FLORENCE, ITALY - Giovanni Geddes da Filicaja was born in Florence in 1945, coming from a Scottish (Geddes) and an Italian (da Filicaja) family. He is the eldest of six siblings and grew up speaking English, French and Italian. He studied Economics at the University of Florence and entered the wine business in Italy in the early 1970s, eventually becoming CEO of Rémy Cointreau's Italian company. After 12 years as CEO of Antinori (the largest Italian fine wine company), he took on the challenge of re-organizing the worldwide distribution for the Remy Cointreau Group. At the same time, he started consulting for Frescobaldi on their joint venture project called "Luce della Vite," with the Robert Mondavi Corporation. In 1996, Giovanni became CEO of Frescobaldi and in 1999 became CEO of Tenuta dell'Ornellaia, which produces the brilliant wines: Ornellaia and Masseto.
Where were you born?
What was your best memory growing up?
Walking in the country with my father, an agronomist and a cavalry officer, who pointed out how the use of machinery helped rationalize labor. This was in the fifties when Tuscany still had the mezzadria system and men worked 10/12 hours a day.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I had no specific idea, I knew it had to be something I really enjoyed and which involved travelling the world.
Where/what did you study?
Languages and Economics in Florence. One thing I love is rationalizing dreams and translating them into plans.
Any formal wine training?
I spent my childhood on the family estates, living with the annual cycle of wine production, which even if not sophisticated, was part of our lives. Wine was an important part of my life and always interested me.
Who was your mentor?
In the early years, my father, but later on in life a much older friend, a lawyer with great experience and commonsense.
What are your views on agriculture: Sustainable? Organic? Biodynamic?
Sustainable agriculture is a must for the future of human beingS. At Ornellaia we also use a large part of organic and biodynamic techniques in viticulture.
What was the best advice you ever received?
The first impression is almost always right, but think before you express your view.
What instantly brings a smile to your face?
Seeing how my four-year-old grandson Rodolfo copies anything I do or say.
What instantly makes you frown?
Vulgarity and bad taste.
Outside wine, what is your passion?
History has fascinated me since childhood. I am convinced that knowledge of the past will make you understand how the future may evolve. Human nature repeats itself, although we have learnt to resolve our differences with less violence.
What was the last music you downloaded?
I don't download music, but the Beatles still sounds in my ears, a reminder of some of the best years of my life spent in the late 60s in London
What is the last movie you saw?
Recently I saw again Il mestiere delle armi by Ermanno Olmi which I consider a great Italian film. It is the last week of the life of Giovanni de Medici and the troops of Emperor Charles V in 1527. My passion for history!
What's your guilty secret?
A large glass full of ice and a light red wine on a very hot day.
What "addiction" would you most like to give up?
Collecting decanters. I shall have to give it up; I simply don't know where to put them.
What are you craving right now?
It's a scorching summer evening, so a glass of cold Krug Clos du Mesnil.
Are you superstitious?
No, but I don't want to upset people who are, so I never seat 13 at one table.
Sunday: Brunch or Lunch?
Light lunch, no breakfast, so I concentrate on dinner.
Who was the first person you spoke to today?
Renato Balsadonna, Director of the Royal Opera Choir at Covent Garden, who is visiting us at Ornellaia.
Early to rise, late to bed; burn the candle at both ends?
The first from habit, but it takes some time to get going in the morning. I am at my best from 5pm to midnight.
How do you keep in shape?
Walking and bicycling, I only take the car to leave Florence.
Diet or eat everything?
Never diet. I only eat one meal a day and haven't touched spirits in 30 years and only drink wine, with occasional days of water e basta.
What are you reading now?
Catherine the Great of Russia, and rereading Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples.
Favorite place to vacation?
Skiing and walking in Lech, Austria.
Favorite local hotel?
Do not use hotels in Florence but in Rome an old fashioned one next to my daughter Lisa, Hotel Locarno.
Favorite hotel in the world?
Favorite local restaurant?
La Pineta at Marina di Bibbona in Maremma, Luciano Zazzeri serves incomparable fish. My favorite is spaghetti with octopus and a bottle of Ornellaia.
Favorite restaurant in the world?
Le Grand Vefour at Palais Royal in Paris, possibly also the most beautiful restaurant in the world.
Favorite city to visit?
Favorite wine/vintage from your winery?
Ornellaia 2007, not the most powerful but great elegance and finesse.
Favorite wine/vintage, that is not yours?
Chateau Calon Segur 1929 in a magnum, probably fascinated by the age.
Favorite shop to buy clothes?
I go to my tailor for most things, shirts made in Hong Kong, ties Jermyn Street, hats from Lock's on St James's Street. Sportswear I buy in New York.
I am an orphan of a wonderful London shoemaker called Wildsmith, still looking for a replacement; meanwhile my cobbler keeps me going.
If you can choose your perfect last supper before leaving this world, what would it be, who would it be with and what would you drink with it?
A Roman trattoria, a steaming plate of spaghetti all'Amatriciana and a great wine, perhaps Ornellaia 2007.