My path

The fields represented the workplace of my grandparents and parents.
The place to learn and experience the passing of the seasons.

Stefano Bariani

I was born in 1969 in a small town in the province of Ferrara, to a family of farmers and bakers. My grandfather owned some land where, above all, fruit was grown. I began to spend a lot of time in the fields from an early age, around five and six. I loved running on the ploughed fields, between the rows of orchard trees, in the vineyard, in the fields of wheat and corn. In those years, in an unconscious way, my sensibility towards Nature was already entering me, was developing. The countryside in the seventies, near Ferrara, was really beautiful, intact, very fertile. Our relationship with the land was one of great respect. The fields, for me, represented the workplace of my grandparents and my parents, but, at the same time, they were boundless places, where I could learn to observe the wonder of flowers, trees, animals. Places where I could learn to look at the many different colours of the sky, where I could learn to live the passing of the seasons.
When it came to deciding, together with my family, which high school I should attend, the choice fell on the Institute for Agrotechnics. A State Professional Institute located just outside the city of Ferrara. Five years of interesting studies, where I could get to know in detail all the crops that I saw daily on the family farm. I studied fruit growing, viticulture, extensive crops such as cereals, agronomy. Subjects that fascinated me. Meanwhile in the summer I worked in the fields, to help my family.

My paternal grandfather had a great passion for viticulture and wine; so much so that in the sixties he planted one hectare of vineyard on our farm. He chose a local variety like Trebbiano, but he also planted Merlot (more popular in the Veneto than in our Emilia region) and then Barbera. Yes, Piedmont Barbera, as if he already wanted me to come into contact, well in advance, with one of the great varieties that I would meet ten years later in Piedmont, during my first major job experience. But more about that later.
At the Institute for Agriculturalists I obtained my diploma in 1988 – a high school diploma, with exams in viticulture and oenology.

The following year, and therefore in 1989, I enrolled in the Faculty of Agriculture in Bologna. I was very proud of this. No one in my family before me had had the good fortune to attend university. Everyone, I am referring to my father, my mother, uncles and grandparents, had had to go to work, without being able to study.

The degree course in Agriculture, when I enrolled in Bologna, had a duration of five years, required sitting thirty-six exams, and finally a thesis. It took me six and a half years to finish university, but in the end I obtained an excellent result, as I graduated with top marks and honours.
The University of Bologna awarded me a degree in Agricultural Sciences. This happened in 1996.

Since I had obtained an honours degree, I decided to apply for some scholarships, always at the University of Bologna. I won two, and I chose that offered to me by the CNR (National Research Council) of Bologna. There, I spent long months in laboratories, mainly at the microscope. The laboratory was in an underground room, the main window of which gave a glimpse of the building’s external sidewalk. I was dealing with plant pathology, mycosis, bacteria and I was always locked up in that small laboratory.

It was during the months when I worked at the CNR that I began to ask myself some questions about my future. Was it really the life of the researcher that I wanted? Was it a university career, the one that maybe at fifty years old would make me a tenured researcher, which really fascinated me? Was being locked up in a lab really the life for me?
The answers came soon and with conviction: certainly not. If I wanted to make my life wonderful, daring, interesting, then I had to follow my instinct, my dream; that is to put my agronomist studies to good use and work in a big wine-making concern, in a big winery, wherever it was located.

In that year, and therefore in 1997, I obtained my sommelier diploma from the AIS (Italian Sommelier Association). Among the textbooks I had to read was: “Sorì San Lorenzo, the birth of a great wine” by Edward Steinberg. It was through this book that I became acquainted with the Gaja winery.
Fascinated by the beautiful story told in the book and by Steinberg’s description of the wonderful landscapes and vineyards, I decided to send my CV to Angelo Gaja. He did not answer me straight away. So I decided to call the company. They put me directly on the phone to Angelo Gaja, who said “what are you doing on 1 May? It’s a bank holiday, but if you want we can meet, I am interested in your CV”.
Obviously I immediately accepted and we met in the winery in Barbaresco for a long interview; more than four hours. He asked me a lot of questions and wanted to know more about my passion for wine; he told me about his many projects that were being launched in those very years: the new property in Montalcino (Pieve Santa Restituta), the acquisition of Castello di Barbaresco, the acquisition of the vineyards in La Morra (Gromis), the project to buy and build a new winery in Bolgheri (Ca’Marcanda).
I well recall that at the end of the interview, in a friendly way, he told me that I was crazy; and that he got along particularly well with crazy people. So, he told me he would give me a chance, that he would hire me.
In his opinion I was crazy because I wanted to work in Piedmont, which was more than four hundred kilometres away from my home; because I came from a land, Ferrara, which had no wine tradition; because I would be willing to leave my family, my home, to move to Barbaresco and work for their company. Angelo Gaja was struck by my determination, and he gave me a chance; to enjoy what became the most important professional experience of my life. I managed to move to Barbaresco and started working in Gaja, on 1 September 1999 (I am obliged here to summarise my life and work experience in Gaja; if I were to recount everything I would need lots more pages).
Angelo Gaja hired me as his personal assistant, his secretary. So I had to deal with many different things in the company.
In short, however, I can say it was Gaja rather than university which trained me on a professional and human level. There, I learned discipline, dedication to work, sacrifice to achieve excellence. The example was given to me by my employers Angelo Gaja and Lucia Gaja and the oenologist Guido Rivella. In those years I can say that I completed my professional training, I learned to taste the greatest wines, including French or Californian or Australian (which Gaja imported through Gaja distribution). There I learned to speak in public, as I was involved in the visits paid to the company by professionals and enthusiasts from all over the world. It was there that the winemaker, Guido Rivella taught me to work in the winery and the agronomist taught me how to manage the vineyards.
It was seven years of magnificent and unrepeatable work. Without the hard discipline and learning of those years in Gaja in Barbaresco, I would never have been able to become the winemaker, the producer I am today.

But why did I decide to leave Gaja in 2006?
When I started talking to some dear friends about my intention to leave Gaja, everyone told me that it was a wrong choice, irresponsible. How can I blame them! I already had everything in Gaja. I worked in one of the world’s leading wineries, I had a secure job, and the employers and my colleagues were very much attached to me. With Angelo and Lucia Gaja, I had, and I can say that I still have, a relationship of true friendship and mutual respect. A real friendship.

Well, in 2006, in February, after a few years of “spiritual combat”… I decided to leave Gaja.
I had to try at all costs to ‘go it alone’, to put myself to the test and see what I could achieve (or not achieve). I had to put myself on the line to try to grow again, making use of the many things I had learned in Barbaresco. I had to try to become a winemaker on my own account, interpreting the wine and the vineyard in my own way.

By leaving Gaja I took a very big risk. I left a secure job, in a big company, to go where? The fact is that I knew what I wanted: to buy a company, vineyards and then design my own wines. But in 2006, when I left Piedmont, there was still nothing there.
In February 2006 I returned home to Ferrara, leaving my small house in Barbaresco, and I started, together with Mariagrazia (my wife), to visit wineries, places, hills and territories in Romagna. Romagna, this beautiful land that is still little known today, was the most important and prestigious wine-growing and wine-producing area that was closest to my city of origin, Ferrara, where I lived, and where I could imagine designing my wines.
It took Mariagrazia and I about a year of research to find a winery that we really liked. What we were looking for was an isolated place, with vineyards, but above all with a lot of natural surroundings, woods, a river and little human presence. We found our farm in Brisighella, on the road that leads to Florence through the Apennines.

In November 2007, Mariagrazia and I signed an agreement to purchase the company, the one we would later call Fondo San Giuseppe. On 18 June, 2008 we finally made it our own.

Dates are never a coincidence. On 18 June, 2008 our daughter Biancamaria was also born. During the night we spent in the delivery room, it had rained. Then the sky had been lit up by a marvellous full moon. That night our daughter was born, along with the Fondo San Giuseppe. From that day on, our life changed, as a family, and a new, very, very important professional adventure began. The adventure of Fondo San Giuseppe.

vigneti nella sottozona di Valpiana
Stefano Bariani

The fields represented the workplace of my grandparents and parents.
The place to learn and experience the passing of the seasons.

I was born in 1969 in a small town in the province of Ferrara, to a family of farmers and bakers. My grandfather owned some land where, above all, fruit was grown. I began to spend a lot of time in the fields from an early age, around five and six. I loved running on the ploughed fields, between the rows of orchard trees, in the vineyard, in the fields of wheat and corn. In those years, in an unconscious way, my sensibility towards Nature was already entering me, was developing. The countryside in the seventies, near Ferrara, was really beautiful, intact, very fertile. Our relationship with the land was one of great respect. The fields, for me, represented the workplace of my grandparents and my parents, but, at the same time, they were boundless places, where I could learn to observe the wonder of flowers, trees, animals. Places where I could learn to look at the many different colours of the sky, where I could learn to live the passing of the seasons.
When it came to deciding, together with my family, which high school I should attend, the choice fell on the Institute for Agrotechnics. A State Professional Institute located just outside the city of Ferrara. Five years of interesting studies, where I could get to know in detail all the crops that I saw daily on the family farm. I studied fruit growing, viticulture, extensive crops such as cereals, agronomy. Subjects that fascinated me. Meanwhile in the summer I worked in the fields, to help my family.

My paternal grandfather had a great passion for viticulture and wine; so much so that in the sixties he planted one hectare of vineyard on our farm. He chose a local variety like Trebbiano, but he also planted Merlot (more popular in the Veneto than in our Emilia region) and then Barbera. Yes, Piedmont Barbera, as if he already wanted me to come into contact, well in advance, with one of the great varieties that I would meet ten years later in Piedmont, during my first major job experience. But more about that later.
At the Institute for Agriculturalists I obtained my diploma in 1988 – a high school diploma, with exams in viticulture and oenology.

The following year, and therefore in 1989, I enrolled in the Faculty of Agriculture in Bologna. I was very proud of this. No one in my family before me had had the good fortune to attend university. Everyone, I am referring to my father, my mother, uncles and grandparents, had had to go to work, without being able to study.

The degree course in Agriculture, when I enrolled in Bologna, had a duration of five years, required sitting thirty-six exams, and finally a thesis. It took me six and a half years to finish university, but in the end I obtained an excellent result, as I graduated with top marks and honours.
The University of Bologna awarded me a degree in Agricultural Sciences. This happened in 1996.

Since I had obtained an honours degree, I decided to apply for some scholarships, always at the University of Bologna. I won two, and I chose that offered to me by the CNR (National Research Council) of Bologna. There, I spent long months in laboratories, mainly at the microscope. The laboratory was in an underground room, the main window of which gave a glimpse of the building’s external sidewalk. I was dealing with plant pathology, mycosis, bacteria and I was always locked up in that small laboratory.

It was during the months when I worked at the CNR that I began to ask myself some questions about my future. Was it really the life of the researcher that I wanted? Was it a university career, the one that maybe at fifty years old would make me a tenured researcher, which really fascinated me? Was being locked up in a lab really the life for me?
The answers came soon and with conviction: certainly not. If I wanted to make my life wonderful, daring, interesting, then I had to follow my instinct, my dream; that is to put my agronomist studies to good use and work in a big wine-making concern, in a big winery, wherever it was located.

In that year, and therefore in 1997, I obtained my sommelier diploma from the AIS (Italian Sommelier Association). Among the textbooks I had to read was: “Sorì San Lorenzo, the birth of a great wine” by Edward Steinberg. It was through this book that I became acquainted with the Gaja winery.
Fascinated by the beautiful story told in the book and by Steinberg’s description of the wonderful landscapes and vineyards, I decided to send my CV to Angelo Gaja. He did not answer me straight away. So I decided to call the company. They put me directly on the phone to Angelo Gaja, who said “what are you doing on 1 May? It’s a bank holiday, but if you want we can meet, I am interested in your CV”.
Obviously I immediately accepted and we met in the winery in Barbaresco for a long interview; more than four hours. He asked me a lot of questions and wanted to know more about my passion for wine; he told me about his many projects that were being launched in those very years: the new property in Montalcino (Pieve Santa Restituta), the acquisition of Castello di Barbaresco, the acquisition of the vineyards in La Morra (Gromis), the project to buy and build a new winery in Bolgheri (Ca’Marcanda).
I well recall that at the end of the interview, in a friendly way, he told me that I was crazy; and that he got along particularly well with crazy people. So, he told me he would give me a chance, that he would hire me.
In his opinion I was crazy because I wanted to work in Piedmont, which was more than four hundred kilometres away from my home; because I came from a land, Ferrara, which had no wine tradition; because I would be willing to leave my family, my home, to move to Barbaresco and work for their company. Angelo Gaja was struck by my determination, and he gave me a chance; to enjoy what became the most important professional experience of my life. I managed to move to Barbaresco and started working in Gaja, on 1 September 1999 (I am obliged here to summarise my life and work experience in Gaja; if I were to recount everything I would need lots more pages).
Angelo Gaja hired me as his personal assistant, his secretary. So I had to deal with many different things in the company.
In short, however, I can say it was Gaja rather than university which trained me on a professional and human level. There, I learned discipline, dedication to work, sacrifice to achieve excellence. The example was given to me by my employers Angelo Gaja and Lucia Gaja and the oenologist Guido Rivella. In those years I can say that I completed my professional training, I learned to taste the greatest wines, including French or Californian or Australian (which Gaja imported through Gaja distribution). There I learned to speak in public, as I was involved in the visits paid to the company by professionals and enthusiasts from all over the world. It was there that the winemaker, Guido Rivella taught me to work in the winery and the agronomist taught me how to manage the vineyards.
It was seven years of magnificent and unrepeatable work. Without the hard discipline and learning of those years in Gaja in Barbaresco, I would never have been able to become the winemaker, the producer I am today.

But why did I decide to leave Gaja in 2006?
When I started talking to some dear friends about my intention to leave Gaja, everyone told me that it was a wrong choice, irresponsible. How can I blame them! I already had everything in Gaja. I worked in one of the world’s leading wineries, I had a secure job, and the employers and my colleagues were very much attached to me. With Angelo and Lucia Gaja, I had, and I can say that I still have, a relationship of true friendship and mutual respect. A real friendship.

Well, in 2006, in February, after a few years of “spiritual combat”… I decided to leave Gaja.
I had to try at all costs to ‘go it alone’, to put myself to the test and see what I could achieve (or not achieve). I had to put myself on the line to try to grow again, making use of the many things I had learned in Barbaresco. I had to try to become a winemaker on my own account, interpreting the wine and the vineyard in my own way.

By leaving Gaja I took a very big risk. I left a secure job, in a big company, to go where? The fact is that I knew what I wanted: to buy a company, vineyards and then design my own wines. But in 2006, when I left Piedmont, there was still nothing there.
In February 2006 I returned home to Ferrara, leaving my small house in Barbaresco, and I started, together with Mariagrazia (my wife), to visit wineries, places, hills and territories in Romagna. Romagna, this beautiful land that is still little known today, was the most important and prestigious wine-growing and wine-producing area that was closest to my city of origin, Ferrara, where I lived, and where I could imagine designing my wines.
It took Mariagrazia and I about a year of research to find a winery that we really liked. What we were looking for was an isolated place, with vineyards, but above all with a lot of natural surroundings, woods, a river and little human presence. We found our farm in Brisighella, on the road that leads to Florence through the Apennines.

In November 2007, Mariagrazia and I signed an agreement to purchase the company, the one we would later call Fondo San Giuseppe. On 18 June, 2008 we finally made it our own.

Dates are never a coincidence. On 18 June, 2008 our daughter Biancamaria was also born. During the night we spent in the delivery room, it had rained. Then the sky had been lit up by a marvellous full moon. That night our daughter was born, along with the Fondo San Giuseppe. From that day on, our life changed, as a family, and a new, very, very important professional adventure began. The adventure of Fondo San Giuseppe.

Fondo San Giuseppe is located in Brisighella in the subarea named Valpiana,
in the Romagna Apennines
at 400 metres above sea level.
Its wines are “handcrafted”
with utmost respect for
the environment.

Fondo San Giuseppe is located in Brisighella in the subarea named Valpiana, in the Romagna
Apennines at 400 metres above sea level.
Its wines are “handcrafted”
with utmost respect for
the environment.

Società Agricola Fondo San Giuseppe s.s.
via Tura 7/A 48013 Brisighella (RA) ITALIA
P.Iva and C.F.: 01740420383
CREDITS Privacy and Cookie Policy
Società Agricola Fondo San Giuseppe s.s. – via Tura 7/A – 48013 Brisighella (RA) – ITALIA – P.Iva and C.F.: 01740420383 – CREDITS Privacy and Cookie Policy