Strictly speaking, The Wine Society was originally set up as
a Mutual Friendly Society, not actually
a co-operative (despite our name). We
are owned by and exist for the benefit
of you, its members. The plain fact
that your Wine Society is
flourishing after nearly 150 years
proves what a good idea it was. It
is a tribute to the results of the
original team who conceived the idea
and the successive committees and
people who have managed it through
economic ups and downs. I believe the
concept is both original and sound.
Sound direction, focus and sense of
purpose have been key to the many
wine co-operatives I have
encountered. It was a joy last
autumn to revisit the
Produttori del Barbaresco – a
model example in my view. It has
an interesting story; and begins with
a man called Cavazza who in 1894
started producing Barbaresco in the
village castle (which he owned) under
the brand 'Cantine Sociali del
Castello', as an alternative to Barolo.
Two world wars and economic
recessions followed; a chance for
those who had money and drive like
Gaja to buy land. But in 1958 the local
priest in Barbaresco, Don Fiorino
Marengo, who had earned the respect
of the community, revived Cavazza's
vision and by the force of his charisma
persuaded 19 families to group
together to sell their wine. They had
three rules: firstly, they would only sell
wine made with nebbiolo and all their
grapes had to come to the co-op.
Next, they would only sell Barbaresco.
Lastly, members would be paid
according to the quality of their grapes.
They were lucky to have a
brilliant director to keep them
focused, Celestino Vacca, for
many years, and now his son Aldo
has maintained their reputation for
quality. Two of the original members
have set up on their own but now
54 are part of one of the most
successful co-operative operations in
Italy. The proof is their 2014
Barbaresco which is quite delicious,
and still fairly priced.
Let's raise a glass to them, to us, to all good co-ops great and small!
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