Erik Banti, a wine producer nearby my rural Tuscan spa resort, puts his name on everything. Just like Marc Jacobs. Wine bottles, barrels, souvenirs, street signs, you-name-it, and he won’t let you forget it. His product is reliable and internationally known, and he’s been featured in VOGUE. He’s intimately involved with his ad campaigns—except photographing, not modeling nude. And, as I’m told, he throws the best rooftop parties in town.

He’s one of those people whose list of accolades grows with every minute you know them. Oh, you’re also a golf champ? A well-known photographer? And you’re funny? And a Yankee fan? AND you own and operate one of the best wine businesses in one of the most fruitful wine regions on the entire planet?

That’s Erik Banti. He also told great stories too. Here’s one of my favorites… because, of course. Erik Banti is also a friend to the environment.

Wine barrels are historically round. Three hundred years ago it was the only shape that barrel makers could seal with air-tight assurance; perpendicular wood planks risked contact with oxygen. (Oxygen and impurities are the 2 enemies of good wine.) Also, barrels could roll. Did you want to be the guy stuck lifting them? Didn’t think so.

Fast forward to the modern, Medieval Palace-like wine cellars of Erik Banti.

Most of his hundreds (thousands?) of oak barrels with aging wine inside are the typical round ones, but he has one stand-out wall of square ones. Think of it as his trophy wall. They all have Erik Banti’s logo on it; he’s one of the few wine guys out there ballsy enough to break tradition. Technology has advanced; air-tight squares on wheels are no problemo.

But the reason to change them from round to square is this: after each has run its course as a wine barrel (about 5 years), he repurposes them into furniture. “I like knowing my wine barrels have a second life,” he said with his big charming toothy smile. “Most wine manufacturers are scared of change, but there’s no reason they can’t all be square now to make furniture.”

And who else makes furniture? BOOM. Well, Marc Jacobs opened up Bookmarc on Bleecker Street. Books, furniture, close enough.

Since I’m not the best person in the world to explain how wine is made, especially not after one tour with occasional language barriers, here are some photos of the wine region and Erik Banti’s factory, all taken by Erik Banti. Because any time I tried to take a picture he’d remind me: “I have better ones! I’m giving you the CD!”

Here is where the grapes go first. The object of a grape entering these masher/filters is to  capture its goodness, which is ALL in the skin. The insides are just water, so they are not important. He used his Yankee cap as a grape to demonstrate the whole thing, so I understood.

This is Erik Banti’s party space, which connects to the rooftop.

He said when I come back to the Maremma he’ll throw me a party. Marc Jacobs never said that to me… so Erik Banti, you win! Marc Jacobs also doesn’t make wine. Although he is opening a restaurant

Today’s WIN ITALIA Question:

To win luggage packed with souvenirs from Rome and Tuscany

What’s your favorite kind of wine?

Spa-rrividerci!

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