In an interview with S/ Magazine, Gian Luca Passi de Preposulo recalls his first memory with prosecco. He was ten years old and spent most of his day sitting on his father’s lap, helping him drive a tractor through wine fields, harvesting grapes. For dinner, he would be accompanied by grandparents, cousins, and family dogs to celebrate a hard day’s work. They would enjoy a glass of what they had spent the day of harvesting, and would give small tastes to Gian Luca. In 2011, it only felt natural to him to create his own prosecco with his longtime friends, Pietro and Giovanni Ciani Bassetti.
How did you meet Pietro and Giovanni?
“We basically grew up together. Our families know each other from generations. There was no introduction. What really created the bond was the fact that we started playing rugby at age ten and we played for ten years together in the same team that is Benetton—Benetton is from Treviso, the city we’re from. At the age of 18-19, we moved to different places to study. The three of us moved to Milan—I started working in the fashion industry, Giovanni went to London to work in private banking, and Pietro went to Hong Kong to also work in private banking. Treviso is our aggregation—the point with our family, where we grew up—so we’ve always been attached to each other. This really started our passion and our idea in 2011 to do something together. We wanted to leverage our family’s business, but do our own. That’s when we created Fiol. It connected us back to our land, to our DNA, and it was an excuse to go back.”
When was the first time that you realized you wanted to make prosecco with your partners?
“It was 2011, but it began with us growing up in a winery with our families. Going to do the harvest starting when we were five years old, sitting on the laps of our fathers and driving the tractor was fascinating. I remember driving our motor-cross, a small one, within the lines of the winery. It was always a memory that I keep and a memory that I want for the future generations. It’s part of our DNA and I think that it’s a part of our tradition. But of course, making it in a different way, scaling it in a different way, with all of the assets that come from our own jobs—from marketing and PR on my side, Giovanni and Pietro bringing finance and corporations.”
How did you come up with the name Fiol?
“Fiol is basically a word from the 16th century—from the Venetian dialects—that is still used today. Back then, it was to refer to my son—’my little son’—and now it’s still to appoint a kid, but also, it’s to appoint the cool guy in your group of friends that is the example for others. So, if someone appoints you, you are an example for the others in the group to be, so Fiol is the cool guy.”
What is your ideal setting that involves Fiol?
“First of all, it’s a sparkling wine. Sparkling has always been intended for celebration and it already brings up a friendly and celebratory environment. We’ve been lucky enough the culture changed in a way that [prosecco] is not only intended for celebrations. Nowadays, you can pop a bottle of Fiol to celebrate every day of your life. That’s the ideal environment. What they see is a group of girlfriends having brunch on a Sunday and popping a bottle of Fiol and toasting. But also, I intend Fiol to be not only by itself in a glass, but also intended for mixology. This to me is a key element to present Fiol because with mixology, you have two very important opportunities—to work with the bartender and the mixologist that are the artists behind the bar. They can create limitless choices of drinks using Fiol and address it to the different tastes of people—it’s like a designer drawing a sketch for a new dress. You start from nothing, and you can do the same with Fiol. I really like having the mixologists involved with Fiol more and more, starting from very common drinks that everyone knows—like the Bellini, that was made in Venice, and the apple spirits that was brought by the Austrians 70 years ago when they conquered the Venetian region. Venice is the base. I think that it shows the versatility of Fiol but also of processco in general.”
What is your favourite memory involving Fiol?
“Well, we’re not that old. I think a great memory was after we did a year of research, we came across the blend that we intended to be for Fiol. All of us agreed on the right blend and it was not only based on the decision from the winemakers. In the beginning we had some issues—the local winemakers that were making their blend, based on their palette, were used to drinking sparkling wine for 50 years. To have the pleasure of drinking it, it needed that very strong bubble to really feel it. We also noticed that the strong bubble was not a request of the people approaching the sparkling world for the first time. This cultural change brought a new customer that didn’t want too much of a bubble because it creates too much acidity—like sometimes when you have wonderful champagne, you drink and after two sips, you leave it there because it’s too much. We didn’t want that so when we came up with this blend—it was smoothing the bubble and bringing up the more fruity flavours of Fiol. There was a very important moment that followed immediately with the recognition from the industry.”
Tell me about the first time you drank prosecco in your life.
“The first time, I was ten year old—I was very young. You do the harvest and then you finish with a great dinner, all together, everybody drinking. There are kids, there are dogs, there are grandfathers, so everyone drinks—it’s not like they give you a glass of prosecco to drink, but they make you taste the prosecco. I think it’s great even for a child to know the different taste. Italy is not very strict on when you’re allowed to drink.”
How did you first get involved with fashion?
“I was studying public relations and advertising in university in Milano. I’ve never been a great student—I never really liked to study, compared to my sister. I was always off playing rugby, training—I was playing for the national team as well. When I moved to Milano, I was going to university but most of the time I was hanging out, meeting new people. Within the group of those friends, there were a lot that were involved in the fashion industry and it was completely an opportunity. I remember the PR from this brand called me out of the blue one day and asked me if I wanted to go to their offices to have a chat. I think that it was something about wanting to take some pictures of me and then they asked me if I wanted to start working for an internship in the entertainment department. I was 21 so it was great—I basically jumped on it and here we are, 15 years later. It was a casualty, completely. Then I found myself fitting into this world very well.”
I read that Roberta Armani is your mentor, how did that come to be?
“Roberta was the person that I started working with. It was our department, so I was really lucky to be able to work with her and have her teach me the profession and also give me an opportunity within the company to start travelling around the world early on and create exceptional connections in every single country. When I was 25-26, I was already in France and in all of the major cities in the world, with someone to call to hangout with and also professional relationships—these are still people that I speak with now.”
What do you think was your biggest milestone during your fashion career?
“Not only for fashion but in general, you need to be able to turn and switch in a new situation and adapt yourself to a new environment—relate to not only other people in front of you, but to completely different cultures, from different ideologies, from different religions. That was one of the things I succeeded in, finding myself in different situations. Nowadays when I travel around the world, we get to spend times in places where we’ve never been for months, but I find myself creating my own circle of people and places within a couple of weeks, so it feels like home. It’s very fascinating and with Fiol, we’re lucky that prosecco is so popular right now—there’s probably only a few bars in the world that don’t sell it. So, I also created my own business when I travel and it’s a challenge for me—going into a new pitch and proposing Fiol and then creating my network within the place around there.”
Where do you see Fiol in five to ten years?
“In five to ten years, I see it as the leading prosecco brand in the world—probably not only prosecco, but in other wine categories as well.”
Can you tell me a bit more about the bottle?
“The kind of glass is called maximilian—it’s dark green. We wanted dark because I like it more and also, it helps the product inside not to be contaminated by the sun. Prosecco doesn’t exist vintage, it’s not champagne—it’s new for three to five years. We came up with the design of the five lines that are exactly like the poles [from the winery] in perspective, which represent the poles made by men to give support to the plant. This [points to DOC label] is very important and it comes from the plant that certifies it’s prosecco. This created the label to certify prosecco. Unfortunately, they only brought it out six years ago which means that there were 100 million bottles of prosecco in the world that were not prosecco but actually a mix of blends from the winery. You were thinking it was prosecco and it was not. Now with this, they certify it.”