Raffaele Riva early life Born in 1931, Raffaele Riva’s life began with an uncertain future. With his father working for a brewery and his mother making wine, it was clear that the family had little money to spare. He was the eldest of nine children and had the opportunity to work hard in order to help his family make ends meet. At 7 years old, he started selling flowers on a market stall – much like how we used to mow lawns before video games – but then he discovered a talent for painting at school.
Raffaele working life By the age of 13, he was the family’s breadwinner. His parents no longer had to work full time and could instead run their vineyard. In 1950, at the age of 19, Raffaele began working in a factory that produced glass containers for food products and beverages.
Raffaele Riva professional life In 1960, the family opened their first winery. It was a time of great change in Italy. Throughout the 1950s and 60s, wine consumption had become fashionable and prevalent amongst youth. By 1970, there were more than 2,000 wineries in Italy but the industry was in need of a change – it needed an injection of inspiration. The Riva family were not alone in this dilemma. There were many wineries that had already closed and the future remained uncertain.
In the early 1970s, Raffaele was introduced to Enzo Bonelli, owner of Le Cepre in Alta Langa. Together they had a vision to open a winery that would produce wine exclusively from old vineyards. In 1976, Raffaele Riva and Bonelli founded La Cascina Villa Cerqua in the Veronese countryside where they started to explore the wine-growing potential of their region. Raffaele had a vision of producing wines that were simple, elegant and uncomplicated. This was not easy to achieve when many Italian winemakers were still using traditional methods of winemaking.
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