PROGRESO, Uruguay – Love for his family traditions, the arrival of the railroad that gave the name Progreso to an Uruguayan city and fertile land were the main ingredients that an Italian immigrant relied upon to begin writing his own wine-producing success story in 1919.
Arriving from northern Italy’s Liguria region, Cesare Secundino Pisano settled in the Uruguayan city of Canelones and, using knowledge handed down to him by his father Francesco, planted the original vineyards here.
Now, a century later, that dream founded on ancestral tradition is traveling around the world inside the bottles of wine exported from the Pisano family’s winery in Uruguay to Belgium, Brazil, Costa Rica, the United States, France, the United Kingdom – in fact, to a total of 48 countries.
“We sell wine to the French, which is like selling ice to the Eskimos,” Gustavo Pisano, a member of the third generation of a family devoted to the wine culture for more than a century, told EFE.
This is the story of one of the many “bodegas” located in this city in Canelones province, some 35 kilometers (22 miles) from Montevideo, which on the weekend celebrated the national wine and “empanada” festival – an empanada being a type of meat pie – an event where attendees can sample the food and drink of the region, along with assorted shows.
On Progreso’s main square, a few blocks from the old train station built in 1871 bringing modernity to this part of the country, local residents have been able to show their pride in their wineries, which are recognized and have won awards on the international level.
Some of the vines planted by Grandfather Pisano 100 years ago are still bearing fruit and now his grandson, who is following in the footsteps of that Italian tradition, is taking it international.
“It’s something that fills us with pride because we know that we’re doing good things and that in Uruguay things can be done well, that quality products can be provided to distant places,” he said.
The bounty of Progreso’s soil is part of a region where 75-80 percent of Uruguay’s vineyards are located, according to Gustavo, noting that his grandfather planted his first grapevines in 1919 and five years later founded the Pisano winery.
That winery is now one of the best-known in Uruguay, and it has two vineyards where grapes of the cabernet sauvignon, tannat, cabernet franc, chardonnay, torrontes, merlot and other varieties are produced.
“We’re part of the people’s festivals. We can’t let them down,” emphasized one of the winery’s owners, adding that wine “is a gastronomic pleasure” and drinking it should be “a fiesta.”
At the Pisano winery, workers undertake all phases of production in the specialized business ranging from planting the vines all the way through delivering the end product to local businesses.