MILAN — Milan’s Via Montenapoleone District marks the 10th anniversary of its Vendemmia, or wine harvest event, this week, ending Oct. 13 and celebrating fashion, luxury and wine, drawing crowds of cognoscenti — and curious onlookers.
Renzo Rosso on Thursday took the time to catch up with WWD on the development of Diesel Farm, a sprawling estate he bought in 1993. Located in Marostica, near Vicenza, the farm is not far from the headquarters of Rosso’s OTB group, which controls Diesel, Marni and Maison Margiela among others. Sitting on the upper floor of the Margiela store here prompted Rosso to enthuse about the performance of the brand, which has logged 68 percent growth in global same-store sales. “It’s a rocket,” said Rosso of the upward trajectory of the brand. “Sales in this store jumped 86 percent compared with last year. Can you believe it? And I’m happy because after two years of lost sleep, Diesel is also picking up and turning a page.”
Sipping on Diesel Farm’s Icon di Rosso, a new entry, the entrepreneur proudly noted that his Rosso di Rosso Merlot and Cabernet ranked 92 on the prestigious Robert Parker 100-point rating system — or “outstanding.”
Rosso admitted his stance in fashion and placing his first bottles back in 1999 in the high-end range of the market were not enough to secure the respect of the wine industry. “You must really prove yourself before you can think you are part of this circle — I was taken down a peg or two,” said Rosso.
He’s come a long way, as Rosso casually throws in the name of Bono as a regular fan. Diesel Farm now produces 25,000 bottles per year and 3,200 liters of oil. “Everything is entirely certified as bio,” pointed out Rosso, who is a shareholder in Naturasì, a chain of stores that sells biological products. Traditional agronomic techniques are mixed with innovative ones such as flower green manuring and dry farming. As part of its mission to enhance biodiversity, Diesel Farm grows many melliferous plant species to help protect bees — which are at risk of extinction.
A son of farmers, Rosso believes in caring for and safeguarding the territory. “There is a lot of talk about sustainability and carbon neutrality, planting trees and so on. Well, I saved those hills from speculative urbanism as they were to be parceled out and turned into residential compounds — now it’s all a park. This is true sustainability,” contended Rosso. Diesel Farm is also a place that allows secrecy as he revealed he negotiated for two years — and completely undisturbed — the arrival of John Galliano at the helm of Margiela in 2014.
Diesel Farm is located 300 meters above sea level, covering 100 hectares. “It’s at a special crossroads of winds that are favorable to growing unique high-quality crops: the wind that blows in from the Adriatic Sea and the one that descends from the Pre-Alps create a special microclimate,” said Rosso. “The sea is 55 kilometers away and the mountains are also 55 kilometers away. Diesel Farm is spread out over five hills and five is my magic number, since it has always brought me luck.” Meadows are home to cows, goats, sheep, horses and hens, as well as wild boars, roe deer, squirrels and birds, including falcons.
The vineyard’s land map shows Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc, Chardonnay, Merlot and Pinot Noir for bottles of Rosso di Rosso, Bianco di Rosso and Nero di Rosso, retailing at between 90 and 150 euros. Grappa di Rosso and Olio di Rosso, extra virgin olive oil, cold-pressed and organic, round off the production. Distribution is highly selective in countries ranging from Japan and China to Italy and other European nations. Rosso was also proud of the bottles, which stand out with a special seal lacquered by hand and labels with notes and thoughts handwritten by the entrepreneur.
“Just like our tailor-made designs, my dream is to have a wine atelier, a high-quality wine artisan workshop,” he said. Already grapes are only picked when the seeds are ripe. “This explains why we harvest grapes on different days, although they are in the same vineyard, since the grapes are ready for picking at different times depending on their exposure to the sun. It’s a lot of hard work but wonderful at the same time because each blend will then tell a different story through a unique sensory experience.”