designer” as 20th-century wine writing icon Luigi Veronelli called him. Photo via Studio Grafico Artigiano, the eno-focused “artisanal” design studio that Bersanetti founded in 1983 together with his wife Chiara Veronelli, Luigi Veronelli’s daughter.

News of designer Giacomo Bersanetti’s passing broke at the peak of the COVID-19 crisis in Italy in March. Unanimously beloved and revered for his immense talent, creativity, and humanitas, he was remembered at the time in countless heartfelt tributes by his colleagues and peers across the world of Italian wine and beyond. The novel coronavirus was the cause of death.

Few American wine enthusiasts knew of him but the Italian wine lovers among them are intimately familiar with his work. Over the course of a prodigious career, he designed groundbreaking wine labels and pioneering bottle shapes for some of Italy’s most iconic wineries including Chiarlo, Ferrari, Gaja, and Allegrini among others.

You can read his biography here.

I only met him once, last year in Milan, after I translated a catalog for a photography exhibition that he had designed for the Zenato family’s Zenato Academy.

The Zenato winery asked me to translate this year’s catalog as well. I wish I could share the beautiful essay that Giacomo wrote for the book. Drawing from his decades of experience creating “identity” for Italian winemakers, as he liked to put it, the piece is one of the most compelling I’ve read this year. Once the catalog is published, it should be required reading for anyone interested in a career in wine communications — not only for its substance, but also for Giacomo’s brilliant, glowing, and erudite style. I’ll ask the Zenatos to allow me to share it once it’s been published.

As a modest homage to one of the greatest Italian designers of all time, I’ve translated this quote, attributed to him on the Seminario Veronelli website (part of its tribute to him).

“Illustrating identity,” he said, “is a reflection of the greatest synthesis of the concept of design. This is how I’ve imagined and interpreted it over the course of my career. And it represents design’s most incisive and meaningful expression.”

Sit tibi terra levis Iacobe.

Most of the tributes to Giacomo you’ll find on the internet are in Italian. But please see this heartfelt ad memoriam in English by a printer that worked regularly with him.

See also this U.S. patent for a bottle shape that he filed in 1999, an example of his role as a wine trade trailblazer.

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