Slow Wine 2024
Allegrini 2024

16% of Italian vineyard transactions are made in the Brunello di Montalcino area

Changes in territory, ownership, new generations managing on their own, and vineyards moving to higher land
A Montalcino i vigneti della Tenuta Fanti con vista sulla millenaria Abbazia Sant’Antimo

The Italian wine world agenda is more and more about mergers, acquisitions and ownership transfers. And, wine territories are at the center of this phenomenon. According to the analysis by CBRE (Coldwell Banker Richard Ellis), world leader in consultancy and investments in commercial real estate, Brunello di Montalcino stands out above all the others, where 16.1% of all transactions in Italy between 2016 and 2022 took place. The intense investment activity can be interpreted in several ways. The people who want to buy in the area nurture a very high interest because they are attracted by its prestige and profitability, while at the same time there are many wineries waiting for just the right offer to change ownership.
This is a “win-win”situation, as they say, because whoever wants to buy is confident that they are investing in an area of absolute top value. Montalcino seems impervious to market crises for its wine, and its land values are not only stable but growing (we are talking about figures between 750.000 euros and 1 million euros for one hectare of Brunello vines today). Furthermore, those who sell do so at market values that have grown significantly over the years (in half a century, according to WineNews estimates, the revaluation of the Brunello vineyards for an estimated value of the Brunello vineyard was +4,500%, a total of 2.100 hectares, over 2.5 billion euros, from the estimates of the Brunello di Montalcino Consortium, in 2020). It is, therefore, one of the phenomena that is redesigning the future of Brunello di Montalcino and its territory, which is now established as a classic Italian and world wine.
Montalcino has not changed its faith in 100% Sangiovese both for Brunello and for Rosso di Montalcino (which has yet to find its own image, though NOT as the younger brother, ed.), and has not changed its intentions to not expand its size, as the vineyard Register has been closed. Since 1997 there are 2.100 hectares of Brunello and 510 hectares of Rosso di Montalcino. On the other hand, though, it is constantly changing its profile, at the ownership level, as companies and vineyards are subject to continuous acquisitions and changing ownerships, as well as new generations of producers, often the "offspring" of a wine dynasty, which are launching new projects. And also from the "positioning" point of view, as some wineries are moving their vineyards to higher and higher altitudes, to counteract the effects of climate change and global warming.

Taking a look at the most recent transactions, at the end of 2022, Tenuta Croce di Mezzo and La Crociona (5 hectares of vineyards, of which 3.5 of Brunello and 1 of Rosso di Montalcino, a stone's throw from the Biondi-Santi Estate), led by the Vannoni-Nannetti family for 30 years, was acquired by Enrico and Marco Faccenda, wine brothers from Piedmont, at the helm of Cascina Chicco (which has its roots in Roero, and which today counts 60 hectares of vineyards and vines in some of the most prestigious Barolo crus, such as Ginestra, Mosconi, Ravera and Castelletto. However, it also has 50 hectares, together with other entrepreneurs, in Gallura).
Just a little earlier, however, news of the transfer of Mastrojanni, one of the gems in the area (108 hectares of land, of which 40 hectares of vineyards and 17 hectares of Brunello di Montalcino), from the property of the Polo del Gusto of the Illy Group to Francesco Illy, wine producer of the famous Podere Le Ripi Winery. At the same time, he sold his 20% of the Illy Group to his siblings Anna, Riccardo and Andrea (including an undeclared, but most likely considerable economic settlement ed.), thereby definitively leaving it. These are but a few examples among the many WineNews has reported, often in its previews, over the past few years.
As we mentioned, new projects are also being created in the Brunello di Montalcino area, which is constantly changing, often linked to new generations of families that have left a distinguishing mark on the recent history in the area. For instance, the new project, which according to WineNews rumors, will soon see the very young siblings Giovanni, GianLorenzo and Marianna Neri, who now join their father Giacomo Neri at the helm of Casanova di Neri, personally acquire Brunello vineyards (around 5-6 hectares, between Sant’Angelo in Colle and Castelnuovo dell’Abate). Casanova di Neri is one of the superstar wineries in the area, according to International critics (along with other historical companies such as Biondi-Santi, now part of the French group EPI, Alessandro Mori's Marroneto, Stefano Cinelli Colombini's Fattoria dei Barbi, as well as brands such as Castello Banfi of the Mariani family, more and more projected to managing the leading winery in Montalcino, Castelgiocondo of the Frescobaldi family, Pian della Vigne of the Antinori family that has been in the wine business for 25 generations in Tuscany. There is also Tenuta Col d'Orcia of Francesco Marone Cinzano, whose son, Santiago enjoys an increasingly important role in the firm. Further, the stupendous Tenuta di Argiano, undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in the Montalcino wine territory, now owned by the Brazilian tycoon, André Santos Esteves, and very well managed by the young entrepreneur, Bernardino Sani, and also Caparzo and Altesino of Elisabetta Gnudi Angelini, which is accumulating more and more hectares on the Montosoli hill, a real ad litteram cru in Montalcino, and so on), for a project they have created, independent of Casanova di Neri, and will be managing together.
The La Casaccia di Franceschi project, on the other hand, was started and has been completed, although it is still under constant construction. Flavia and Federico Franceschi, children of Leopoldo Franceschi, are at the helm of Il Poggione, a historic winery that has one of the deepest and most complete "libraries" of old vintages, in the area. Leopoldo Franceschi explained to WineNews that the company started its path in 2016, and it is still in progress and under construction. “I bought 10 hectares in Brunello from Il Poggione (Leopoldo Franceschi owns 75% of the shares and his sister Livia the remaining 25%, ed.), then another 5, more or less, in Cinigiano, of TGI, and another fifteen hectares of TGI will be added to those”, Franceschi explained. Therefore, when La Casaccia is fully operational it will be able to count on about thirty hectares of vineyards, of which 10 hectares of Brunello. “I bought them for my children, who are agricultural entrepreneurs. They manage the La Casaccia company, which is completely different from Il Poggione. At best, I can give them advice on wine. Therefore, let's say that we (Il Poggione) are the history, and they (La Casaccia) are the future”.
Another project that the "new generations” have created is to relaunch Tenuta Fanti, one of the historical wine names in the area. Tenuta Fanti has belonged to the Fanti family since the early nineteenth century. It became a top leading local brand under the direction of Filippo Baldassare Fanti (who was also President of the Brunello di Montalcino Consortium for several mandates, between the end of the 1990s and the early 2000s, ed.). It is now run by his daughter, Elisa Fanti. The Fanti Estate sold small parcels of vineyards, not registered as Brunello, to various prestigious companies (Ciacci Piccolomini d'Aragona of the Bianchini family, Le Macioche of the Cotarella family, Mastrojanni and Podere Le Ripi, now all owned by Francesco Illy, and Salicutti, a company that the Eichbauer family, a big name in construction in Germany, and founder of the two-star Michelin restaurant, "Tantris", in Munich, purchased in 2016 ), detached from the main body of the company, and is now aiming towards, and actually relaunching, on a large scale, not only the production of Brunello di Montalcino, but also wine tourism, enhancing the exceptional beauty of its position, the winery, the restaurant and the vineyards that enjoy a unique view of the centuries old Sant'Antimo Abbey, one of the symbols in the territory.
Furthermore, as we mentioned above, and as WineNews has reported in previous articles, two of the most beautiful and renowned companies in the area, in terms of size and reputation, the aforementioned Pian delle Vigne of Antinori (at the end of 2022, construction of the new winery was completed. It is based on an idea by Marquis Piero Antinori, completely recyclable, and involved an investment of more than 6 million euros), and Pieve Santa Restituta, the wine by the famous Piedmont producer, Angelo Gaja, would be "moving" some of their vineyards in Montalcino, in the center of Tuscany, from the base of the pyramid hill to a slightly higher place than where they are now. After having carried out detailed studies and research to counter act global warming, which affects the management of the vineyard as well as the quality (and potentially also the alcohol content of wines that is getting higher, in contrast to a market that would seem at least to want to go in the opposite direction, ed.). They will obviously be located within the municipal area (the expansion to San Giovanni d'Asso a few years ago does not fall within the Brunello specification, ed.), as regulations provide, and within the rules on planting authorizations.
Of course, new hectares of Brunello cannot be planted and registered, because the Register has been closed. However, some wineries are planning to plant vineyards that maintain all the characteristics, starting with 100% Sangiovese, obviously, at higher altitudes than the existing vineyard production, which is now TGI Toscana. Going forward, when the new vineyards will have the necessary requirements to be registered Brunello (100% Sangiovese, and at least in the third year of vegetation claiming 30% of the grapes for production per the ceiling set by regulations, which then in the fourth year increases to 70% and from the fifth year onwards, to 100%), to move the company’s planting rights, exchanging the TGI vineyard with that of Brunello, and vice versa. The regulations have clearly and logically foreseen this procedure, which thus allows the company, once all the steps have been taken, to maintain the balance of its hectares in Brunello di Montalcino unchanged. At the same time, they will have vineyards suited to a higher altitude and therefore, theoretically, they will have better medium-long term prospects, in view of global warming, which for the most part is especially felt in the lower and less ventilated areas of the "pyramid" in Montalcino. The process is a slow transformation, and not a revolution. We must add that it concerns only a few hectares of vineyards, and requires, though, considerable investments, since 1 hectare of bare land, to be planted as vineyard, in Montalcino, is priced around 100.000 euros. Nevertheless, though, it is going forward.
Another signal to take into consideration is the distribution of local wines. Logically, starting from Brunello di Montalcino, which has more and more frequently begun to be distributed by other wineries or wine groups, in the same manner as other big wine territories around the world have done. This is the case of Tenute del Leone Alato, the wine branch of the Generali Insurance Group (counting 780 hectares of vineyards in various parts of Italy, like Friuli Venezia Giulia, Monferrato, Prosecco and Valpolicella, ed.). Starting this year, they are distributing the wines of “Il Pinino”, another historical name in Montalcino, exclusively for Italy, and for a few foreign markets. This partnership is yet another sign of the attention paid to a highly prestigious and valuable territory, where it is easy to understand why all the most important wine groups, and not only (including financial and insurance groups), in Italy and around the world, want to enter it.
There are many different stories about investments, generational transitions and new entries in the territory. These include not only wine entrepreneurs investing in vineyards and wineries, but also investment funds. For instance, at the beginning of 2022, the Made in Italy Fund, the private equity fund promoted and managed by Quadrivio & Pambianco, which through the Prosit holding, took over all the shares of the only Cooperative in the area, the Cantina di Montalcino. Or, for instance, the tip-toe approaches, perhaps together with distribution agreements, as we mentioned above, is another example. There are also examples of agronomic and viticultural visions of the future, based on the "slow migration" of vineyards towards higher altitudes. These are fragments of the complex mosaic that is Montalcino, as strong in appeal and prestige as much as its identity in Brunello territory is delicate, and all in all, quite young. The tiles of Montalcino wine are therefore like the great classics (which never go out of fashion because they are at the same time current, but out of time), always appearing to be the same, while instead it is experiencing a profound and slow transformation within in terms of ownership, generations and mercantile dynamics. A change that the many people in a territory that the whole world is talking about and looking to — concentrated in a few hectares where just over 15 million bottles of Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino are produced, a drop in the ocean — must know, welcome and govern all at the same time, to keep up with the times, which are made of changes, and not lose one's identity and spirit.

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