Innovator Article

Alumnus Antonio Zaccheo Takes Tuscany Winery Global

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During a trip to Italy last summer, Professor Emeritus Robert Smiley visits his former student Antonio Zaccheo ’93 (left) for a tour of the picturesque Vino Nobile estate near Montepulciano in Tuscany, one of four estates at Carpineto, Zaccheo’s family winery. 

By Joanna Corman

Antonio Zaccheo’s first paying job was at the age of 12. He would rise early, pick peaches from the family orchard outside Rome, pack them into wooden crates and balance them on his moped to deliver the fruit to produce shops.

Zaccheo ’93 has spent his life working in agriculture at his family farms and wineries in Italy and for U.S. agribusinesses. He now heads sales and marketing at Carpineto, a winery founded by his father, Antonio Zaccheo Sr., and winemaker Giovanni Sacchet in 1967 in Tuscany.

Zaccheo officially joined Carpineto nine years ago. He says he always knew he would work in his family’s winery, but he first wanted to learn about management and work in American businesses.

Carpineto, based in a valley of the same name in the Chianti region of Tuscany, has 40 full-time workers on four Tuscan estates totaling 1,000 acres. About 300 acres are vineyards, 75 acres are devoted to high-end olive oil production, and the rest is mostly planted in durum wheat for pasta, and woodlands.

Carpineto grows a dozen varieties of grapes, producing about 2.5 million bottles of mostly red wine annually. It exports about 90 percent of its production to 70 countries, with major markets including the U.S., Canada, Germany and Japan.

Zaccheo’s grandfather started the family business in 1950 when he bought vineyard property outside Rome. He started making wine under the name Fattoria Pavan or Pavan Farm. Zaccheo’s father joined the business and decided to open another venture in Tuscany in the 1960s where the focus was on quality. Zaccheo senior met Sacchet and the pair launched Carpineto, with Sacchet focusing on winemaking and Zaccheo’s father working in sales and marketing.

After strikes paralyzed Italian universities during Zaccheo’s last year of high school, he followed the invitation of a family friend who taught at San Francisco State University, and enrolled. He received a bachelor’s degree in international business and then returned to the family wineries growing grapes. Shortly after, competition from a government-funded cooperative drove the Pavan enterprise out of business. Zaccheo headed back to California, attracted by UC Davis’ reputation.

At the Graduate School of Management, Zaccheo helped Professor Robert Smiley to conduct his first survey—now in its 20th year—of California wine professionals. After graduating, Zaccheo spent five years at Cargill as an administrative manager in the animal feed division and as a grain trader at the private agribusiness giant’s Minneapolis headquarters. The allure of California’s wine country drew Zaccheo to Wente Vineyards in Livermore, where he worked five years as vice president of strategic planning. In the meantime, Zaccheo and his wife had a son, and he wanted him to grow up on a farm in Italy, just as he had. So he returned and joined Carpineto as vice president of sales and marketing.

Zaccheo spends about half his time traveling. “I’m constantly jetlagged,” he says. His global itineraries include wine shows, visits to wine shops and restaurants, meetings with wine writers, hotel chains and other customers.

Back at the vineyard, he works with importers to develop sales strategies. He’s also out making suggestions in the vineyard, where it is all hands on deck as needed. Zaccheo recently filled in for an ill tractor driver to deliver olives to the mill for pressing.

He’s also leveraging new technology to build brand loyalty. Carpineto became the first winery in Italy, Zaccheo says, to add QR codes on its labels in 2010. Customers with smartphones can scan the QR codes to get instant information about the wine.

“We’re making a consumer product that’s very complicated because it’s not a car where you can measure its horsepower,” he says. “It’s a product that’s laden with emotion and culture and history. You have to give more.”

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