Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Franciacorta Guy and his Mission to Win in America

Giulio Galli, enjoying a panino with his Franciacorta, at Il Sogno in San Antonio
What is it like to take on a project like Franciacorta in America, to grow its base? Over the past decade, one man has made that his mission, to win over sparkling wine lovers to Franciacorta. And his efforts have yielded positive results.

I’m sharing some panini and a bottle of Bellavista Rosé with Giulio Galli, the Franciacorta Guy, and we’re talking about his strategic plan. From the information given to him by the Franciacorta consorzio back in Italy, the wines he looks after (as American partner to Italian owner Vittorio Moretti), Bellavista and Contadi Castaldi, account for 40% of the sales of Franciacorta in America. That would make him and the wineries he represents one big bad mother. He’s the guy with a business plan who has worked it for the past decade and, by most accounts, has been successful.

And while the two wineries are different (Bellavista is a premium brand that follows an estate grown model, in large part, and Contadi Castaldi depends on fruit bought from nearby farmers and is a value oriented brand) the Franciacorta Guy has found markets for both of these wines, in a wide array of channels, from top restaurants in New York, San Antonio and Los Angeles to big box retailers. Yes, that makes him a sell-out. And that is the plan, to sell out the wine that is allocated to America.

I’m going to switch gears here for a moment. Over the years, I have encountered folks who feel that when things become successful those things lose relevance. And maybe for those who are looking for the next bright shiny thing in the corner, they do. Wines we think of as mainstream today, like Rombauer, Silver Oak or Duckhorn, were at one time cutting edge. There was initially a challenge to establish their place in the world of wine. I know, I was there. And when wines like those become successful brands it seems detractors surface to wail about how the world of fine wine has been sullied by these populist wine companies. Yeah, yeah, yeah, the sky is falling, again.

Bellavista winemaker Mattia Vezzolla and the Franciacorta Guy
And to a degree I see that wines like Bellavista have also been targeted by detractors, although in a much smaller niche than the big popular sparkling wines of the world, like Moet or Clicquot. As if people around the world deriving pleasure from these wines borders on the criminal. Or, fault anything that doesn’t run parallel with your view of wine in the world. Heartbreaking stuff, eh?

But that’s a glass-half-empty approach. How about all the folks who are having a grand time drinking Franciacorta from one of the groundbreakers? According to the Franciacorta Guy, there are a lot of happy people out there. Note, he said “happy.”

My friend is perfectly fine with that. There are plenty of fine small producers back home who give a lot of credit to Bellavista and Ca del Bosco for the path they initially forged. Now many of them can use those efforts to get their wines to market because Franciacorta is better known to wine lovers and sommeliers in this country.

What is it that some dislike about giving someone or something credit for making a success? Is it envy? Does it detract from the others who might be making it a little different? Does the success of Rombauer’s Chardonnay detract from the aspirations Dan Petroski has for Ribolla? If anything, it’s an evocative counter-measure to the symmetry of wine styles.

Last year at Texsom, the sommelier set didn’t turn their noses up at Bellavista. In fact, the booth ran out of wine at the Grand Tasting an hour before the event was over. Someone likes it. Lots of people do. Like the Franciacorta Guy says, the Franciacorta buying public is happy. And I’m happy to report it’s because of folks like the Franciacorta Guy a lot of progress has been made. And it’s important to recognize people like him and the properties that have made the investment in time and money, and in sweat and tears, to make it so. So, many thanks, Giulio, keep on winning and keep up the good work.

The Franciacorta Guy enjoying a sail around Lake Iseo with friends

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1 comment:

Matthew Fioretti said...

Plans from Bellavista pay off in many other ways. Sat evening, I closed the cellar door at Cerbaiona and headed to Moretti’s L’Andana, where founder Vittorio and the Lady Solti, the widow of the great conductor Sir Georg Solti, were closing the annual three week masterclasses for aspiring opera singers from around the world. To say it was a beautiful and inspiring evening would be an understatement. None of this is news to patrons of La Scala in Milan, where Moretti and Bellavista have been such generous sponsors.
All this from Moretti, now age seventy-five and still with the look and wear of the tough, self made construction man: at age 40, he nearly single handedly embarked upon building an appellation and a successful wine business - each element reinforcing the other. My cherished invitation had nothing to do with the wine business, even if Vittorio, just in from an event in Barolo, and I exchanged comments over dinner about a chorus of american histrionics regarding foreign investment in Vietti or what the challenges and financial needs might be of a small producer in Montalcino.
Any small producer in Italy can only learn and benefit from the values of Moretti and Bellavista: hard work, determination, the drive for perfection, success breeding success - and along the voyage, the good will to give something back.
Matthew Fioretti

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