Gherardo Gaetani AKA Barù was born in Maremma, a region of Tuscany "where the sea meets the countryside." From there, the world has been his oyster. He went to a Swiss boarding school at age nine, moved to Lake Tahoe in the USA at twelve, moved to San Diego for university where he played American football, and after completing his studies, he entered the world of wine and fine dining. He's worked with some of the best wineries, including Bodega Noemia de Patagonia, Tenuta San Guido in Bolgheri, Castello Sonnino near Florence, Montespertoli in Tuscany, and Torbreck in the Barossa Valley. Along the way he's built a reputation as the man in knowing when it comes to wine and living the tasty life, regularly contributing to culture publications and appearing on television as a renowned expert (with a hilarious sense of humour) in these departments. What does his fabulous life involve, day to day, and how can we steal his life? We asked him!
Words: Zac Bayly
I know that you're a winemaker and consultant, but could you break down your work for our readers? What do you do for a living, exactly?
Lately not so much winemaking, but I am starting to develop a little wine project for next year and if this legend of Italian natural wine making jumps on board, we are golden. On the consulting side, all my projects with restaurants ended with the pandemic. I am helping out with developing an Italian BBQ and Grill and also a butcher shop. Since this whole pandemic started I am focusing on creating content, a podcast that talks about different cuts of meat and how to cook them and other food and wine-related stuff. Hopefully they spark some sort of interest out there.
How long have you had a passion for wine? What ignited it?
My grandmother recognised that I had good taste with wine and food early on; whenever she would open great bottles, she would let me wet my lips to get an idea. It was a great education — the opposite of what happens usually when one starts out drinking shit wine. Although I first understood wine when I was 14; it was a bottle of Sassicaia 1985 (a prized vintage), and it was crazy. It just hit me… "Oh this is really good, I think I really like wine now..."
Barù grilling with cult Italian chef, Paolo Parisi
Did you study winemaking? How did you learn it?
I didn’t study winemaking, I studied history. I just started working in wineries from the bottom. Each place is so specific that to learn anything you need a few years under your belt in that specific spot.
What separates a good winemaker from an average one?
A GOOD WINEMAKER IS A FARMER FIRST.
What makes for a good wine? Are there any rules?
I have no idea — it varies so much. The only thing that is for certain is that if you have a bunch of different bottles of wine on the table, the first to go is best.
Barù with a glass of white wine.
You're known for your razor-sharp wit. Do you have any heroes in this department, a hero when it comes to a great quip? And do you have a favorite quote of theirs?
Well thank you... I have a bunch of heroes, for the most part comedians. One is Larry David; he just makes sense and makes me feel like I am not alone. “Most people are completely unaware of their breath. They violate your space, they have no idea that they have halitosis.” Another and an underrated comedian that has that great talent for quips is Norm McDonald, a great stand up and he shines in interviews when there is a bit of back and forth.
What are your top three rules of entertaining?
I just try to be myself or else it’s a disaster, which is hard because I don’t think I’m very interesting…
Is there anything you detest when being a guest at a dinner party?
The doorway goodbye that never ends — you just spent hours with these people. Whole new conversations are started, standing uncomfortably in a narrow hallway... Haven’t we said enough? I just want to go home.
What are your opinions on...
Love quince, the paste is usually too sweet. I have never been asked that before…
LIFE, don’t know what I would do without olive oil
I stay away from aged sheep cheese (pecorino).
Red or white and when?
Good wine always — people have all these rules and pairing for wine and then they drink terrible stuff.
Dinner party music?
I have a pre- and after playlist, never during — it deeply annoys me. But do love a good dance party.
What is your favourite thing to cook when you are really trying to impress someone?
Fire! There has to be lots of fire and things one eats with their hands. It brings people back into a primordial mindset and they let go.
Barù at a beach barbeque
What are your favourite restaurants in the world, and what makes them each so special?
My favourite restaurants have one thing in common: they are run by farmers or fishermen, not chefs. They are special because they don’t know how to do marketing and what you get is real and honest, without long explanations (written by a copywriter) on what you are about to eat.
How important is water — the beach, for example — to you?
Water for me is everything. It’s my happy place. I try to spend the most amount of time as possible in it. It makes it all ok. I work out in water, I meditate in water... It cleanses me, it relaxes me, it charges me.
Barù surfing in Bali
What is your favourite holiday destination, and why?
Oceans with waves so I can surf, I like to try different spots out. Polynesia this winter would be nice.
Are you a swim-shorts or swim-briefs kind of guy?
Shorts. I even swim in board shorts. I don’t like to hang out with my package out. And truthfully I think my hips are not right for the brief cut.
If you could own one piece of artwork, no matter the cost, what would you choose?
The Raphael Rooms at the Vatican. I think they are four. I think they would tie the house together nicely.
Raphael's Rooms in the Vatican
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A desolate farm on the ocean next to a great break; make my wine, keep some animals, grow some vegetables... Nothing too big; something you can manage without too many people. You know self-sustainable ect.
Barù, Instagram: @barulino