Allegrini 2018

The story of an Italian success: 60 years of Pinot Grigio of Santa Margherita

At WineNews, Beniamino Garofalo, CEO of the wine group: “a historical paradigm shift that is still successful today”

Pinot Grigio by Santa Margherita celebrates, just in these days, 60 years from its debut on the market: an intuition, the one of Count Gaetano Marzotto, at the head of the wine group of Portogruaro, both from an oenological point of view, with a white wine making of Pinot Grigio grapes, for the first time, and therefore without the skins coming in contact with the must, and from a commercial point of view, because of the extraordinary success encountered in Italy but especially abroad. The domestic market immediately rewarded a wine of extraordinary drinkability, which soon became an icon, not so much at the table, as in the other moments of the day, as a pleasure to be indulged, and not as a complete part of the diet. A role to which, at that time, wine was rarely able to play, but it has always interpreted in the United States, where Santa Margherita’s Pinot Grigio has gathered the greatest successes, but only in the following decade, showing that Italy could offer sexy wines, perfectly consistent with the evolution of society and of modern taste. Then, as nowadays, it was a success among music and movie stars: it is not rare, in fact, to find it in the company of celebrities such as Rihanna or Kylie Jenner, Jon Bon Jovi or Drake, who even dedicated some rhymes to it in the lyrics of his most famous songs.
The history of Pinot Grigio of Santa Margherita, however, is a story that, as Beniamino Garofalo, managing director of Santa Margherita Group, told WineNews, had its turning point in a precise moment, “in 1979, when in a blind tasting it was crowned as the best white wine of Italy and the doors of the great US market were opened to it. It was decided to introduce it exclusively in the On Premise channel - in particular in high profile restaurants of Italian origin - with a positioning in the Ultra Premium segment, at a price double than the average of national or imported white wines. Also thanks to targeted marketing actions to support it - in particular, effective communication campaigns towards the final consumer - it became the most sought-after Italian white wine in the United States”, says Garofalo. “Many Italian producers then followed the path traced by Santa Margherita, launching their own Pinot Grigio. In this way they contributed to the growth of a new category of wines made in Italy, which is still today the most requested and sold white wine imported in the United States. Among all of them, Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio has been able to maintain a solid leadership, remaining for four decades at the top of the charts as the most imported and sold Italian white wine in the US”.
With steadily growing numbers, which have made the United States the reference market for Santa Margherita, “and we are certain that it will remain the main locomotive for Italian wine exports also in the future. For this reason - resumes the CEO of the Santa Margherita Group - in 2016 we launched Santa Margherita USA Inc., a subsidiary import and distribution company in the United States, based in Miami. The goal is to preside over this market even more effectively, ensuring our widespread presence in all states of the Union and in new commercial networks, previously intercepted only marginally. Today it is the most important direct investment made by an Italian winery in the United States”.
In these 60 years, many things have changed, even for a pop wine and commercial phenomenon such as Pinot Grigio, which has to face the challenges of the present, starting from the relationship with the land, the territory and sustainability. “I remember that our Pinot Grigio manages to be pop and top at the same time. It is known everywhere, it has been able to bring new consumers to wine, you can find it in the best restaurant as well as in the store down the street, and it goes well with all the regional and national cuisines of the world. At the same time, it is still the most imitated wine and, above all, it is the Italian wine which had the highest success in the US, keeping its leadership for four decades. All this was born from the vision of a man, but it is realized thanks to the daily work of many people, starting from the vineyards”, Beniamino Garofalo recalls. “In order to meet the growing demand, Santa Margherita started already in the sixties a careful selection of the best plots, suitable for the cultivation of Pinot Grigio. However, since they could not be purchased according to the legislation in force regarding private property in Alto Adige, they became the object of contracts with hundreds of small producers in South Tyrol and along the Adige Valley. This modus operandi has led, over the years, to the creation of interesting synergies between Santa Margherita and local winemakers, guaranteeing them the possibility to benefit from the constant support of Santa Margherita’s technical team, and therefore adopting the most innovative techniques even in the vineyards of the most remote villages”.
A production chain model, object of careful university studies for its effectiveness over time, which “has proved to be successful not only in the short term, but for sixty years it has been regulating win-win relationships which at the same time have important effects on the natural environment and on the social and economic stability of the territory: the heritage and the technical skills of families who have been cultivating vines for hundreds of years have not been lost; vineyards have not been abandoned; families have been able to count on certain incomes avoiding the depopulation of fields and the abandonment of villages”, underlines the managing director of Santa Margherita Group. “In this way, we also challenge climate change, being on the front line, through best practices in which tradition has been able to marry sustainable innovation and good practices in the vineyard and cellar, transforming them into concrete daily actions, such as the protection of biodiversity, reforestation, energy production from renewable sources or the implementation - since seven years ago - of the largest “carbon neutrality” program ever carried out by an Italian winery”.
Widening our gaze to the rest of the world, and not only to the United States, Santa Margherita’s Pinot Grigio “has successfully arrived in 90 different countries, "assuring us the value leadership in the Pinot Grigio segment also in markets of undisputed importance for Italian exports, such as Canada and Germany, as well as the opening of new markets for Italian wine, such as Australia, India, the Caribbean, Mexico and Brazil. Before the outbreak of the pandemic, good signs of growth were also recorded in the travel retail sector”, says Beniamino Garofalo. “The ease in conquering new markets, even those already producing wine, is due to the fact that Pinot Grigio Santa Margherita manages to be - even after 60 years - a modern wine, always in step with the times, loved by a very transversal public. It knows how to be the best choice in the most varied occasions of consumption and it is extremely versatile in the matching, not only with Italian or Mediterranean cuisine”.
A success story, but also an inseparable binomial, a rare example, but not unique, of how a wine can become more popular than the winery producing it. An example difficult to replicate, but not impossible. “There are many wines whose popularity exceeds the one of the winery producing them, in Italy as well as in the rest of the world. Just as there are types of wines - if I look at the last Italian global successes: from Amarone to Prosecco - which have fame that goes beyond the one of the single producers. I cannot exclude - concludes Beniamino Garofalo - that in the future there will be a wine-novelty capable of becoming the worldwide incarnation of a winery, and surpassing it in popularity. But I really do not think it is possible to repeat what the binomial Pinot Grigio-Santa Margherita has done: in terms of innovation, change of taste, construction of an image, consolidation of quality, opening of new roads for an entire production sector. It has been a paradigm shift that still proves to be successful. This combination is one of the ambassadors in the world (fortunately not a few) of Italy that works and this, perhaps, deserves a little more attention”, concludes the CEO of the Santa Margherita Group.

Copyright © 2000/2021

Contatti: info@winenews.it
Seguici anche su Twitter: @WineNewsIt
Seguici anche su Facebook: @winenewsit

Questo articolo è tratto dall'archivio di WineNews - Tutti i diritti riservati - Copyright © 2000/2021

Altri articoli