Design rediscovers wine barrels
Brand stories

Design rediscovers wine barrels

An all-Italian start-up that skilfully combines craftsmanship, design and eco-sustainability to create exclusive furnishings and pieces of furniture where the tradition of wine meets Italian taste.

Winetage, a young company founded by Matteo de Padova in 2021, bases its philosophy on a more conscious approach to the upcycling of natural materials, that are used to create collections in which true luxury is not just about aesthetics, but also about the quality and sustainability of materials. The oak wood recovered from the barrels is the main material of each creation, where every stave, of various sizes, has unique colours and scents. LED lamps and coffee tables, tailor-made products, all crafted by expert artisans, where the shape of materials becomes a co-leader in the creative process, and where everything is studied to the finest detail.


Our interview with Matteo de Padova, founder of Winetage



What’s the idea behind your products and how are they designed? 


The Winetage project was born about 5 years ago from a casual 'meeting' between two of my passions: wine tourism, as together with my wife we spend at least 3-4 weekends a year to discover small to medium-sized wineries; and the desire to reduce/avoid waste. During one of these visits, while I was talking with the winemaker, I found out that oak barrels (the 'small' 225L barrels) have a very short life cycle, only 5-6 years before being discarded. As a result, most of them are simply burnt, while just a few find their second use as 'ornaments' (bars, pot holders, etc.). The oak wood used for wine barrels is the most valuable because it is used for the aging of food products.


Trees need to be at least 100-105 years old before being cut into boards for their seasoning, which takes place in the open air for at least another two years. Then the best boards, without knots (because knots would damage the wine), are crafted by master coopers as they used to do in the past (the barrique, invented by the Gauls to transport beer, was adopted by Julius Caesar during the Gaul campaign to transport wine, until he realised that this 'transportation' system actually improved the wine). Since then, and it has been 2,000 years, barrique has been a fundamental part of the wine-making process.


While the winemaker was telling us how often he had to burn the barrels, I had a vision of Michelangelo and that block of marble that was considered imperfect, as it had already been worked by other sculptors who abandoned it. As he touched it, Michelangelo said something like “here lies a work of art, and it is my task to liberate it”. That’s how the David was born...


I’m not an artist, nor a designer.... but I was inspired by that flash to give aged oak staves a second chance. Following Michelangelo’s inspiration, my goal was to make people discover what is hidden inside the barrel: the contact between wood and wine (aging).


Everyone knows what wood brings to wine (structure, tannins, etc.), but no one has so far given visibility to the world of colours, marks and scents left by wine on wood. Here, this is Winetage!


The design starts by respecting and re-evaluating the material in its two essential components: the curvature of the oak stave and the colouring/characteristics imprinted by the wine during the wine-making process. While the curvature is more or less constant, the width, colouring and particular features are always unique, depending on the wood and the type of climate during the aging process (more or less cold/hot, more or less rainy/snowy, etc.), the type of toasting chosen by the winemaker for his wine, and the type of wine to be aged. For this reason we only work with craftsmen who know how to interpret wood. Each of our creations, therefore, tends to preserve this uniqueness offered to us by the matter itself, and our aim is to tell this uniqueness of matter by elevating it to the role of protagonist in our story. 



What are your company's best-selling products and which ones are you most satisfied with?


As a start-up, it is still too early to talk about best-selling products because we are just starting out, but we are counting a lot on the help by Milano Home and experts in the field to share the incredible story of oak aged with wine. As well as the infinite possibilities of upcycling.


Among the current products that I’m most satisfied with, I would like to mention the Pienza floor lamp and the Narni coffee table. Their elegant, minimalist style blends into any home design, but the surprise offered by these products is the chance to catch sight of the marks and colours left by wine aging. A discovery that can then become a topic of conversation, perhaps while enjoying together the wine aged in that same barrel.



What relationship do you see between your accessories and various styles of interior design? 


In the world of traditional design, designers start with a blank sheet of paper and have the opportunity to interpret trends or be guided by their own creativity, as well as by input from customers or the market, and then shape the material to adhere to the concepts they have conceived. This makes it easier to create accessories that can fit 'ad hoc' into any type of design.  For us, however, it is completely different. Our creative process starts from pre-existing matter. From its shape. From the size and attributes that Nature imprinted on each stave. Our goal is to extract from the stave its 'intrinsic Italian-ness' and tell its story with a handcrafted design product that reflects Made in Italy and easily adapts to various styles precisely because it is naturally soft.


If I had to use a reference borrowed from another sector of Made in Italy, fashion, I would say that our style is a bit like the black colour: it goes with everything, always makes a statement, never disappoints, and is timeless.



How important is the concept of sustainability for your company?


For us, the concept of sustainability as it is advertised today is too bland and not accurate. We want to represent the 'sustainability 4.0' of Made in Italy, according to the concept of upcycling. I’ll explain myself by drawing on my 20 years' experience as a top manager in American multinational companies. Most companies in the market (including in the furniture industry) were born years ago and used to design their processes according to 'economies of scale', thus producing standard products for the warehouse that can be shipped to all markets. To do so, they source new raw materials and process them, therefore they consume natural resources even before having a customer. On the other hand, we only produce when there is a customer order, and we are designing our processes around this philosophy. This allows us to let customers choose the type of wood (barrels made with Barolo, Chianti, Barbaresco, etc.) and also our craftsmen to work each stave individually and with the necessary time to extract 'the Italian character'. Barrels are the only stock we have, the 'waste' from the cellars. As a consequence, sustainability for us is not just about reducing waste of water, energy, transport, pre-existing processes, but structuring all our processes around upcycling: we recover excellent oak wood that is naturally enhanced by wine aging.


Our creative process starts from a pre-existing physical material element with an intrinsic uniqueness. We avoid the use of glues or other environmentally invasive chemicals.


And even when we use 'not very sustainable' materials, such as marble, we do so by recovering waste from the processing. Also in this case, starting from a pre-existing material element, the task of our designers is to extract the Italian character. This is our idea of sustainability 4.0 of Made in Italy.



Which new products will you present at the next edition of Milano Home?


Our goal for Milano Home is to present 3 new products. We are convinced that they will revolutionise the perception of upcycling, thus creating a true bridge between sustainability/upcycling and Made in Italy elegance and luxury: an iconic table that reinterprets 25hL barrels (the big ones with 2 metre staves) and 2 indoor fireplaces powered by bio-ethanol that do not require a chimney. We believe that Milano Home is the ideal platform to showcase the untapped potential of upcycling and the union of these different souls of Made in Italy: design, craftsmanship and the world of wine.