Bele Casel: ColFondo’s social soul.
Enthusiasm and transparency.
This is how Luca Ferraro has convinced the world’s finest palates to drink a traditional wine from Treviso.
By Claudia Zigliotto
He’s never offline. Whether in the vineyards or the cellar, during harvest or pruning. The internet is Luca Ferraro’s gambit and his goal is clear: He wants to get peodple talking about Prosecco ColFondo beyond the confines of Treviso province where it is produced. Not just his ColFondo but everyone’s ColFondo, a category that has persevered over the years despite a challenging market. And so, together with his sister Paola, wife Giuliana, and parents Antonella and Danile, he manages the family’s winery Bele Casel in Asolo and today ColFondo has touched the lips of every tastemaker in the world of wine.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram: Luca uses the future to bet on the past. There may be many who use social media to communicate but there are few who are able to do so effectively when it comes to their work. He is one of the latter because he really believes in the internet, a place where he’s encountered success, dialog, and genuine exchanges with other users. Over time, his spontaneity has won over bloggers, journalists, and opinion leaders and he has piqued their interest with his tales of a traditional wine that is refermented in bottle and is served cloudy. ColFondo has become a rapidly growing trend on the web and even the world’s most refined palates have embraced it.
Today, Bele Casel can boast of impressive numbers on the web. Its Facebook has more than 2,000 likes. Its Twitter, more than 5,000 followers, and its Instragram 2,300. But more than anything, the results have been important for him. Luca Ferraro’s ColFondo is now sold in English and Japanese wine shops. And Massimo Bottura has chosen it as the only Porsecco on Osteria Francescana’s wine list. We recently interviewed Luca. Here’s what he had to say, starting from the beginning.
For a few years we didn’t produce Prosecco that was refermented in bottle. It was a friend of mine who introduced me to it a few years ago. One evening, after chatting over two bottles of his cloudy wine, which we drank without giving it a second thought. That’s when I understood that this was wine that deserved our attention. It still had a lot to say. My father always taught me that you can tell whether a wine is good or not if you finish the whole bottle. And that evening, it struck me that ColFondo had everything it needed to become an important wine. It’s a wine that makes you feel good. In 2008, we did our first harvest.
How did you convince the others to believe in ColFondo?
When you believe in something, there’s no need to convince anyone else. They understand that you’re not lying. My approach is always the same, no matter who comes to visit the winery, whether someone important or just someone curious to learn more. I take them to see the vineyards and then I have them taste the wine, without any pressure.
You tell the story of your winery using the same transparency that you use on social media.
The web is an important place to share my daily work. I’ve found it to be fertile ground for creating healthy dialog among wine lovers. It’s also a place where we can all grow and learn. You can give your wine a voice. People decide to follow you and listen to you because they like what you are doing. It’s way to increase your wine knowledge and a way to make friends. But it also gives you an opportunity to teach people about your business.
In everything you say, there’s always a desire to compare notes with social media users.
The web is great for this exact reason. Word-of-mouth allows you to meet people who are really interested in what you do. This is what I look for on the web and in my life every day.
You started out on Twitter?
In 2009, when I first began using social media, I found that Twitter was a great place to start me down my path of sharing professionally on social media. At the time, it didn’t have very many users. But using the 140 characters of a tweet, I met many people who are still important to my business today. Then, little by little, I started to get those same conversations started on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. We shouldn’t forget about Vinix, the social networked created by Filippo Ronco and devoted to the world of wine. It really helped me a lot.
You used Twitter to organize events promoting ColFondo.
That’s right. They were called #colfòndo1, #colfòndo2, and “Colfòndo ethical eating.” Three events that started out small but then brought us bloggers, journalists, and producers who had all met on the web. Staring out in the virtual world, we managed to have a real-time conversation with them, each with a glass of our wine in their hand. The web isn’t an abstract world as many believe. Social networks create opportunity for those who can envision them.
Can you tell us how the #colfòndo events were organized?
The first, #colfòndo1, took place in Asolo in 2010. It was October. And there a number of bloggers there. They blind-tasted eight Prosecco ColFòndo, each from a different terroir. Initially, we were only going to allow for 40 participants. But the demand was so great that we repeated the event with #colfòndo2. In February 2011, we organized that event in a San Giacomo vinegar cellar in Reggio Emilia.
Each time, the wines were tasted blind. And the number of participants was limited to 30, including sommeliers, journalists, and wine lovers.
The third event, “Colfòndo and ethical eating,” was different. It was held in 2012, right after the earthquake in Emilia. And so we decided to donate all the proceeds — the ticket sales and wine sales — to people who were affected by the earthquake.
These three experiences were small revolutions for the world of wine. They got people to pay attention to wines that weren’t well known at the time.
From that point onward, you’ve continued to make a lot of progress on the web and your presence there continues to be more and more real. Can you give us an example?
My wine today is sold abroad: England, Japan, Australia, and the U.S. The web played a big role in achieving this. My current British importer, for example, is one of the most famous historic importers in the world. And we met thanks to a mutual friend on social media. They were looking for a Prosecco and she mentioned us. It didn’t take long for a virtual friendship to transform itself into a sale. Today, this same importer sells my ColFòndo in Japan. And I could say the same thing about my Italian distributor. We met them through world of mouth on the web.
Is the web falling in love with ColFòndo?
There are many tasters and wine lovers who want to discover new wines. They’re the type of wine enthusiasts who are always willing to try something new and they love to experiment. And they are also people who love to hear stories.
Which social media platform is the most interesting today in your opinion?
Instagram. Images have so much to say. But more than anything, it’s very functional. The same photo that you upload on Instagram is reposted on Facebook and Twitter as well. With just one click, you have a handle on all of your networks.
Which networks still have a lot to say?
Pinterest is another social network that works using images. I don’t follow it as closely as I should but it’s really turning out to have great potential. It was practically by accident that I discovered that a photo I had uploaded on my profile had been shared roughly 1,000 times. This means that a photo of my wine had been seen by a lot of people. And all of them were people that I didn’t already know.
Vineyard work is hard. Come do you find time for tweeting and posting?
I don’t have a television. I spend my free time with my family, my bike, and telling the story of what I do on the web. I also have a blog called “Vineyard Diaries,” where I explain my work in greater detail. I launched the blog in 2009 to gather together all of the information posted on my social networks where news moves fast. Everything I write, remains on the blog, just as in a diary.
Any last advice for those who are beginning to use the web for the first time?
Don’t just throw yourself onto the heap. It’s important to take a look around, to listen, and to understand who is really worth paying attention to. But most of all, look for discussions where there’s something to learn. It’s a little bit like all things in life. You need to be curious and you need to have the courage to be open to different ideas.