by Ilaria Sismondini BAROLO PIEDMONT. The Agrirock Festival “Collisioni” is “…the essence of what a festival nowadays should be..” special guest Patti Smith recently said. Set in the UNESCO World Heritage wine region of the Langhe Hills since 2009, every year in July the Festival attracts a large audience in the village of Barolo. The village is renowned for its vineyards and its variety of delicious red wines. Barolo is quite small (5,6 sq. km) with a population of 750 inhabitants. It is quite easy to reach the Langhe area in one-hour drive from the Turin airport. The place offers beautiful sights, good restaurants, hotels, and farm holiday resorts. If you name Barolo to any Italian people, you’ll see their eyes lit up at the thought of the delicious wines and food produced there. The legendary names of the surrounding towns of La Morra, Barbaresco, Monforte e Serralunga appear in the top restaurant wine lists across Italy. Plenty of people, mainly wine connoisseurs, from the entire world visit Barolo every year and join the music and literature festival Collisions in July. This year Collisioni expects more than one hundred thousand people.
The festival is a crossover of different artistic languages and generations, taking for granted that literatures as well as music aren’t but narrative forms able to communicate ideas and emotions. The parallel presence of literature conferences of some of the most prestigious international authors during the day and international concerts during the evenings creates a unique atmosphere. For four days the village on the top of the hills turns into an open-air non-stop stage where the audience attend lectures, readings and concerts. The concert arena is placed in the natural amphitheatre of the main village square, surrounded by the ancient vineyards of the ﬁve “grand crus of the Barolo wine”. Bob Dylan chose the location among the others for his only Italian concert in 2012 and in the same edition by Patti Smith.
In 2013 Collisioni was the Jamiroquai’s choice for his only Italian concert, and in 2014 Collisioni was chosen by Deep Purple and by Neil Young for their only concerts in Italy. The 2015 edition had live performances by Mark Knopfler, Paolo Nutini, Sting and Passenger. In 2016 Elton John and Mika performed in concert at the Collisioni Festival, along with Italian music stars. Literature, culture and art guests in the past editions of the festival have been Salman Rushdie, Paul Auster, the Oscar winner director Michael Cimino, Don DeLillo, the Nobel prize José Saramago, Vidia Naipaul and Svetlana Aleksievic, Ian McEwan, Bret Easton Ellis, David Grossman, Roberto Saviano, Suzanne Vega, Jonathan Coe, James Ellroy, David Sedaris, Jeffery Deaver, Art Spiegelman, Don Winslow, Richard Ford, Atom Egoyan, Abel Ferrara, and Michel Houellebecq among many others.
Since the beginning, Collisioni was looking forward to creating a kind of symbolical country, a global crossroad of different cultures where people could share experiences, thoughts, and emotions. “Collisioni” is the biggest literature and music event in Piedmont and it is granted by the Piedmont Region to promote culture and art. Therefore, tanks to also to some important sponsors ‘support, in 2010 “Collisioni” launched the Youth Project, in order to actively involve the new generations in cultural events. Every year “Collisioni” provides with boarding about 300 literature and arts’ students coming from all Europe, especially from the poorest regions who couldn’t otherwise enjoy cultural activities. Every year during the festival some of the most important Italian singers and writers organize meetings with the youth to speak about urgent matters. In exchange, they cooperate on stage as musicians and actors, they help video makers and photographers, and especially they make the event more colorful and lively.
It’s been four years since “Collisioni” decided to enrich its art, literature and music program with a project dedicated to the Italian wine&food patrimoine. Created by the wine expert and writer Ian D’Agata, this year Collisioni Wine Project welcomes more than 70 selected experts from 11 Countries around the world for more than 60 events: tastings, speeches, meeting with producers and winery visits.
Wine has been made and produced here from Roman times. Her there are villages and castles whose names have been given to wines, produced on specific selected hillsides. The Barolo area is the heaven of food as well. The lower slopes of the wine planted hills are the proper ground for the cultivation of a special hazelnut, base for many sweet preparation, like i.e. Nutella. Signature dishes are the handmade egg noodles called “tajarin”, richly topped with butter and sage or meat sauce, or porcini mushrooms, and of course with the precious white Alba truffle. “Agnolotti” is the name of the local ravioli stuffed with mixed meat, often braised slowly in red wine. It is not food for faint-hearted people, and they go well with the local red wines.
For the “Collisioni” chapter of “Wine as a guest star”, Montecarlotimes interviewed Ian D’Agata and Antonio Galloni.
Ian D’Agata is the Creative director of Collisioni’s Wine&Food project. He is also Senior Editor at Vinous, Scientific Advisor of Vinitaly International and Scientific Director of the Vinitaly International Academy. Ian is the winner of the 2015 Louis Roederer International Wine Awards Book of the Year with his Native Wine Grapes of Italy. The first Italian wine writer ever been so honoured he is also the winner of 2017 Cuvée Aawrd of Excellence, a Canadian wine award. He lectures on Italian wines and wine culture at NYU Master’s Program in Food Sciences (US) and at the Italy campus in Florence.
Q. Ian, what is your frank opinion on “Collisioni”?
A. “I am really glad I joined forces with Collisioni for the development of a cultural project about wine culture that aims to become a pool of prestige and international appeal. Collisioni is an outstanding festival, that succeeds in gathering together important international artists such as Sting, Mark Knopfler and Nobel Prizes as Herta Muller or Vidia Naipaul as no other in Italy. Here, culture and art support Regional traditional food and wine all around Italy and abroad.”
Q. How did you succeed in building up a such complex program?
A. The program was made possible by the collaboration of the many wine producers and Regional realities, which are long-run partners of “Collisioni”. I tried to respond to a double interest: on the one hand, the purpose was to bring to the festival some of the most important wine critics and journalists from all over the world, in order to develop a relationship between international experts and producers and products from all over Italy. On the other hand, I was looking forward to offering a panel of didactic tastings and meetings to a wider public. A series of dynamic and appealing events to meet the expectations of those who come to Collisioni every year to discover the finest wines and learn how to appreciate them as well››.
Antonio Galloni was born in Caracas, Venezuela. Antonio’s fascination with wine started at an early age. His parents retailed Italian wines, while his maternal grandfather had a deep love for Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhône. As a teenager, though, Antonio was interested more in girls and guitars than academics. Burned out from four years of non-stop writing and performing, Antonio did what all artists do at some point…wait tables. Antonio became highly exposed to the wines of California and had the opportunity to sell early vintages of producers who would go on to receive the highest critical acclaim, including Alban, Harlan Estate and Shafer. Antonio then took a temporary job at Putnam Investments in Boston and was then sent on assignment to Milan, Italy.
Q. Antonio, tell us something about your idea of editing something unique, the Piedmont Report, in 2004.
A. “From 2000 to 2003 I had travelled across Italy meeting clients and taking the opportunity to experience first hand the cultural vastness that is Italy. While in Italy, I spent virtually every free moment in the cellars of Piedmont, Tuscany and Friuli. Back in the US I began to write a newsletter focusing on the wines of Piedmont in 2003, bringing together a lifetime of total immersion in Italian wine, deep influences from his time overseas and a broad vision informed by years of studying and performing music. Within weeks Piedmont Report had subscribers in more than 25 countries and quickly established itself as the premier guide in the world for Piedmont wines. The fact that I was the lead critic at “The Wine Advocate” helped me a lot .”
Q. And which are your future programs?
A. “After founding “Vinous” in 2013, I am running the world’s most followed bulletin board on Italian wines and I spearheaded TWA’s production of video content. I am developing tailored public events & seminars such as the highly anticipated “La Festa del Barolo,” with tastings focused on the benchmark wines of Italy, and I try to be useful creating many charity dinners.”