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Interview: Lamberto Frescobaldi, President, Marchesi Frescobaldi

May 19, 2022

Like many leading fine wine players, Italy’s Marchesi Frescobaldi has faced rapidly shifting conditions in its key markets the last few years, but despite the pandemic, the supply chain slowdown, rising inflation, and other challenges, the company’s revenues continue to increase, reaching €135 million ($142m) in 2021, up from €120 million ($126m) in 2019. In the U.S., the Marchesi Frescobaldi portfolio is split between Vintus and Shaw-Ross International Importers, with Vintus handling high-end labels like Ornellaia, Masseto, and Luce, and Shaw-Ross importing all wines under the Frescobaldi brand, which is now at approximately 50,000 cases stateside, according to Impact Databank. In this interview with SND executive editor Daniel Marsteller, president Lamberto Frescobaldi discusses current conditions, expansion into Vino Nobile de Montepulciano, and where Marchesi Frescobaldi is investing for the future.

SND: How are conditions in the U.S. market lately for Italian fine wines?

Frescobaldi: In the Vintus portfolio, everything has been doing very well. More and more people are discovering wines like Ornellaia, and through the pandemic they’ve been drinking them more at home. From Shaw-Ross, we have wines like Nipozzano, Nipozzano Vecchie Viti, and Perano Chianti Classico, which is doing extremely well the last two years. CastelGiocondo Brunello has also had very strong growth. People are opening far more bottles priced in the range of $20-$30, and a lot of retailers have increased their share of those price points. A lot of Tuscan wines are in that bracket of $18 and above, so it’s a great opportunity for Tuscany.

SND: Where are we in terms of the on-premise recovery in your view?

Frescobaldi: We’re quite positive on what is happening right now in the on-premise business. Fine dining and higher-end Italian accounts are packed again, and they’re popping corks as much as ever. The restaurants that are more family-style are suffering a little bit more, because many of those families continue to enjoy dinner at home. But those accounts, in general, carry fewer wines from Europe, so from our side we’re seeing strong demand.

SND: How is the supply chain situation coming along?

Frescobaldi: It’s still a struggle. The port of Los Angeles is a mess. Before, when you were shipping wine from Italy, you could receive it in 30 or 40 days, and now you have to be planning for potentially six months down the road.

SND: Last fall, you acquired a new estate in Montepulciano. What are your plans for that property?

Frescobaldi: We believe there is a great opportunity. At the end of the year we’re going to come on the market with the new winery. The wines are going to be in the $25 bracket, and they’ll carry the Frescobaldi name on the label, going through Shaw-Ross. We started with vintage 2019 that was already onsite, so we have a good start from there. It’s a beautiful estate, and Montepulciano receives an amazing amount of tourism—over a million visitors a year prior to Covid.

SND: Where else have you focused investment lately?

Frescobaldi: In this last 15 months we’ve been strengthening the estates. In Maremma, where we have a rosé program, we’ve added 50 acres and we’re planting more vines. In Nipozzano we planted 100 acres last year, and this year we’re planning on planting 240 acres of new vineyards. We now own over 3,000 acres of vineyards in all. We strongly believe that our mission is to own and control our own vineyards, and own the entire process.

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