Recounting a real life tale allows us to enter the life, events, and human nature of the past. The story-teller uses memories to help us discover the hidden facts and emotions of these past lives.
To think back to the time of older generation and the events in their lives, frequently brings light to facts and consequences often long forgotten, which in the only case, play apart of our own past. The Francoli family revolves around one of these characteristic tales.
The rich detail and anecdotes of their tale makes it particular and special in comparison to many others. This old dynasty of distillers made its first move into the world of alembics around the second half of the 1800s. Luigi Guglielmo Francoli, a man of passion for nature and processing the desire to offer nature’s fruits to his friends and acquaintances, formed an interest in the art of distillation. As he used to come down into the valley in his horse-drawn cart to sell his loads of lumber, his curiosity increased as he passed through the rows of Chiavennasca grape vines.
After living a thriving life as bunches of grapes and then delicious wines, the fragrant vinaccia (the leftover organic material from winemaking) was given to small producers who then got the famous aquavit.
During his return to Campodolcino, Luigi thought it might be interesting and useful to fill his empty cart with this vinaccia. Therefore, equipped with a basic alembic and performing the first experiments, he produced the first drops of his grappa.
The blooming lumber business and the difficulties connected with the pressing alcohol taxation hindered him from officialising and rendering this principal business. Instead, following their father and armed with lots of courage, his sons established the Distilleria F.Lli Francoli (Francoli Brothers Distillery) in 1895. Gabriele, Guglielmo, and Bartolomeo were able to use the same methods as their father. Since they had obtained the permission of the famous Daily Distillation (this might still be in effect in Domodossola), they had to pay the manufacturing taxes on the grappa produced daily.
The entire zone (not just the family and their friends) learned to appreciate this grappa. In fact, interests and recognition came from outside the borders of their area. It is certain that the distillery obtained the first award for their Grappa all’Iva (ground pine, a typical Alpine plant from the val-ley of S. Giacomo). Unfortunately, traces of this prized award disappeared when a worker out of urgent necessity and good intentions thought that he would use the merit diploma to plug a broken window.
Turning back to our story, it should be said that Gabriele and Guglielmo’s sons really had the passion to distill. The first two (respectively Giacomo and Nino) left Campodolcino to establish a distillery in Ponti Sul Mincio in the province of Mantova.
The next two (Guglielmo and Severo) did the same thing , but went in the direction of Piedmont and in particular, Ghemme (Novara). There they established the Distillery Francoli in 1922. Yet, only Guglielmo remained in Ghemme to build and dedicate himself totally as a distiller.
The distillation vocation was particularly felt in Campodolcino. In fact, some say 50 and others say 100 original inhabitants of the valley of S. Giacomo abandoned the mountain and came down to the flat lands to find an area that was suitable and logistically ideal to establish a grappa distillery (as quoted by Guido Scaramellini in 'I grapat della Val S. Giacomo').
In 1948, Luigi (Severo’s son) left Campodolcino, joined his uncle Guglielmo, and worked for him as a grappa worker. As so it seemed, the passion for the alembic had started to involve the younger family members.
Their working relationship seemed to wear itself out over the winter season. At the end of the season, Luigi tried to illegally board a ship bound for Australia and to follow a dream. Still to this day, 40 years later, he remembers that time with joy and some regret. Later on in 1951, almost casually happening to be in Ghemme, Luigi Francoli prepared himself to take over the business his uncle intended to abandon.
This was the creation of the Luigi Francoli Distillery. Made-up of two small rooms, some of the area's best grappas were bottled and sold here. As the workload increased, Luigi called on his four younger brothers. As they grew up, one after the other came down from Campodolcino to join him. Having all of the brothers together, the fourth generation of Francoli distillers was complete: each of them with a specific role within the company. In 1962, the limited company Distillerie F.lli Francoli s.n.c. was successfully constructed, which was later transformed into S.p.A. in 1975.
The raising notary was an inevitable consequence of their passion, which they had inherited from their grandfathers: the love of good things resulting from their artisan methods and above all their pursuit for quality. Today, the fifth generation, almost settled in, are ready to take over. Naturally, their intention is to maintain this passion, art, and the quality of their Grappa.