Primo Franco, the man who gave the world Prosecco
His legacy is owed in part to the era in which he came of age. After completing his studies and then spending a few years perfecting his English in the “swinging” London of the early 70s, his father Antonio finally convinced him to join the family business.
At the time, the world’s thirst for high-quality sparkling wine was growing rapidly. Primo, who had lived abroad and spoke English fluently, had experienced firsthand the English passion for bubbles and he was among the first to recognize that the new generation of Prosecco had enormous potential for growth in English-speaking markets.
Valdobbiadene — where he, his father, and his grandfather were all born — was undergoing a radical change. Winemakers were shifting from the rustic style of Prosecco, often cloudy and sometimes bitter in taste, to a new and cleaner, fresh style of sparkling wine. Primo, whose experience outside of Italy had made him familiar with Anglo tastes, recognized that the new generation of Prosecco would be embraced by wine lovers on the other side of Atlantic, where a new generation of Americans was beginning to appreciate fine wine for the first time in the country’s history.
As one of the leading producers of Prosecco, armed with a keen interest in graphic design, Primo Franco and the Nino Franco winery had all the right stuff. His elegant labels, which evoked the rustic origins of his wines, were inspired by the artisanal traditions of Prosecco and the people who grew the grapes and made the wines. With their unprecedented artistic flair, the new look for the Nino Franco winery, conceived and developed by Primo, would ultimately prove to be one of the most enduring icons of the appellation. Little did the Franco family know at the time, but Primo was about to embark on an adventure that would reshape the world’s taste for sparkling wine.
Primo made his first trip to the U.S. in 1979, two years after he married the beautiful Annalisa, also from Valdobbiadene, whom he’d first met some years earlier in London where she was completing her studies in English. In 1982, in the wake of the initial success of the wines, he began to travel with greater frequency to North America, where he crisscrossed the country introducing Americans to Prosecco and forging relationships with hundreds of wine buyers and restaurateurs. It was around this time that he also took over winemaking responsibilities from his father.
By the end of the decade, the Prosecco revolution had officially begun. And with the passage of another ten years, as Primo returned each year to the States as Prosecco’s leading ambassador, Prosecco had become one of the most popular wines in America.
“Every Prosecco producer should give Primo ten cents for each bottle they ship to the U.S.,” said recently a young Prosecco grower and bottler who views Primo as a mentor and an inspiration for his own career as a winemaker.
Today, more Prosecco is sold throughout the world than Champagne. And Primo, perhaps more than any other winemaker, was the man behind this sweeping transformation of the fine wine landscape.
Today, he is an outspoken advocate for traditional farming practices in his beloved Valdobbiadene and although his daughter Silvia has now stepped into the role of the winery’s CEO, Primo continues to travel abroad, tasting and sharing the magic of his family’s wines with wine lovers across the globe.