FIOL, the rebirth of Prosecco
While the majority of sparkling wine consumers still have trouble identifying different brands of Prosecco, FIOL wants to change this trend by placing its name first and then Prosecco. Here’s our interview with Gian Luca Passi de Preposulo, one of the co-founders of FIOL, one of those who want to put FIOL brand forward with innovative marketing and playing with its flagship product. I met him at The Bird Bar to follow him into a night of cocktails discoveries at Henden.
Interview with Gian Luca Passi de Preposulo of FIOL
So, welcome to Montreal Gian Luca, this is not the first time I’ve heard?
No, I stayed here for a month last year, I really love the city and I love the food and drink culture you have here. In Bogolia, where I come from, wine culture is more important than all of Canada.
How was the idea of FIOL born?
So back in 2011, my family and the one of my two partners, Giovanni and Pietro, have always been in the wine industry. For my family, it’s by selling the grapes to other people. So in 2011, after several years working away from Rome, I had been working in the fashion industry for about 9 years with Armani and Moncler (Gian Luca has a lot of style), and my two partners were in finance and in the private investment. We decided to start this project together by relying on something we grew up with, the Prosecco. But we decided to make our way by creating an assembly that would allow us to bring the product abroad. It should be understood that sparkling culture (including Champagne) around the world has been essentially developed over the last 10 years. Before the sparkling wine was only for parties like New Year, birthday, a party in a club, for example.
To celebrate something special?
Exactly. So, after 2008, with the financial crisis and people began to look for something more affordable to replace the Champagne and basically they discover the Prosecco by thinking cheaper wine, they expect a less good product. Instead, they find a product at a good price and of good quality. So things started to grow with the culture of creating cocktails. The most common are Aperol Spritz and Bellini, both of which make up two thirds of Prosecco and so when we started the company, and today there are more than 500 million bottles of Prosecco in the world and all come from the region of Veneto. The problem is that if you ask people in different countries of the world if they know about Prosecco, 95% will say yes, and when you ask them to name a brand of Prosecco, and they have no idea.The reason why, often, is that they go to a bar and ask for a Prosecco, and the bartender serves them what they own. They do not know what they drink and bartenders do not know what they are serving. It’s crazy if you think about it. For drinks of different categories, if I ask you what you want, you know, it’s the same for beer, water, vodka, champagne, tea, each category has brands and you know what brand you like and you can name 3 or 4 brands, for Prosecco you cannot name a brand. People do not know it because all the efforts, during all these years, they were to sell the product at a low price.
In the wine and spirits market, all well-established brands have invested heavily in the marketing and construction of their brands, and all that the Prosecco brands have done in all these years has been selling to discount. The representatives wanted to bring in the product so they were selling it cheaper at bars and restaurants, and after two months, the story repeats itself and repeats itself with another representative and even more discounts. So we tried one thing, sell only for consumption on the spot: in bars, restaurants, hotels, cafes with a stronger identity, with the customers we want to join with FIOL. In Canada, it’s different with the LCBO and the SAQ, which are your supermarkets (note: where you sell alcohol). So, how can we balance the trend? Either go to the SAQ / LCBO and see FIOL on the shelves and the on-site consumer experience, how we want to build our brand. So,check with our suppliers. That’s how people see the product when they go out and then buy it.
So, we created this project: “How do you FIOL?” It’s like, how do you feel, basically the definition.
So what does FIOL mean?
FIOL is a 17th-century word meaning my little son, my son. It is from time to time in the dialect. But also to make point, you are a fiol. You stand out as the cool guy from your group of friends. The “vial” means the band of cool.
So, “How do you FIOL? Is it a little cool or something like that?
Exactly, “How do you FIOL? is based on the creation of exceptional cocktails. Because it’s one thing to say that we love FIOL, but when you enter the mixology and you put the product in the hands of mixologists, which for me are like chefs in the kitchen,they can create something from scratch.We ask bartenders in our partner establishments of this program to create 4 cocktails each season. The cocktails are not based on what they are told to do, but they are created from what they serve in the restaurant. It will be associated with food. So when we do that, we create digital content for the restaurant, for us and for the restaurant customers. They see on social media that they can try these cocktails.
It must be difficult, if you want the cocktail that was served at the other bar / restaurant, you cannot have it 😉
You must return to this bar then 😉
This is a good thing. 😉
They keep changing, so the recipe keeps changing every month, it’s like the menu of a restaurant. The upscale restaurant changes the menu each season and offers new dishes. After the start of the program, we will keep track of the cocktails and add the best cocktails to our signature cocktails. So, it’s going to stay with the recipe; basically, people can make the cocktail at home, it’s like sharing the recipe. We give them privileges to get FIOL. We promote FIOL, we promote restaurants, we advertise what we sell and we educate our customers.
This is really a nice initiative, with the cocktail culture going well, and the growth of the Aperitivo around the world, the afterhours takes more and more space.
It’s even better when you are with your partner and your friends, the evening is so much better when you have a good cocktail in front of you. The cocktails elevate the experience. It’s another world. It’s already an art, we want to elevate the experience of our customers and it’s fantastic. We therefore correspond to the taste of our customers. You love more bitter, more sour, sweeter. For me, I want people to forget that it’s a Prosecco, I just want to hear FIOL.
It’s like when people ask for Bollinger, Moët, Veuve Clicquot or Krug?
Yes, that’s right, I know there is a lot of energy, a lot of conversations, education, everywhere. I find it very stimulating, very funny. At the moment, the bars really focus on improving the experience of their customers.
Interesting, and what is your type of cocktails? More bitter, sweeter?
It really depends, I’m really in this space where we just started this program, I must say that I discovered a gigantic culture in the cocktail industry be it at Tales of Cocktails in New Orleans and at the Bar Convent in Brooklyn last month and it was the first edition, the Bar Convent Berlin is the original and there will be about 15,000 people who will be there in October, it’s really impressive. We are treated like wine, but we see our product as a spirit. It’s a bit of a brainwashing, and it’s a bit difficult at first. We are looking for new goals by doing this. We come to disrupt the wine industry by doing it this way. FIOL is not a Super Tuscan nor a great Bordeaux, you know. It’s a wine I call sophisticated, but not pretentious. So when you open a bottle of FIOL, you do not have to think about it, it’s easy. It is with this one that we celebrate every day.
So what’s your favorite cocktail with FIOL, the one you do at home?
Well, I come from Veneto, I really grew up drinking Spritz, and I really like to experiment, I also do a culture around mixology. Having worked in the world of fashion, I see bartenders as designers who draw clothes. They do it at random, they know their favorites.
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What is the main target for FIOL, men, women, young, old?
Our first target, with FIOL by the glass is probably more women, but when you enter the category of creation of cocktails, we touch different categories. In Italy, it’s 10-year-olds (laughs).
It’s funny that you say that, because when I was younger, my parents served wine with water and that’s how I started.
Even when I was harvesting and eating together, children, children, parents, friends and children tasted Prosecco. Not a drink in full, but the father gave them a sip of that glass.
It’s responsible, it was education.
Educate on the taste exactly.
If it was not for this experience, maybe you would not do what you are doing today. You had this experience and you grew up with that memory. How was the transition from fashion to wine. As you said, the process with the sketch and everything, there is a bit of a link.
Yes, I started in the fashion world at the age of 21. Then I moved to Milan, and I found myself in this environment, I had an incredible career working in mode and at this moment I still work with Moncler on projects. It was, and it’s still something I enjoy doing, but it’s my DNA, where I come from. I feel that I am on a mission, my roots. We started in 2011 and they decided to protect the area by creating the Prosecco DOC consortium, they identify and protect the area and it’s something that Champagne has for 250 years and for the Prosecco it’s only from a decade.
What was your favorite cocktail in the project “How Do You FIOL? ” until now ?
It’s a cocktail that I do not remember the recipe, but it was with fresh litchi, really exceptional, on the taste, but also on the visual. I must say that I really like the sweet taste when it comes to cocktails.
I thought that Italians liked a more bitter taste with Aperol, Campari and the many bitter ones. 😉
Yes, but FIOL is an extra dry, it’s 100% Glera grapes. What I like about FIOL is when people say wow while enjoying cocktails.
Let’s end the interview with our questionnaire
Your favorite city in the world?
Well, the city I love is Istanbul, because it’s an amazing mix of culture and art scene and the city itself is so rich and so different with its view of the Bosphorus, I had a lot of good time there and I made some really good friends from there.
Your favorite restaurant in the world?
I must say there are two restaurants. First, D’O from Davide Oldani, a two-Michelin-starred chef in Italy and there’s another one, called Langosteria which is an Italian seafood restaurant in Milan that I tell everybody to go there who goes to Milan to try and there is my food for Mom ;).
Ahh, so thoughtful. And if we go on the cocktail scene, what is your favorite bar?
I was really impressed by the one he calls Death & Company in New York. The menu is great, the bartenders have so much knowledge. They do not have a menu, they ask you what you like and make you a cocktail on the spot.
That’s what they do at Cloakroom in Montreal, a nice place to try. And until our next question, your favorite car?
I love vintage cars, probably the 1970 Porsche 911 S
Surprisingly, you’re Italian and you named a German car, you will be silly. As you always travel, what is your favorite airline?
I would like to say Alitalia, but I must say Emirates.
Your favorite place to go on a trip?
Well, I went to New Mexico in Santa Fe. I was amazed by the beauty of the place, the landscape. It’s the city with the most art galleries in the US with no less than 400! It’s really like living 50 years ago. That of the oldest capital of the United States, and it is at high altitude.
Your favorite place to shop?
Well, it’s my tailor. I do not really go shopping.
Your favorite place to disconnect
Well, at home, in Carbonera, near FIOL, a small village 20 minutes from Venice.
Something you could not live without.
I think of the love of my family. It’s something that can push you to do incredible things …
Thank you Gian Luca, looking forward to seeing you again soon!
Discover 3 cocktail recipes made with FIOL to make at home and offered at the Bird Bar and its speakeasy Le Henden.
- 1/2 oz of gin
- 1 oz of hibiscus syrup
- 3/4 oz pineapple juice
- 1/2 oz of lemon juice
- 3 candied basil leaves
- Shake the ingredients with ice, strain them in a flute glass and garnish with FIOL.
- Garnish with sliced strawberries.
- ½ oz of Dolin White Vermouth
- ½ oz of Red Ginger Cider Vermouth
- ½ oz Vermut Lacuesta (Rojo)
- ¼ oz Cynar
- ¼ oz Campari
- ½ oz lemon juice
- Shake the ingredients with ice, then filter into a chopped glass. Add a hint of Ginger Ale and garnish with 2 oz of FIOL.
- Garnish with cucumber and mint.
- ½ oz of Dolin White Vermouth
- ½ oz of Orgeat almond
- 1/2 oz of lemon juice
- 3 blackberries
- 3 mint leaves
- Shake the ingredients with ice, then filter into a chopped glass. Fill with FIOL.
- Garnish with 2 blackberries.
Buy FIOL in SAQ
Buy FIOl in LCBO