Should we boycott Fulvio Bressan?

It’s not often that wine scandals spill over into the real world. Normally wine people fight over arcane matters such as sulphur levels or what sort of barrel you should age your wine. Last night I noticed a full-blown brouhaha brewing. An Italian wine maker, Fulvio Bressan, has been posting racist things on his Facebook wall. They’re in Italian so I couldn’t understand them but you can read a translation here. In them he refers to the Cecile Kiyenge, the Congo-born Italian minister, as a ‘negro ape.’ You couldn’t really get more textbook racist than this: a white man calling a black woman an ape. Sadly this is not the only vile abuse that the poor Kiyenge has come in for. Frankly it makes our own Bongo Bongo Land furore look like a storm in a teacup.

Leaving aside the other abuse that Kiyenge has suffered, Bessan’s own particular problem have been exacerbated by social media. In the past if you wanted to have a grappa-fueled racist rant, then only your long-suffering friends or family would notice. On Facebook, however, it’s permanent and thanks to the magic of twitter, everyone now knows about it. A now deceased head of a large Rhone house was famous for his forthright views on immigration, Arabs etc. Racism is not uncommon, even in the wine world.  In fact, with all the talk of the sacredness of the soil I’m always amazed that there aren’t more far-right wine makers especially amongst the provisional wing of the Natural Wine movement. But before social media, there was just the rumour that M. ——— was a big old racist, now we have it splashed across our screens.

So what is to be done? There have been the inevitable calls for a boycott of Bressan’s wines. Pious merchants have already said they will removing his wines from their shelves. Beyond ruining the business of someone who, whatever his demons, made wonderful wines (apparently, I haven’t actually tried them), I can’t quite see what the point would be. It’s not as if Bressan was pouring the profits he made from wine into a shadowy neo-fascist organisation. It might force some sort of reluctant mea culpa from Bressan but it’s not going to make life any easier for Kiyenge or other immigrants in Italy.

I suppose it boils down to whether you can you separate the wine from the man. This is something one has to do in the arts the whole time. Talented people are often unpleasant: Arthur Koestler* was a misogynist and alleged rapist; Evelyn Waugh was racist, even by the standards of his time, and pro-Franco; HG Wells was a Stalinist apologist and eugenicist; Gary Glitter is a paedophile. Can we still enjoy and admire their work despite the stupid, evil or ill-advised things they did or said? Well it depends, I suppose. I don’t find it hard to enjoy Waugh’s novels despite his views but on the other hand I do find it hard to enjoy the films of Sean Penn after watching him and Oliver Stone suck up to Hugo Chavez. Bressan might well be as awful as his rant suggests but I don’t think that is reason enough to deny ourselves the one thing that he does magnificently (or so I’m told). If I do ever try one of his wines, however, it will be hard to drink it without thinking of all that hatred.

Rereading my article I realise now that my comparisons aren’t the most apt as most of of them are examples of stupidity or misjudgement rather than hate (though Koestler does sound like a particularly nasty piece of work). It would have been better to compare Bressan’s outburst to Mel Gibson’s ongoing anti-Semitic antics or Morrissey’s comments about the Chinese

Some further thoughts on Bressan here.

About Henry

I am a freelance writer who has written about books, drinks and food - often all three at once - for various publications including the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, Spectator Time Out, thefirstpost.co.uk, momondo.com, thedabbler.co.uk, Foxed Quarterly and Quintessentially magazine. I have no formal wine training though I did work for two years at Oddbins.
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42 Responses to Should we boycott Fulvio Bressan?

  1. Hi Henry,

    Thanks for linking to my piece about Bressan, which needless to say has seen quite a bit of traffic over the past few days. Some of my praise may stick in the craw now I suppose . . .

    I love the Bressan wines. I would count Fulvio and his wife as friends. I have met them on many occasions and spent significant amounts of time at their house and winery. I always liked his uncompromising nature. But I can’t tolerate racism or hatred, and for me that is undeniably what the original posts (now removed) displayed.

    I have to admit to a little hypocrisy. I was vaguely aware that there was stuff on his personal facebook page that looked a bit politically dodgy, but I chose not to translate it (I don’t speak or read Italian), effectively ignoring it to focus on the wine instead. But now it’s been put in the public eye, with English translations splattered about the web, it’s no longer possible to ignore.

    I’m quite conflicted over this. I have something like a case of Bressan wines in my cellar, including some very fine old vintages. I’m not ready for a total boycott on these wines yet. But next time I open a bottle, I’m prepared that the wine may have a bitter taste.

    Sometimes it’s better not to know too much about the creator of art, music, literature or wine, if you really love it. Human beings and artists especially (and I do regard good winemakers as artists) are often flawed characters, and that can be disappointing when we put these people on a pedestal.

    Simon.

    • Henry says:

      Simon thank you for this. I was hoping that someone who actually knew this man would respond. Will be interesting to see how this plays out.

  2. As a fellow “negro ape” I welcome a boycott of this man and the “magnificent” wines you’ve not even tried. And while he may not be funding “shadowy nee-fascist” organizations, his views are very much in line with Lega Nord–shadowy, not so much, fascist, certainly. Something like Lega Nord would be classified as a hate group in the United States (not that we don’t have our fair share of racist, legally sanctioned crazies). His attack on the hardworking and preternaturally graceful Cecile Kiyenge deserves a fierce response, one that goes beyond a scripted “sorry if you’re offended” apology. In cases like these only money will talk. I’ll leave his wines to Italian black shirts and international apologists. He most likely would prefer not to share his genius with me anyhow.

    • Henry says:

      I think i’ve made very clear that what he said about Cecile Kyenge is vile. I just don’t see how a boycott of his wines would make the world a better place.I am clearly in a minority on this one and it sounds like most people will be voting with their wallets.

      I’m not sure where I fit in with the Italian black shirts or international apologists!

      Regarding your other comment on wine and the far-right. All that love of the soil and the land often comes close to sounding like a speech from somebody dubious.

      • giorgio says:

        giving money and resources to regrettable people like this fat ass make the world a worse place. anyway, these are not far-right people, we call them fascists,

      • Nigel says:

        I suppose I could understand an argument to patronize Bressan posthumously. It would be easier to enjoy the wine, and not enrich the man. I believe boycotting the man’s wine will make the world a better place, insomuch as it will take money out of his pocket. As we know, money is power. I think trying to make him as powerless as possible is a good thing. Also, let us not forget that no matter how good his wines are, he is not the only person producing fabulous wines in the world. Thus, I think that a question we should also ask ourselves could be: “Will boycotting Bressan’s wines greatly affect the quality of my life?”. I think almost all of us will answer, “No,”.

  3. “In fact, with all the talk of the sacredness of the soil I’m always amazed that there aren’t more far-right wine makers especially amongst the provisional wing of the Natural Wine movement.” Very keen observation. I would love to read more on this.

  4. As an American, the freedom of speech is a birthright.
    But free speech isn’t free.
    It costs.
    And it may cost this hate-mongering racist bigot dearly.
    Just as you have the freedom to say something, I have the absolute right to economically not support your world vision.

    All the best,

    Nannette Eaton

  5. Hi Henry,

    “I’m not sure where I fit in with the Italian black shirts or international apologists!” I don’t consider you Italian nor do I find it easy to imagine you in that particular cut of black shirt. However, I do sense a certain and rare detachment in the post above, a lack of investment. I could be wrong, but to me it reads like perfunctory contrarianism. A boycott of a single Italian winemaker will, most likely not, make the world safer or better for minorities in Italy, but it could show a bit of much needed solidarity and empathy for that population. It would, at the very least, tell il signor Bressan that, despite his genius, an educated and informed public will not stand for his hate speech. Surely, there is at least one excellent natural winemaker in Northern Italy who would not liken a highly accomplished black woman to a primate.

  6. Henry says:

    Certainly not just being contrary. My problem with showing solidarity is that it tends just to let like-minded people know that they think alike. It doesn’t achieve anything,

  7. Luca says:

    I threw all Bressan’s wines.Boycott forever

  8. @wineorl says:

    I think that this is a horrible apologist post. First you blame social media for exacerbating the problem (notwithstanding the fact that Bressan posted the material to his own Facebook page); then you want to separate the artist from his work because there have been many unpleasant people in the past whose works we have appreciated; and we should ignore it anyway because there are bigger problems in the world. I have met with, and written about Bressan (http://mowse.blogspot.com/2011/11/fulvio-bressan-of-bressan-wines-farra.html), and unlike you, I have tasted his wines. I find his words repugnant on the face of it and stupid for a business person. I do not intend this as an attack on you but on the ideas and rationale that you advance. Your basic solution is “Let Fulvio be Fulvio” and that places you in the camp of the apologists and appeasers. The only way to eradicate bigotry is to confront whenever it rears its ugly head and to have the practitioners feel the effects of their words and actions.

  9. Henry says:

    Thank you for replying. I should repeat that I am not apologising or trying to explain his diatribe. Social media exacerbates the problem because he posted his rant on Facebook – a form of social media. Previously only those close to him would know about his dark side. From reading your fascinating post, I can see that his rant is not representative of how he always is.

    I am not saying that the solution is to let Fulvio be Fulvio. I am saying that i don’t have the solution. There are no easy answers here. I can’t see how a boycott would help except to make lots of people feel like they were solving something.

    I am saying that you sometimes have to separate the person from his work. This is clearly very difficult in this case but, and this is my point, it is not an idea without precedent. We do it the whole time with artists, wine makers, politicians, both living and dead.

    • Junior Pitt says:

      You are incorrect. Social Media did not exacerbate the problem but merely highlighted it. The problem is Fulvio’s rancid views, and your attempt to minimize it’s significance does not serve you well.

  10. “My problem with showing solidarity is that it tends just to let like-minded people know that they think alike. It doesn’t achieve anything.” I guess there is no such thing as society after all. Moving along now, carry on.

  11. Hi Henry…

    I know Fulvio’s wine and he and his family fairly well….or so I thought.

    Ever since this started and traffic on this post rose ( http://awe.sm/gHFzC), I’ve been conflicted over whether to post on the subject.

    My disdain for racism, bigotry and hatred will win in the end and I’ll simply write him off as the world wrote off Ezra Pound when his racist tendencies became public.

  12. Jonathan L says:

    Hmmm.  Seriously?  When in doubt, try an analogy or two and see if you can support the argument.

    Women are whores.  I make excellent candy.  Would like some?

    I hate gay people.  May I seat you at my 3-star restaurant?

    Black people are apes.  Would you like some of my fine red wine?

    The correct response in all of these cases is the same:  “Go Fuck Yourself.”

    When I spend my money, yeah, I am supporting the art.  But I also am supporting the artist who made it. 

    I can admire the art.  But I can also choose to not to allow him to profit off my labor and live a life where his views are by my purchase, supported and propagated out into the world.

    That is me taking personal responsibility. 

    Other racist, anti-Semitic, misogynists can support you.  Oh, there aren’t enough to support you?  Good.  I’m back to Go Fuck Yourself. 

    There are no hairs being split here, Henry.  You’re on the wrong side of history. 

    And this is not about being exacerbated by social media.  That’s a pathetic excuse.  This is about being held accountable for ones words and actions. 

    By the time you put something up publically, you’ve stated it privately enough times — without serious opposition — that you’re comfortable stating it publically.

    You want to state it publically?  You’re publically accountable for it.  Tough. 

    Here’s how a boycott of his wine makes the world a better place.  It takes a stand.  It says no.  I will not be a part of that.  In some tiny little way, I want to make the world a better place.  I will not be a collaborator with this kind of thinking.  There will be no wink and a nod.  I will not drink your wine.  I will not buy your candy.  I will not come to your restaurant.  Go Fuck Yourself. 

    “Showing solidarity tends to let like-minded people know they think alike.  It doesn’t achieve anything.” 

    Are you serious?  Tell that to that to Gandhi.  Or Martin Luther King.  Or Simon Wiesenthal…

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/26/world/europe/from-italy-a-vintage-redolent-of-horrors.html?hp

    We take a stand for civilized behavior.  We vote with our pocketbooks.  We make an effort to make the world a better place than when we found it. 

    We attempt each day to build a model society.  You might familiarize yourself with the concept of tikkun olam.

    Thus ends the rant.  I’m still coming for Christmas.  And I’m bringing some Hitler wine. 

     

     

  13. Patrick Arias says:

    Really,

    Should we boycott?

    I can’t believe that is even a question being asked!! To tolerate a man because of his product? Let’s try to determine which has more value.

  14. Jerome L says:

    I’d call upon all Italians to boycott Bressan wines..

  15. Kora Dalager says:

    yes, we most certainly need to boycott Bressans’ wine, because racist wine will never taste good, unless you are a racist, and can’t taste that vile aftertaste-it goes along with the apologies for Hitler, because he built great Autobahns

  16. pdquick says:

    I guess you have to be a “Negro ape” to understand why someone would not want to buy a wine made by an open fascist. Or, maybe just a person with empathy.

  17. Brian says:

    I agree with Patrick above, “Should we boycott?” I can’t believe that you have to ask that question. The man is a disgusting racist I for one would prefer to spend my money elsewhere. Not only Italians should boycott Bressan wines, ALL people.

    • Brian, I agree with you.
      Mr.Ziliani don’t like the word “boycott”.
      Let’s say : Bressan’s wines taste bad.Very bad.
      The wine reflect the producer soul.

  18. Pingback: Further reflections on Fulvio Bressan | Henry's World of Booze

  19. Please, don’t boycott Bressan wines, please give to Fulvio’s work in vineyardb and cellar another chance. Bressan is a serious vigneron and their wines are among the most sincere of Friuli Venezia Giulia wine scene…

    • FabioBi says:

      Being italian I can’t admire mr. Jonathan L response enough, as in my country today it’s almost impossible to drawn a neat line against racism after so many years of rants from Lega Nord – usually condoned as ’boutades’ or ‘provocations’ – without being accused of ‘buonismo’ or do-good, bleeding-heart leftism when you oppose to their tirades.
      The Friuli scene has also Lunardelli Wines, with their impressive array of Mussolini, Hitler, Himmler, Waffen-SS officers labels. More than 50, actually. And then they added some 4 or 5 communist inspired labels, just to have the excuse to sell the lot under ‘History’ line denomination.
      Nope, not a single cent to these people, they can even make toasts to concentration camp commanders, but not with my help.

  20. Henry says:

    I’ve taken all your thoughtful comments on board and had a bit of a change of heart about boycotting his wines. http://worldofbooze.wordpress.com/2013/08/27/further-reflections-on-fulvio-bressan/

  21. Sir Francis Dashwood says:

    Only to change the subject slightly: Can anyone direct me to a source in the United States that sells Bressan wines? I’ve wanted to try his wines for some months now and this story that’s being discussed here, which I knew nothing of until today, reminded me. Perhaps, as well, I can get a recommendation on Bresson’s best dessert wine, as I live near New Orleans where Bananas Foster is an Old South favorite. Thanks,

    • debbydeb says:

      You almost sound like an informed,semi-intelligent person,but you asked where to buy this wine?you could hand a computer to a fith grader and they could find where this wine is sold anywhere in the world!This leads me to conclude that you agree with the racists and you want us to know that you fully intend to keep supporting him.thats fine, but say what you mean and mean what you say.

  22. Sir Francis Dashwood says:

    What did the Minister of Integratiion do that caused Fulvio Bressan to feel threatened enough to speak out? According to Yahoo, this is what she did: ”He (Fulvio) was angry the government was planning to use taxpayer money to house illegal immigrants in hotels.”

    So, now we know why Fulvio felt so antaganized by Kiyenge ! Well, I certainly can’t blame Fulvio for feeling upset and threatened over what this….outsider is doing with taxpayer money. Yes, outsider, for she was not even born in Italy, but the Republic of Congo ! What this woman is trying to do with the money of hard working tax payers, like Fulvio Bressan, is outrageous!

    She’s worse than the names he called her….she’s a thief–a criminal–someone who’s trying to undermine the citizens of Italy. These crimes against the people are far worse than being called a silly name on Facebook.

    Fulvio Bressan should not be scorned but instead hailed a national hero. I will never boycott his wines!

    • Kora Dalager says:

      It is less expensive to house illegal immigrants in hotels temporarily, until disposition is made-grant refugee status or deportation, than build and guard detention centers or house them in prisons-and that is not a waste of taxpayers money. Presumably they won’t be at 4-5* hotels-and yes the economy would be helped as well

      • Sir Francis Dashwood says:

        Actually, the least expensive way to handle this criminal act is to put the illegals on boats and ship them back from whence they came. I also disagree that the economy is EVER helped by government spending of taxpayer money. An analogy to this would be: A person breaks into your home, but now refuses to leave. You call the police, but rather than deport this person out of the country, the courts force you–the home owner–to pay this criminal’s hotel bill for the next year, as well as the cost of police, courts and lawyers. Does forcing you–the home owner–to pay money to a hotel, to house this criminal, help the economy? Of couse not! Not only does it hurt you and your family, but there’s no overall benefit to the economy as a whole. Plus, you also have to pay police, court and administrative costs out of your own bank account! This is an exact analogy facing the Italian taxpayers, which is why Fulvio Bressan was so angry at this Congolian. interloping criminal who calls herself the Minister of Integration !

  23. Pingback: Fulvio Bressan, Italian Winemaker, Faces Boycott Over Racist Tirade | InternetSuccess4You

  24. Nicole B says:

    Thank you, Jonathan L. It’s not only a multitude of the consumers and fans of his work that he’s lost with this. It is the fact that no one will forget this. Especially the “negro apes” that he speaks of(a group which I belong to and who just so happen to be one of the largest groups of consumers on the planet). We are lawyers, doctors, politicians, business owners, and restauranteurs. There is a saying that goes “good news spreads slowly, but bad news spreads like wildfire.” A person will tell 5 people about a product that they love and they will tell 20 people about a product that they hate. I both love and appreciate good wine. As I go to a winery or order from an online resource, ready to drop over $100 per bottle on a good wine….I will be sure to spend my hard earned money elsewhere. And yes, I do stand my ground when it comes to my personal values. Although he is a great entertainer, I will never spend money on an R. Kelly album, song, or concert, because he is a convicted pedophile. I don’t give my money to pedophiles or known racists in my own neighborhood, so why would I do it for anyone else?

  25. Pingback: Italian Winemaker Faces Boycott Over Racist Rant

  26. Pingback: Italian Winemaker Faces Boycott Over Racist Rant |

  27. Deborah Hicks says:

    It is time to take a stand against racism in any form. Yes! Boycott him. If he has a problem with her policies, then comment on them. Name calling is not the answer.

  28. Geraldine says:

    Henry you changed your mind. good to hear

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