Frescobaldi winemakers boosted by Russian sales

Tue Oct 12, 2010 10:38am EDT
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By Svetlana Kovalyova

CASTELLO DI NIPOZZANO, Italy (Reuters Life!) - Italy's Frescobaldi family has been making wine in Tuscany for more than 700 years and used to have the British Royal Court and popes in Rome among its clients.

Now, the famous winemaking dynasty is looking to win over consumers in Russia and other new markets to secure sales growth for its premium wines while more affordable New World wines gain in Britain and other traditional markets.

The Marchesi de' Frescobaldi group, which exports 65 percent of its 9 million bottle annual output to 85 countries, saw the global economic crisis trim consumer appetite in some main markets: the United States, Germany and Switzerland.

But sales of the Frescobaldi wines -- whose retail price varies from 10 euros to 200 euros ($280) per bottle, with the exclusive Masseto red fetching up to 500 euros -- have been brisk in south eastern Asia and Russia.

"Russia has been the best performing market this year for us," Lamberto Frescobaldi, vice president of the group, told Reuters at one of its main estates perched among the hills 30 km northeast of Florence.

Sales volumes are still small and the vodka drinking tradition remains strong in Russia, but consumers there like to splash out on big ticket items and the country is likely to power the group's sales growth in the future.

"There are lots of consumers there with a strong desire for high quality goods ... Russians are very open to Italy, to our lifestyle," said Frescobaldi, who is in charge of production at the group.

Marchesi de' Frescobaldi also counts on curiosity and love of all things Italian for Japanese and other Asian consumers. But the group is cautious about approaching the Chinese market where its French rivals have been rapidly expanding, he said.   Continued...

<p>Marquess Lamberto Frescobaldi smells the wine before drinking as he poses at the Nipozzano castle, one of Italy's Frescobaldi family estate, 30 km (19 miles) northeast of Florence in this picture taken October 8, 2010. REUTERS/Max Rossi</p>