Student Spotlight: Enrico de Alessandrini
Winemaker Enrico de Alessandrini is founder of Sassaia, an Italian winery that produces artisanal wines embracing Burgundian style. The winery is located in the heart of Piedmont, Italy, and his Italian ancestral roots date back to the 15th century. Sassaia was founded on land de Alessandrini’s grandfather purchased at the beginning of the 1900s and the wine style elegantly combines both old traditions and modern techniques.
Previously an institutional commodity investment manager, de Alessandrini became interested in Italy’s DOC and DOCG grape-growing market in 2012, which led him to invest in various indigenous Italian varietals. “The next natural evolution was to explore winemaking,” he explained. “Here, I quickly learned that style definition is paramount. My palate led me to Burgundy, and my desire to better absorb the theory behind the winemaking style led me to UC Davis.” In March 2022, he completed UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education’s Winemaking Certificate Program.
Inspired from Grape to Glass
To de Alessandrini, one of the most valuable aspects of the UC Davis program is having macro elements explained in micro detail. “My goal for the program was to gain a better understanding of the science behind winemaking, so as to be better prepared for the variation in fruit that each vintage brings with it,” he said. “The program helped me significantly.” He explained that the scientific background the program provided allowed him to further explore topics and new technologies on his own. “The materials in the program are well-written and each bit of knowledge opens up more doors of questions and mystery."
Acquiring his winemaking certificate has helped de Alessandrini better appreciate and utilize the technologies available to winemakers and become more efficient in evaluating the scientific insights of the winemaking process. “The program gives you the foundation to better understand what you’re looking for and how to use technologies to get better indicators, so you can be proactive as opposed to a reactive winemaker.” According to de Alessandrini, it is this aspect of learning how to be a minimalist by using technology and science to guide the winemaking process that he enjoys most.
Aside from developing a strong scientific framework for winemaking, de Alessandrini also appreciates the extensive network of alumni and professors he’s gained from the program. “Professors have real working experience and crisp scientific understanding,” he said. “The live weekly sessions with them were invaluable. UC Davis does have it all, in my opinion.”
Become a Winemaker
Whether winemaking has always been your dream or a new-found passion, our Winemaking Certificate Program can give you the foundational knowledge you need to make it a reality. Schedule a one-on-one appointment with enrollment coach, Kristy Craig, to get started.
He explained that he’s made contacts with fellow winemakers at UC Davis who have traveled to Sassaia to vinify and help with harvest or who have introduced him to new technologies. He’s even had the luxury of having Grady Wann, director of the Winemaking Certificate Program, come for a visit during the 2021 harvest.
Among the indigenous vines in Piedmont, de Alessandrini and his collaborator and mentor Pierre Naigeon, a fifth-generation winemaker in Burgundy, have concentrated their efforts on Timorasso (a white varietal) and Nebbiolo and Dolcetto (reds). “My family owes a lot to these lands, which over a century ago welcomed us. I hope to be able to give back what they have given us, helping this territory to grow in international markets.”
Watch the video below to hear more from Enrico de Alessandrini.