It was an easy move for Anne-Marie Pirelli from fashion to Florentine wine shop owner, as she tells DANIEL THOMASES .
It is a civilised 10.30am before Anne-Marie Parrocel Pirelli – French by origin but for the past 25 years happily settled in Italy – arrives at Millesimi, the wine shop she opened in Florence with her husband Alberto in 1999. The day starts long before, however, with an espresso while she prepares breakfast for her two sons. After dropping them off at school, she stops at the pool, swims a kilometre, and then opens shop. Millesimi, literally ‘the vintages’, is located in an artisan quarter of Florence, just across the river, but a world apart, from the chic boutiques of Via Tornabuoni.
The space was previously occupied by a carpentry shop, but it has deep, cool cellars, just what Pirelli was looking for. The building itself is centuries old, and the ground floor features the rib vaulting and grey columns that typify Florentine architecture.The morning is spent dealing with letters and e-mail, and receiving shipments, the latter not always an easy task in the narrow streets of the quarter.
Wine is part of the way of life in the part of Provence where Pirelli grew up, but her professional involvement in it came notably later. Her first work in Florence was in the rag trade during the 1970s, importing bales of old clothes, picking through them to find choice items, washing them, then selling them to second-hand boutiques. A stint as a costume designer in Rome then followed. The 1980s saw a major shift in focus. She and her husband founded a record company and managed the career of various groups, notably Litfiba, Italy’s most important rock band of the decade. The constant travel and dinners increased her interest in and love for wine, and the decision to devote herself to it on a full-time basis was something that she slid into easily.
The afternoon passes with an increase in intensity of phone traffic and a drifting of customers in and out of Millesimi. ‘We’ve developed a loyal clientele,’ Pirelli notes, ‘and the last few springs and summers have been very good in terms of both informed and curious visitors to Florence. ‘A substantial part of our business is from other parts of Italy, particularly Milan, Rome and Modena.’ The city remains a major tourist mecca. Germans, Swiss and Americans lead the pack, but there has been no lack of French visitors either in recent years. The enoteca’s selection of Tuscan wines is particularly strong, but there is also plenty from Piedmont: ‘I adore them,’ says the proprietress, citing in particular the wines of Giovanni Conterno (‘not just the Barolo, the Barbera and Dolcetto are also lovely’), and Bruno Giacosa, whom she hopes to meet one day. She knows her French vignerons too, and Burgundy is particularly well represented.
The enoteca stays open until 8pm and beyond, and she says that, if local laws permitted, she would remain open until 9. By then it’s time to return home where her husband has taken care of dinner, eaten, of course, with some fine wine. Here she makes a distinction between wines for food – their true destiny and purpose – and “competition wines”, about which she, like many others, harbours increasing doubts. And then it’s time for bed with wine books and magazines from around the world. ‘One can never know too much about one’s metiér.’.
Written by DANIEL THOMASES