The story of Bollini began in 1979, when Neil and Maria Empson – who pioneered Italy’s quality wine exports a decade earlier – created their own label from the Alpine foothills of Friuli and Trentino. Their purpose was to showcase the excellence and consistency of noble international varieties grown in the cool northeastern regions of Italy, while maintaining accessible price points.
In fact, the first Bollini wine was launched as “a Chardonnay for every day.” Prime, hillside locations, ideal day/night temperature swings, and the complexity and minerality that come from alluvial geo-history, all contribute to achieving concentrated, highly extracted fruit. Vinified to the strictest quality standards, the wines are the perfect example of the Empson criteria for excellence.
Neil and Maria also kept a careful eye on artwork and packaging. Maria Gemma Empson took the lead, thanks to her background as a painter and gallery manager. Bollini labels bear an especially inspired series of vineyard drawings done by Maria herself. Each illustration has captured a single vine whose arms are dramatically stretched out as if to grasp on to the cool, clean air of these appellations and its roots are arduously driven into this ancient terrain, reminding us of the old Italian saying: la vite deve soffrire, which means that for quality wine, “the vines must suffer.”
In 2010, Franco Bernabei, star winemaker and longtime friend of Neil and Maria, joined the Bollini project, styling the wines along with Neil Empson. The following year, in celebration of this new era in the brand’s history, Maria revisited her signature designs, maintaining the vines themselves but giving the packaging an even cleaner, smarter look. In a way, the revision parallels the Empsons’ philosophy of keeping up with the times while remaining loyal to the timeless heart of the regions’ vines and soil. Bernabei, who closely collaborates with the Bollini owners on numerous projects, was the obvious choice for a collaboration that aims to maintain the wines’ consistency and unique accessibility, in terms of palate – and one’s wallet.