For 15 years Jarno Trulli raced in the world’s greatest spectacle known as Formula 1. A true master in qualifying and precision, Jarno caught the attention of many by squeezing out every last ounce of performance from his cars. A true competitor with the raw and honed skills needed to compete at the very pinnacle of motorsport, his reputation of being able to battle higher performing cars and bring them to their limits speaks volumes of the type of talent he brought to the grid. Despite never winning the championship and his one victory coming at the 2004 Monaco Grand Prix, savants are aware that Jarno is not a man to be measured by mere wins or championship points. Even a mere glimpse at the drivers he competed against reminds the biggest of critics to take back their thoughts. There are not many who can say they raced Michael Schumacher wheel to wheel or Mika Hakkinen. As well as Damon Hill, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, just to name a few. Alas, one day every great driver must hang up the crash helmet and decide what is next. This is where we join Jarno Trulli in his ever impressive career. Now a very successful and well respected wine maker, we cleanse our palette and take our very first sample of his life after Formula 1 within the walls of Podere Castorani
GPT: Jarno, our readers are very familiar with your success on the track. It is impossible to forget that incredible qualification and victory in Monaco 2004. My question to you then is, how does a man who has been living on the edge of speed for so long, take the time to become a wine maker? A trade known for requiring time and patience.
JT: Well, I come from a region in Abruzzo, where there is a passion for wine. It’s a long tradition, my grandfather used to make wine. That is the reason why I came to this, my grandfather’s passion and family tradition. Obviously people might think that the two worlds (Formula 1 and making wine) are totally different, but in some aspects there is something that just puts these two worlds very close. There is the passion for excellence where it doesn’t matter if you drive a Formula 1 car or produce wine. Both worlds are linked to time, where in Formula 1 we are used to fighting against time and in the wine business you need time. Time is required to age the wine, make it better and to ensure you have a product you are happy with.
Then it’s safe for us to say that you gained your passion for wine at a young age and credit your grandfather and family?
Oh yes! Back in the 1970’s when I was very young I remember my grandfather would make wine, and in my region you would find vineyards everywhere. So, when I first joined Formula 1 my father and I decided it would be a nice to carry on my grandfather’s passion. We bought a big estate that dates back to 1793 and has always produced wine, the Castorani. From there we started producing wine, step by step. We were inexperienced at first, but we did grow and learn. Now we produce and export over one million bottles all around the world and are prized as best wines in Italy every year. We have a large selection of wine since we produce red wines Montepulciano Abruzzo, white wines Trebbiano and many more. We also produce grappa!
I’m glad you mention that this was a learning experience. The creation of a fine wine involves so much care and attention to detail from the very start. How much of this process did you need to learn through experience?
Let’s say that when you do something, no matter if you start from scratch or take over, you have to learn everything. Step by step and mistake after mistake, you improve and get better with experience. In the wine business, there was so much I had to learn! The smart thing I did was surrounding myself with a team of passionate, committed and professional people who were all very familiar with the business. The thing about Castorani is that we are a group of people striving for success and personal satisfaction, all because we are doing something that we enjoy. Every day we have that motivation to keep going, it’s a huge boost and the end results are extraordinary.
Formula 1 is very mechanical with the machines, masterpieces of engineering. In wine, it’s a lot closer to nature, much more organic. The earth, the vines and the water they absorb and so forth. We touched on it earlier as there are some interesting parallels, despite how opposite these professions may seem. Can you explain a little more about running a brand of delicious wines to that of driving at the top of racing, specifically the similarities you may have experienced in both worlds?
When I entered this business, I asked myself what I can bring to this company in order to help it improve. What advantage do I have? We strongly believe in the tradition of making wine, and like you said, the wine comes from the land. It is a very natural product from the heart of the land, and in this case the land where I come from. We take care of the vineyards all year round while we wait and hope the weather is good enough to receive grapes allowing us to produce great wine. So, with myself coming from the world of Formula 1 which is so technical and very extreme, we tried to combine technology with the tradition of producing wine. By doing this, we still allow nature to take its course, while at the same time we are able to control the course of nature to ensure we are heading in the proper direction. Actually, if you come and visit our new winery built in 2006, all underground, you will see we’ve gone very extreme in some choices. For example we use cement tanks, which is very traditional from a very long time ago. Then right next to this cement tank is this extraordinary laboratory where every single day we analyze wine, and the aging process. We have optimized what we have available to us, while still respecting what is natural. Nature is something that we always allow to grow as it should be. However we pay very close attention to every single detail when we work with our grapes.
Was it easy for you to transition from the fast paced life of a Formula 1 driver to that of a business man?
To be honest, not really. I started racing when I was young, and in those 30 years I can say that I achieved a lot considering where I come from. I raced 15 years in F1 which is the peak of motorsports. But taking a break was necessary for myself, for my family and also because I needed to look after the family passion. I remember when our first vintage was produced, I was still racing in 2000 and I saw all the progress of the winery and the team, however I was still focused on Formula 1. I always had an eye on the business, while fully focussing on my racing career. When I stopped racing however it was natural for me to look after the family business fully, which still allows me to travel all around the world.
You’re wine, Podere Castorni is geographically very close to the historic Pescara race track in Abruzzo, which has held Formula 1 races. We discussed it with Sir Stirling Moss not long ago, and his victory there in 1957. Do you ever wonder what Formula 1 might be like on a track like that today?
(Laughing) Very little amount of people know about this track. Many think and say that the Nurburgring was the longest and most dangerous track used n Formula 1. Those people are wrong. The longest track was Pescara, back in the 1950’s. It was 26km which went up and down the hills and around the village. I don’t think that Formula 1 can race on that race track today. It is nice to imagine it though! Pescara was very popular in those days. I’ve been on the track unofficially with journalists who have come over to visit with me or to see the track and discover it. Unfortunately there is not much left of the original track but some of the old curbs can still be seen.
Have you ever looked back on your career as a driver or a business man and said there was something you would approach differently considering your experience now?
Experience does teach you how to do things better for the future. Of course after certain experiences, you would do things differently if given a second chance. But, I don’t like to look back. I prefer to analyze and learn and make sure I don’t make the same mistake again. I am proud of what I have done. If it was enough or not, well that’s not up to me to decide, but I gave it my best. I gave everything I had. I consider myself a very lucky guy, and not because I raced those 15 years in F1. But because I raced against some great champions, and probably the greatest ever in Formula 1.
How do you view the sport today as a former driver, compared to when you were a young fan as a boy?
It is fundamentally different, and even from my days of racing, four or five years ago. Not necessarily better, but different. Things change and move on and we need to adapt with the changes. Sometimes taking a step backward might be required in order to have a better show or a better sport. My view is probably different than most of the people, but it doesn’t matter. That is the sport now and everyone has to adapt to it, including the drivers and teams.
Do you have any other projects in mind away from the vineyard?
Not really. My focus is all on the wine.
I’d like to ask you what does Jarno Trulli do for fun or to relax?
Now, family comes first. I have three children which I look after and they are growing fast! Spending time with them is a priority and takes much of my time. When I do have free time I like to do sports, running or jogging and cycling.
Finally, what thoughts do wish your fans to have in mind whenever they raise a glass of your velvety wine?
When you produce wine, the target is to represent yourself and the territory, the region. Abruzzo is very well recognized by its strong people. As well these same people are known to be very nice. This is the character of our wine. I use the example of the Montepulciano Abruzzo. It is strong with a deep character and very rounded in your mouth, it’s very deep.