Slow Food Heroes: a Borderless European Wine

Respectively born in Rome, Avignon and Jurançon, Jerome, Françoise and Bruce Roger lived and worked in different countries and encountered the wine culture at a very young age. With Europe facing the COVID-19 crisis and other issues such as climate change and globalization, it is natural for them to think about how the European future would look like. They decided to start the project with the idea of supporting the wine producers buying their grape juices and at the same time unite Europe by telling the stories of vignerons from different European countries.

Jerome, Françoise and Bruce Roger describe themselves as three fellow travelers, three European dreamers, Erasmus first generation European enthusiastic, sharing their passion for wine. With Europe facing the COVID-19 crisis and other issues such as climate change and globalization, it is natural for them to think about how the European future would look like.

“We are 3 quinquagenarians – tells us Françoise, one of the founders of ŒNOPE, The Borderless European Wine project – one live in Rome (Italy) and the other two in Pau (southwest France). Me and Bruce are married since a long time and we have older children. Jerome is married too and has 2 kids. Today me and Jerome are mostly dedicated to Oenope as main activity. We both had a long and executive experience in big international corporations, and we are all friends since over 30 years, but deciding only a year and a half ago to work together on that project. It all started with a shared inner thought: what will be the wine of tomorrow? 

Working for years in the food sectors they noticed that all the wine growers around Europe were facing the same problems such as the difficulty to sell their wine due to the pandemic measures, the impact on organoleptic quality of vines because of climate change and the high government taxation. 

“This crisis  – Jerome explains – has made us reflect in a more committed way on the global dimension of the impacts and has strengthened us in the conviction that union is strength and strength helps to overcome crisis, that being European has a sense of very high value, identity, moral, solidarity. All three of us being fascinated by the world of agribusiness and in particular the world of wine, we investigated the consequences of the pandemic on this sector and in the face of the profound disaster that these actors were experiencing we created a way to emphasize the sense of Union, of Europe, of Made in Europe”.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates already existing difficulties due to climate change and increased competition within Europe and with rest of the world producers. The project aims to show the single producers that they are all facing the same issues even if they work in different countries and a collaboration and sharing of know-how is fundamental to overcome them. 

“We built Oenope – Françoise explains us – when the pandemic started, and we didn’t physically meet before 6 months. We did it all through video meetings together and with partners. During the lockdown, very strict in Italy and in France, we had to manage both project and operations from home, we had no chance to meet any supplier, consultant, or customer”.

“This project, – Jerome continues – which is being developed over the long term, focuses not only on the consequences of the pandemic, but similarly on the impacts of climate change, the effects of globalization and the standardization of consumption criteria. We have therefore tried to understand how to meet the needs of these European winemakers, scattered over many territories, each with its own identity, history and culture, but in the end facing the same problems and with the same identical job, growing and making wine. And we tried to make a symbol, which is the synthesis of all these peculiarities, gathered in a cuvée and to promote everyone, all together. United in diversity, or as the metaphor of José Ortega y Gasset says: ‘Europe is a swarm: many bees and a single flight’.

We entail selecting and buying overstocks on wine from the most representative wine growers and vineyards all around Europe and craft 10.000 bottles of a unique “borderless” blended wine expressing the best of each part of them.

The profit made from sales of the first Cuvée, in which 5 winemakers from France, Italy and Spain were involved, will be fully reinvested to further support to European Vignerons and to be able to continue the project creating new blends.

“But solidarity has developed and continues to develop on different levels. – Jerome continues – The first is to look for winemakers, always following quality criteria, who may need an intervention to dispose of surpluses accumulated during the pandemic due to closed or almost shut down distribution activities. Talking to them, understanding the problems and looking for a way to solve them also gave us the opportunity to understand their own European feelings or disappointments, as well as their expectations. 

The second is to offer everyone in a totally free way the possibility of obtaining technical and scientific answers on the evolution of certain situations, such as the famous climate changes. We have integrated in the path of our documentary a very important series of international experts who study and teach these issues. We are exposing situations that we encounter and going to encounter situations that point to us. For winemakers who are sensitive to these dynamics, these experts make themselves available for exchange. And this is an enrichment for the whole of this community.

Third, and not least, the promotion of European Terroirs and not just national or strictly local ones. We want to tell these riches and offer it in synthesis in the first wine proud to be the synthesis of the best of Europe. A symbol before being a wine….. “

For next Cuvée, Jerome, Françoise and Bruce will travel in Romania, Bulgaria and Greece, Germany, France, Spain and again Italy, with very strict criteria such as autochthonous varieties, pre vinification selection of grapes, definition by the winemaker of the proportions for each origin, then blending and aging at the winery with whom we have consolidated our collaboration agreement.

“In less than 2 years, – Bruce explains – apart from consolidating our relationship with all three, we learned how to work in such conditions, understanding that willingness is the key factor to get to targets. Then we discovered in most of its details the profile of the European winegrowers. Great experience, strong identities, incredible stories, huge bravery in these women and men”.

This project sets a new picture of the capacity of Europe as a whole to face crisis and to anticipate what future will bring. Four words can describe the concept that they have in mind in creating their wine: Union, Discovery and Pleasure, solidarity.

Union refers to the blending of wines from vineyards all over Europe. Europe is the Original Land of Viticulture and Wine and the tradition of crafting wine is part of the European identity. Discovery refers to making consumers discover through wine, the beauty of Europe, to embrace the “Made in Europe” label. Pleasure refers to the essence of wine as part of European culture. To quote Lord Byron’s words “Wine cheers the sad, revives the old, inspires the young, makes weariness forget his toil”. Solidarity towards the European community of Vignerons, buying therefore existing overstocks and promoting their work and culture. And solidarity in the diversity, blending different wines to create a single bottle, blending different cultures in a united Europe.

“Understanding current stakes, listening to each personal issue, focus on delivery, ensure best verbal and written communication to be understood by all cultures, all languages, all natures. Deeply believe in your task. Solidarity in our project covers a proper transnational solidarity extent. Gathering inner local traditions, know-how and indigenous “cepage” from all over the EU to set a symbol of collaboration and union coming to winegrowers aid in such a global disaster”.

The concept of a “Made in Europe wine” demonstrates that collaboration beyond borders is the fundamental step to overcome this crisis that affected all the actors of the viniculture sector. 

“Europe is a Terroir: many specific vineyards for a unique organoleptic experience. – Françoise concludes – Each vinicultural local production offers its own peculiar contribution to the final blended nectar to deliver the best synthesis of European wine. This pan European winegrowers’ partnership will set the synthesis of the European Wine Culture to the world. Accepting to share and enhance the identity of a common final product in such an unimaginably global crisis, is the demonstration of a united common European front”.

Aside from the agricultural face of the project, it is even more relevant to focus on the cultural initiative. Through the documentary filmmaking they plan to promote local players, distinctive wine regions, and portraits of European winemakers. The documentary aims to be a pan European road movie set to display the dialogues among the winegrowers, their opinions and feelings towards their experience, their ideas on Europe and the current crisis and their vision of a fairer future.



Slow Food Heroes is a project financed by European Cultural Foundationwith the contribution of CRC Foundation.
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