Allegrini 2018

In the value and price of the great wines, the difference lies between “history and stories“

The great reds of France exported at 9 euros per litre, those of Italy at 5 (Nomisma). The gap is not in the quality, but in the creation of value

In the eternal duel between France and Italy, if for quality, according to many, it is an equal fight, in values, certify numbers, the Belpaese is still far behind, even, or above all, in its most important, compared to the big names of France. A difference that is, in large part, in history, and in the stories, that the French, as known, can tell much better than the Italians since they began to do the same with a few centuries of delay.
This is the summary message of the conference “Super Wines and Super Prices - Brunello and the French”
which, moderated by Luciano Ferraro (editor-in-chief of the daily newspaper “Corriere Della Sera”) has opened the edition n. 27 Benvenuto Brunello (until 18 February in Montalcino), with the debut of Brunello di Montalcino 2014 and Riserva 2013, and the assignment of a rating to the 2018 vintage - which should be rated with 4 stars out of 5, ed - tomorrow, sanctioned by the traditional commemorative “tile”, made this year by one of the most famous Italian athletes in the world, Alex Zanardi.
The data, after all, are clear: if on average red wines the average export price is 4.65 euros per liter for Italy, compared to 6.09 euros per liter of France, in red PDO the gap rises even more, with the French at 9.14 euros per liter, and the Italians at 5.52 euros per liter. And the comparison between the most important regions of the two countries is even harder: the great Burgundy red wines are sold, on average, to 25.5 euros per liter, those of Bordeaux (which has a much larger production) to 12, 05 euros. Piedmont, the first Italian region in this sense, exports at 9.12 euros per liter, Tuscany at 6.89, Veneto at 5.75. Of course, these are quotations on which, in the case of the French, the stellar prices expressed by the wines of the wineries and the most important brands weigh, a few bottles, but sold at thousands of euros, but it is indisputable that transalpine wines are, on average, positioned at higher levels.

“On the other hand, in France, the production of quality wine has a centuries-old history, and has a different structure,” stressed Jerome Gautheret, correspondent from Italy for “Le Monde”, and producer in Burgundy with the family business, Maison Louis Latour. “We have few areas that produce great wines, and it has always been a “national” market, while in Italy wine has always been produced everywhere, and the domestic market is much more tied to local production.
Then, Champagne was the wine of the French kings, Bordeaux of the English nobility. This is to say that over the centuries the conditions have been created for the development of a high-level market. But also in the production, we immediately focused on quality, as told by the edict of the Duke of Burgundy who, in 1394, imposed to remove the Gamay, because it produced too much wine, and to plant the Pinot Noir. We already thought about creating a limited production in numbers, and better in quality. No less, today, however, if France on the values is further ahead - commented Gautheret to WineNews - Italy today runs faster”.
In fact, beyond the very few pioneering wineries, the production of wine in terms of quality, rather than quantity, is recent history in Italy, which began in the mid-twentieth century when the appellations were first established. Nevertheless, “even in Italy, at the end of the fifteenth century, Leonardo Da Vinci claimed, in a letter, that only wine of quality had to be produced, but was not listened to - reported Federico Quaranta, the historical voice of Decanter, on Radio2, and now speaker of the very popular LineaVerde, on Rai1 - we needed methanol in order to understand this.
However, if we do not consider the great wines, with the glamour of Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Champagne that are not discussed, Italy is stronger. Of course, the French work well on their values and their stories, we must learn to do it better. We are aware that, if we play on the same field as them, we lose, we must find other ways. History and stories are fundamental, even if they are not thousands of years old. We have many stories, even popular ones, appreciated by those who listen to them: let’s take them out, let’s have more stories than the French, let’s tell them. Then the wine in the glass expresses these stories in sensations. We need culture, a winemaker without culture is a dead producer”. Also because, after all, “it is the history and the stories, and as they are told, that make a bottle of great wine sell for 50 or 500 euros, certainly not the cost of production,” added Giampiero Bertolini, to Tenuta Greppo Biondi Santi, the winery that was the “cradle of Brunello”, now owned by the French group Epi. ”Biondi Santi is an icon - stressed Bertolini - one of the exceptions that must make us see the future with positivity: it has prices that in Italy are a rarity, even if we are not at the levels of Bordeaux and Burgundy, but they must inspire us.

We need to improve, but we need to understand how because in Italy we have a problem with attitudes towards wine, we are too attached to the land, rather than to the actual cost of the bottle, but not to value. If we do not do what the French have done for years, in the past, we will hardly be able to build the prices that compete, as in Montalcino, on the world market. The quality of the wines is undisputed, but we are not able to create that differential of value that would be right. Companies grow with the value of single bottles, not with the number of bottles, it does not mean producing little but in relation to what one can sell.
In Bordeaux, they sell a lot of bottles at high prices because they have built the market conditions to do it. Today in Biondi Santi we work on quality, which is already high, but we have to grow again, we can never sit on our laurels, but also on the distribution to re-establish on world markets, to recreate this tension on prices, which must keep the value high.
After the 2010 harvest Brunello has experienced a magical moment in the world, the values of the land say so (today the estimates of WineNews speak of 750,000 euros per hectare, with peaks of 900,000), but we must know how to manage, wine prices. Next year, the release of the 2015 harvest, which was extraordinary, maybe a moment to take a leap forward on values, both as Biondi Santi and as a territory in general, but provided that the market conditions are created to make it. Maybe moving together, creating a price reference, which is difficult to do if the prices of Brunello range from 15 euros to hundreds of euros per bottle”. On the other hand, as Chateau Giscours Chateau du Tertre’s oenologist Lorenzo Pasquini reminded us, “you have to make a group: Bordeaux keeps high prices on many bottles because there is a team logic. The Grand Crus move together, the brand is very strong: that’s how the great territories of wine must work”.

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