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Banfi Sharpens Focus On Italy’s Super-Premium Segment

July 11, 2018

While Italian wine continues to expand in the U.S., Banfi Vintners—whose Italian stable accounts for roughly 80% of its business—has experienced some softness at lower price points of late. Last year, Banfi’s total portfolio was down 5.7% to just under 3.2 million 9-liter cases, according to Impact Databank. By comparison, the market’s overall Italian wine category was up 1.8% to 27.7 million cases in 2017. Still, third-generation Banfi proprietor and president and CEO Cristina Mariani-May remains optimistic about the company’s future, citing progress at Banfi’s higher end.

“Italy as a category is growing modestly. But when you start skewing toward premium brands, that pulls the numbers up. We’re definitely seeing growth within the $15 and $20 price points and above,” says Mariani-May. “It’s the everyday Italian wines at the lower price points that are having a tough time. It’s competitive there.” Banfi’s largest brand, the accessibly priced Italian franchise Riunite, was down 4.8% to 1.5 million cases last year.

Banfi’s flagship Castello Banfi brand, however, is enjoying solid growth, with its upscale Brunello di Montalcino ($80 a 750-ml.) and San Angelo Pinot Grigio ($19) both picking up steam. The San Angelo Pinot Grigio has performed especially well on-premise, thanks in part to its recent inclusion on Hilton’s core by-the-glass wine list. Additionally, Castello Banfi’s La Pettegola Vermentino ($19), a coastal white varietal, is increasingly piquing consumer interest. “We’re seeing La Pettegola’s sales really trend up, particularly in Italian restaurants that understand Vermentino,” she adds. “It’s a unique varietal.”

The company’s Maschio Prosecco brand is also on the rise, benefiting from robust demand for imported sparklers like Prosecco and Cava in the U.S. Maschio, which plays in the $13 range, was up 15% to 74,000 cases last year.—Christina Jelski

On the new product front, the Castello Banfi range was recently expanded with Stil Novo, a new Governo IGT wine made with Sangiovese that retails at $20. The company also has a new brand, Love Story, launched in partnership with Verona, Italy’s Sartori family. The Love Story range features a Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, rosé, and sparkling wine and is retail priced at around $15. “We want most of our wines to be positioned in the affordable luxury segment,” Mariani-May notes. “That’s where we see a lot of potential.”

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