An encounter with one of Italy’s most famous persons reveals the small big world of Italian wine.

As the young woman introduced him, her voice bubbled over with the joy of presenting one of her idols.

When she was deciding on her career path many years ago, she told the group of wine professionals, her father gave her one of the speaker’s books. Read this before choosing your future, he told her. The insights and wisdom she found in those pages led her to choose a life in wine.

Today, she is the marketing director for one of the largest importers of Italian wine in the world and a widely respected figure in the trade.

My Vinitaly hadn’t officially started when I managed to snag a spot at that importer’s sales retreat at the swank Villa Sparina in Gavi. The featured presenter that day was none other than Oscar Farinetti, Italy’s celebrity entrepreneur cum pop philosopher cum motivational speaker.

In north American, he’s known primarily as the founder of Eataly and one of Italy’s richest people. But in Italy he’s a genuine megastar — Malcolm Gladwell meets Tony Robbins.

He was there to talk about wine and more specifically, his wines, which said importer imports to the U.S.

But instead of talking about his wineries, he gave a colorful speech about the art of selling Italy.

Everyone should go out and buy themselves a copy of Dante and Boccaccio, he advised in his opener. Those early Italian works, he said, reveal the richness and breadth of Italian culture and its many treasures.

He then launched into one of his famous litanies of figures and facts. Italy, he pointed out, covers only a small amount of the world’s land surface. But it is home to more iconic works of art than any other country in the world, large or small.

You couldn’t be more fortunate, he exhorted the group, to be selling western civilization’s greatest cultural resource.

He also made some interesting observations about how organic foods and wines are perceived by the market. The word organic will increasingly be interpreted as an antonym for death, he predicted. An extreme but well pondered consideration.

My official Vinitaly wouldn’t start for another two days. But on that overcast chilly day in Gavi, I was reminded of how small the big world of Italian wine really is.

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