Allegrini 2018

Italian wine challenges the ocean: the first 1,000 bottles set sail for the U.S.

The idea of Alessio Piccardi, at the helm of Bencienni and Fieramente, top in “wine logistics” for events and international critics

There are 1,000 bottles of Italian wine that, between today and tomorrow, will arrive in New York: having left from Normandy, they crossed the ocean in 26 days in a sailboat. A decidedly out-of-the-ordinary transport, organized by Tuscan entrepreneur Alessio Piccardi, a sailor by passion and head of Bencienni, a company specializing in wine logistics (based in Montevarchi, Arezzo).
The advantages of the sailboat for transporting wine? Zero emissions and zero fuel, no small plus at a time in history when energy costs have skyrocketed and environmental awareness is at an all-time high. It was precisely the attention to sustainability that sparked the idea of the sailboat in Alessio Piccardi: “we work with many wineries that produce organic and biodynamic wine”, the entrepreneur explains, “but this philosophy of green production clashes with the environmental impact of transportation, particularly for overseas export: the means normally used are cargo ships and airplanes, both of which are responsible for a high release of CO2. We then envisioned this alternative means of transportation. Obviously”, Piccardi continued, “the sailboat cannot be used for large quantities of goods, so containers are always needed”. Instead, sailing turns out to be perfect for smaller quantities directed to the end consumer: for example, wine clubs or tourists, who buy a couple of cartons of wine in Italy and ship it home. But the sailboat also allows for greener choices for packaging: “on this trip instead of using classic styrofoam, we used recycled cardboard and wood pulp, with an additional gain for the environment”, explains Piccardi. For Bencienni - who is also the owner of the brand Fieramente (responsible, of logistics for the Tuscany Previews, from the Chianti Classico Collection to Chianti Lovers, passing through Benvenuto Brunello, among the most important ones, but also for big fairs in Italy and in the world com Vinitaly and Vinexpo Wine Paris and ProWein, and creator of the format “b2j”, “business to journalists”, taking care of the shipments of Italian wines for signatures such as Monica Larner, the Italian editor “The Wine Advocate”, the world’s most influential and long-standing media of wine critics, the gurus James Suckling and Jancis Robinson, and even American magazines such as “Wine Spectator”, “Wine Enthusiast” and “Vinous”, the online magazine of the famous critic Antonio Galloni, via the Uk magazine “Decanter”, and so on) and which, in 2021, had a turnover of 11 million euros - this first sailing shipment will open a new era.
“This was a test trip, in this case it was the bottles sent by the Rimessa Roscioli wine club to its members. But in the spring we will be able to do a much larger shipment of 10,000 bottles, using an entire boat. I hope to be there this time, although a transoceanic crossing requires a lot of preparation. The costs for companies will be about the same as for the ship and the plane”, concludes Alessio Piccardi. What about the timing? While it is true that the airplane is of course much faster, one must also consider that for goods arriving from abroad there is always a “funnel effect”, so one has to stand in line and many days may pass before the cargo is available. In contrast, for sailing, there are no slowdowns-according to the International Code of the Sea, sailing vessels have priority-so the crates are almost immediately unloaded once they arrive at their destination, thanks in part to the logistical support of Bencienni Llc, a company created by Alessio Piccardi specifically to take care of all the paperwork of customs clearance and distribution in the U.S.

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