Robert Skalli, Owner
Robert Skalli, owner and Chairman of the Board of Skalli Family Wines Americas, comes from a longtime French viticultural family; a family that has been driven by a passion for vines and wines, understanding and working with the land and creating new wines in the South of France for three generations.
The Skalli family got its start in the wine business in Algeria in the 1920’s when Robert’s grandfather Robert-Elie established vineyards in Oran, Mascara, Mostaganem and Ain Temouchent. The vineyards were planted with traditional grape from the South of France: Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache and Alicante. The entire Skalli family, including Robert’s father Francis, cultivated and vinified full-bodied, generous wines made from low yielding vines which were eagerly sought by French and Swiss wine merchants.
In 1961, Robert’s father Francis Skalli fell in love with an untouched region on the west coast of Corsica called Terra Vecchia. At the same time in the Languedoc region, he set up a company dedicated to importing wines from Algeria – later known as ‘Les Chais du Sud.’
In 1974 at the age of 24, Robert took up his family’s vocation and joined the business in the Languedoc region and Corsica. He invigorated ‘Les Chais du Sud’ by developing wine maturing cellars and a winery for making Languedoc wines. His travels quickly lead him to understand that survival would depend on improving wine quality in an increasingly international and competitive market, so he turned his efforts to revitalizing the ancient vineyards of the Languedoc. From the early 1980’s, improving the wines of the South of France became his life’s work.
A trip to California revealed many similarities between California and sunny Languedoc. He felt particularly at home in the Napa Valley. Robert returned to France with two dreams: improve the quality of wines coming from the South of France and create a top quality wine from the Napa Valley. In 1982, Skalli purchased and began planting the Dollarhide ranch in Napa Valley; the winery was built on a second estate vineyard in Rutherford and opened late in 1989 as St. Supery Vineyards & Winery.
During that same period, Robert Skalli laid down a challenge in Languedoc. In order to bring out the full potential locked in the region and orient it towards quality production, he believed the region should put its energy behind developing varietally-labeled wines, a concept whose success he had observed in California. This approach, however, was a radical departure to the long standing French tradition built on the appellation d’dorigine contrôlée system governing most high quality French wines. Robert traveled constantly throughout the Langudoc persuading growers to take the plunge by planting new varieties such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Together with Jacques Gravegeal, chairman of southern France’s Vins de Pays d’Oc association, Robert helped create the official ‘Vin de Pays d’Oc’ designation and the first French varietal wines under his new Fortant brand.
In 2000 and 2001, Skalli Family Wines made news again by taking over one of the most highly reputed stockists of wines from the South of France, ‘Caves Notre Dame.’ The family also acquired the Languedoc’s prime Domaine du Siléne estate and Maison Bouachon, a Châteauneuf-du-Pape producer with a 100-year pedigree. Robert has also developed relationships with a top wine making estate in Provence, to fulfill his ambition of having a portfolio that represents all of the South of France.
In the fall of 2007, he established Skalli Family Wines Americas, a US import company focused on the wines of the South of France. With his passion and permanent quest for quality and his eagerness to create French wines that satisfy the desires of consumers all over the world, Robert Skalli has initiated a cultural and structural revolution in the Languedoc region that has already proven successful and holds great promise for the future.