She, the Provost of the University of Udine, hands him the honorary degree in viticulture. He, the new graduate Livio Felluga, doesn’t shake her hand, but surprises her by kissing it. Then he turns, raises his arms in a sign of triumph and stays there, touched, as the crowd applauds. It was the highlight of a ceremony that crowns Livio Felluga, 95 years old, as the “patriarch” of Friuli viticulture.
Friday, December 11th 2009, in the Parliamentary Hall in the Castle of Udine, the entrepreneur who believed in his land, put on his graduation robe and was given his degree, as well as honors from academics and friends. With him, to talk about him and for him, was his family; his wife Bruna, his four children and six grandchildren. “Thank you. This is touching. Once again, thank you,” the few words pronounced by Livio Felluga. However, once he left the Castle in the arms of his wife, he started the sing-song chant of “dottore, dottore” traditional to Italian graduations with a radiant smile of a boy.
It was this boy that was remembered in the presentation given by Professor Roberto Zironi. “Livio Felluga can be considered one of the fathers of the post-War viticulture revival in Italy”, explained Zironi, “during a time when people were abandoning hillside viticulture. Farmers were abandoning these lands because they weren’t profitable and preferred working in factories or emigrating. He led the way; he showed that hillside viticulture could be profitable by focusing on higher quality. He showed the economic feasibility of viticultural companies at a time when common opinion was that economies of scale were only achieved through cooperatives.” The lecture then went chronicled the history of wine through the centuries. “The greatest achievement of our new graduate Livio Felluga was to be able to put together the traditions of his trade together with innovation by individualizing new production standards and marketing strategies. He also taught us,” concludes Zironi, “to look at the world through the curious and visionary eyes of a child.”
The explanation for giving the honorary degree was given to Compagno. “The quality of the wines, starting with those made from native grapes to those with international varieties, together with their marketing that went hand-in-hand with the traditions of the land,” declared the lecturer, “were the strengths of his activity. His commitment, humble, determined and rigorous, his love for the land and his entrepreneurial spirit, concrete while forward-looking at the same time, are an example and inheritance to present and future generations. Livio Felluga,” explained Compagno,” is an extraordinary man that knew how to interpret the deepest roots of our land. He was a great innovator who rediscovered tradition and his company, with the successful passage to the next generation, is a model for young people.”
The children, Maurizio, Elda, Andrea and Fillippo, stood next to the new graduate and with great emotion held up their father. Maurizio, the first-born, spoke on behalf of his father and brothers and sisters. “The label my father chose for our company’s wines,” said Maurizio, “is a map that bears testimony to our strong and inseparable tie to our home, but also tells the story of a lifetime’s journey.” Maurizio choose not to follow the tradition of reading his talk, but rather spoken freely about his father. He speaks of Livio, the company as it grew over the years, of passion and tenacity that is needed to produce a good wine. And, in closing, he thanks the “patriarch” for “having offered us these great opportunities and a life filled with satisfactions; for having taught us to be simple people and to have courage.”… and with another standing ovations, the crowd greets Livio Felluga.
By Anna Buttazzoni -"Messaggero Veneto" – December 12, 2009.