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It is official: 30th June 2008 saw the purchase completed of Fontanafredda, the Piedmontese company which is inextricably associated with the fortunes of Barolo wine, as well as with the love story between King Victor Emmanuel II and Countess Rosa di Mirafiori. The buyers - for 90 million Euros - were a partnership led by Fondazione MPS (with 36% of the stock), while the remaining shares were divided equally (32% each) between businessmen Oscar Farinetti and Luca Baffigo, Chairman and Director respectively of Eataly, a Piedmontese group operating in the high quality food sector. Farinetti and Baffigo also took over as Managing Directors, while Carlo Ceccarelli was appointed in representation of the Foundation as Chairman.
Founded in 1878 by Count Emanuele Guerrieri di Mirafiori, son of the King and “Bela Rosin”, Fontanafredda is changing hands in the very year in which it is celebrating its 130th anniversary, 76 years after being taken over by the Monte dei Paschi di Siena bank back in 1932.
The property located in Serralunga d’Alba, in the province of Cuneo, stretches out over more than 250 acres in the heart of the Barolo wine-growing area in the Langhe. Total sales of 34 million Euros were recorded in 2007, though the 210 acres plus of hillside vineyards on the estate cater for only part of the winery’s annual production: in excess of 6.7 million bottles (4.4 of sparkling wine, 2.3 of wine) in 2007, with 65% being sold in Italy, while the remaining 35% was exported to over 50 countries throughout the world. The shortfall in the annual raw material requirement is sourced from growers who have been selling their grapes to the company for decades.
The first decision taken by the new Board of Directors was to confirm the current management team: Giovanni Minetti as General Manager, Roberto Bruno Commercial Director, Danilo Drocco Technical Director, and Alberto Grasso Agricultural Manager. “We found a close-knit, professional team already in place, and together with them - explains Farinetti - we are preparing the new industrial plan designed to identify the company’s lines of development over the next five years. Fontanafredda is quite unique: a precious oasis (suffice it to say that the only intact wood to be maintained in the Lower Langa is to be found on this estate), and at the same time a technologically state-of-the-art winery whose strengths of the highest calibre are represented by the quality of the environment and of its wines. The fact that the purchase coincided with the company’s celebration of 130 years of history makes us proud, spurring us on to do more and better. After all – continues Farinetti - Fontanafredda has all the qualities to increasingly be recognized as the only real Italian “chateau”: it is a firm of long standing with an important history; a production company rather than just a commercial enterprise, producing the wines it sells; and finally it is a company that gives absolute priority to innovation in production while keeping faith with tradition. In keeping with the theory of apparent contrasts, which is so dear to me, it is traditional and contemporary at the same time”.
At the close of the first half of the year, Fontanafredda presented the new Board with highly gratifying results. Indeed, while sales were slightly down on the domestic market (-2.1%), exports were up 27.5%, giving a considerable overall year-on-year increase at June 31st of +9.1%. More significant still were the data relating to orders, with a positive trend in Italy (+5,4%) and major growth on the export market (+23.4%) combining to produce a two-figure year-on-year increase (+13,2%).
A truly positive period for the company: among the various awards received, worthy of special mention are Fontanafredda’s recent nomination by the prestigious American “Wine&Spirits” magazine as one of the top 100 wineries of 2008, and the limelight enjoyed by one of the estate wines, Briccotondo Piemonte Barbera Doc, when it had the honour of being included in Wine Spectator’s 100 best wines in the world.