A love for Barolo has been the guiding force in the life of Riikka Sukula, a Master in Italian Wine Culture student who left her native Finland to make wine in Serralunga d’Alba.
Riikka is from Helsinki and initially trained in management and marketing. Her infatuation with Italian wine led her to work for many years as an importer, travelling between Italy and Finland and building special relationships with a number of Piedmontese producers. Eventually, with her chef husband, Jyrki, she decided to buy a plot of land with a small farmhouse on the Meriame hill in Serralunga.
“With this land it was love at first sight, and this is where my passion for Piedmontese wine began,” explains Riikka, who is now completing her educational internship at the Slow Wine editorial office, within Slow Food’s publishing company, Slow Food Editore, in Bra. “I moved here around 10 years ago with my husband and my two daughters were born here. And my wines are born here too.”
She told us more about her experience in the Langhe with the Master in Pollenzo:
“When I arrived in the Langhe, my winemaking friends told me that 90% of the wine’s quality was made in the vineyard, and I didn’t yet understand what they meant. It took time to grasp the concept. I had to become a winemaker myself. I put myself in the hands of Gianpiero Romana, an expert agronomist from around here, who set me on the path towards a proper production. Not having a large facility, I make my wines at the Giorgio Rivetti winery in Grinzane Cavour. Over the years I began to see good results for my wines, Barolo and Barbera, and to want to improve them. I’m now on my fifth Barolo vintage and I export mostly to the United States, Norway, Finland and Denmark, as well as supplying local restaurants.”
“From the local winegrowers I heard about the new Master in Italian Wine Culture, which was launched at Pollenzo last year, and I signed up, starting the course in January this year. I chose the Master because I wanted to enrich my experience with more theory and an understanding of the vine’s life cycle. The timing works well and I can fit it around my life as a mother, taking the girls to school, going to university and then getting back to pick them up from the schoolbus in the afternoon! The instructors are of a high level and despite a few organizational problems, typical of a brand-new course, I’m very happy with the teaching. It’s a bit of a struggle for me to study in Italian, but luckily the teachers are flexible and I can get by with English.”
“Now I’m doing my internship at the Slow Wine editorial office, in Bra, where I organize presentations and tastings for the Slow Wine guide around the world. I contact winemakers, oversee the logistics of the international events, stay in touch with the various international PR agencies, take care of the bureaucracy of transporting the wine and so on.”
“Why did I want to do this Master? First of all to develop my professional network and improve my winery, and then of course to deepen my knowledge of Italian wine and be able to promote it in the best possible way. I’m the only Scandinavian who has moved to the Langhe to make Barolo, so I’d better know what I’m doing, right?”