«Raise the glasses to the philosophy of the gypsy»

One hundred thousand bottles with six labels are a path that, started in 2015, has achieved an extraordinary result. La Tognazza is a proposal aimed at those who recognize themselves in the same philosophy of life: “Vivi e lascia vivere”, live and let live. Today the company in the Castelli Romani is its first activity, wine its independence. The story of a son who, raise the glasses, celebrates the spirit of the gypsy.

by Gino Morabito

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One day I asked my mother if she remembered how the idea of ​​the supercazzola (non sence) was born and she told me that my father, a few months before filming, invited to the Monicelli estate accompanied by Benvenuti and De Bernardi, the two screenwriters. They were here to eat and drink until four in the morning every evening for a week and, during a dinner, while they were talking about what the supercazzola would look like, lost drunks began to mumble completely invented expressions. From there I understood that that wine, which is the ancestor of ours, had a fundamental role in getting them drunk and in making them invent the terms of the supercazzola.

Everything starts from Ugo, from his great foresight …

… Starting with the importance of serving, presentation and sight, elements that it brings to Italy in unsuspected times, through the French cuisine of Paul Bocuse, when nobody was still turning with the trays. As well as reinventing recipes by rereading tradition. Obviously, in his reinterpretation, some were genius, others attempts that resulted in unthinkable gambling. He loved to experiment, even in cinema he risked making characters to the limit. From Ugo still has the invention of having called this place to the Castelli Romani La Tognazza.

La Tognazza with the a.

Farm, winery, estate are all female, so it could not have been called La Tognazzi, and since then this form of self-irony on the surname is a sort of brand, which however he never thought of becoming a company. It was something profoundly “Ugoistico”, for himself, and to make his friends take advantage of it. And than Amici miei, the title of the film, but above all the conviviality of experiencing wine, dinner, sharing. All these elements are the basis of the philosophy of the company which, having become a brand, has thought of making wine seriously, trying to grow and improve, since it was founded in 1969. I grew up with that philosophy of life and with these vineyards. Then, like all the kids of that age, I ran away from the countryside to go back as an adult, when I felt the call to the origins.

At the roots of Ugo style.

Once here in Velletri, we started making wine only with the grapes we had, the Lazio ones: namely Syrah, Merlot and Chardonnay, which gave birth to the Amici miei line, to pay homage to Ugo’s lifestyle : hyperserium in cooking and very little serious in convivialising around dinner. In the same way, the five of us at La Tognazza are a small nucleus that seriously approaches the product, less seriously at the communication around it. This is the reason why the three wines, the two reds and the white, which make up the Amici miei line, initially did not have a name.

A communication that inspires starting from the labels.

They have a certain type of graphics, a certain color; a suggestion and a musical reference. They do not report the vintages but the records: the wines released in 2019 are the eighteen act. What we write on the labels are the suggestions that our wines can transmit. A bit as if they influenced the tasting.

Wines that reveal different characters but united by the spirit of the gypsy.

We realized that we could not be alone with the historical basic line, deciding to produce three other different wines with the vineyards taken in Tuscany. With Tuscan Merlot and Syrah and with Sangiovese we have created the Conte Mascetti: a wine made to look young but which then opens into a weight structure. It is a wine that embodies the philosophy of the gypsy of Amici miei, so much so that the gypsy machine is depicted on the label. Still with the Tuscan vines, we built the Voglia Matta: a pure Chardonnay that makes between twelve and fourteen months of first passage barriques. In the first edition of three years ago it had become too complex, and we wanted it to be a wine, yes important but not so complex in the management of temperature, oxygenation and its perception, even for an audience not necessarily expert. So we removed the work in malolactic, we slightly decomposed it and the gradation went from 14.5% to 13.8%. Thanks to these measures, today the Voglia Matta is a fair mediation between what we wanted and what our audience expects, from the less experienced to the more refined. To conclude in a more traditional way with the Casa Vecchia, which takes the name of the house next to the one in which I live today with my family.

The Casa Vecchia, between historical-emotional bond and building rivalry.

The Casa Vecchia is the original one, which my father initially expanded for the needs of the growing family. He competed with Gassman for those who widened more: the latter had a home on the mountainous side of Velletri, that of Mount Artemisio, the most wooded part; Ugo, on the other hand, chose the neckline overlooking the sea, an area more suitable for cultivation. Each year they invited each other to their respective homes, to show each other how much they had grown. It had become a construction tender. Then one day Ugo took the trouble to enlarge the Casa Vecchia and called his cousin Sandro, an architect, commissioning him to build a house next to it that was twice the existing and completely different one. He wanted it modern and futuristic for the seventies, reinforced concrete and wood. We came to live in this, and in that we were the birthplace and dinners.

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85% Sangiovese and 15% Cabernet-sauvignon.

I transformed the Casa Vecchia, which became our reception center, in part into a museum for Ugo – it seemed right to me, since all the ideas of his films were born here. It has a historical value, as well as emotional, for what it has represented and for the input it has given to Italian cinema. It is no coincidence that our most important wine, which is 85% Sangiovese and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, is called Casa Vecchia. Here are the two lines presented: the Conte Mascetti, with the namesake Conte Mascetti, the Voglia Matta and the Casa Vecchia, and the other Amici miei, with the Tapioco, the Come se fosse and the Antani.

Date a Ugo quello che e’ di Ugo “Render unto Ugo”.

Alessandro Capria and I, my Milanese partner transplanted to the Castelli Romani for reasons of the heart, started from the idea that Render unto Ugo. As an authentic precursor, he was already doing twenty years earlier the things of which many have paternity. He did them when many also made fun of him: I refer to cooking shows and programs on cooking fashion, to the five books written on the subject; I speak of “Nuova cucina”, the first glossy haute cuisine magazine in Italy, of which he was the editor for ten years. At least we recognize Ugo’s great talent as a forerunner, starting, why not, from the wine and the suggestions linked to the movies … There are some people around a bottle who have seen Amici miei and make him known to friends … Maybe, starting from his great love for the earth, Ugo can be rediscovered as an artist.

Intellectual honesty of an antidivo.

My life is an act of great gratitude to my father, for the well-being he has made me live, for the extraordinary fun and intellectual honesty he has shown me, also in knowing how to admit his mistakes. His honesty is one of those things for which those who knew him still feel affection for him. He was always the antidivo star, an accessible man; that type of person who got along well with the President of the Republic and with the worker, with the farmer and with the illustrious colleague. At our dinners you could find the most absurd mixes, people who came from totally different backgrounds and environments. This transversal nature, both in the family and outside (because Ugo was what you saw), made him intimate, familiar, accessible and close to those who knew him. For this reason, in my life, even personal satisfactions always hide in some way an act of gratitude for what our father handed down to us.

A “poor” artist to maintain a wealthy family.

Ugo, because if I called him dad he didn’t turn around, he wasn’t the kind of person who, in front of the others, expressed who knows what compliments towards his children! Rather. The most beautiful game he loved to play during dinners was to teas us. He enjoyed saying that he was a poor man who supported a wealthy family. He asked me to show my teeth and stressed that the device that had made me put on it was as expensive as a Panda, adding “li mortacci tua!”. With us at home, that type of attitude, such as teasing and swearing, has never been perceived as an offense, rather it was the greatest act of affection. Words were a game, those were a supercazzola too; they did not have the specific gravity that bigots give to the dirty word. On the contrary, when Ugo did not have those excessive expressions, we worried.

From father to son.

In my relationship with him, compared to my brothers, I have had the longest contrast, precisely in the decision-making age, that is, in the period from adolescence to adulthood. That’s a time he didn’t love. As happens in every family, all of us children have had contrasts with Ugo in adolescence: he left us free to make mistakes, although he did not approve, but he did not hide from us that our attitude annoyed him. From there arose the altercations. I took them ahead of my other brothers.

From Crak in a theater-off to the complicity of two friends for the skin.

I never expected that at the first of Crack he would have sprung up in exalted feet, red, shamelessly screaming “good!”, With an anger almost as if he wanted to do shows like that too. It was set in the boxing world, in a scrambled gym, in a theater-off in Rome. We staged it before Ugo died, and he was literally kidnapped. From that moment on we became peers and accomplices; we started telling each other things, even the most hidden ones, and making jokes like friends do. My only regret is that I was only able to do it for those nine months, from January ’90 to October of the same year, when he unfortunately left. That period with my father was fundamental in my life.

Raise the glasses.

As for us children, Ricky is the most skilled in the kitchen; Maria Sole is the expert in restaurants; Thomas, who is in Norway, when he comes to Italy, asks me to supply him with products from the land, to Maria Sole to be accompanied in restaurants and Ricky to cook for him. Each of us took a part of Ugo, Ugo Tognazzi.