The Tasting Panel magazine

December 2011

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Page 74 of 128

ACQUISITIONS A Well-Balanced Blend W ith the purchase of the remaining 50.1 percent of the iconic Tuscan producer Ruffino in October, Constellation Brands has made a bold commitment to shore up one of Italy's most venerable wine houses. Ruffino, a name synonymous with the area of Chianti Classico, and to a certain extent Tuscany as a whole, has always had a strong marketing and brand presence throughout the world, and certainly in the U.S, first appearing on our shores well before 1900. However, its growth in recent decades to eight properties throughout Tuscany and northeast Italy, and its jump, albeit very RUFFINO AND NEW OWNER CONSTELLATION ARE PERFECT PARTNERS by David Ransom Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro is made only from the finest grapes picked in the best growing years. Teamwork (left to right): Beppe D'Andrea, Senior Brand Ambassador for Ruffino; David Rocco, Ruffino spokesperson, Food Network personality and author of the recently released cookbook Made in Italy; Angus Lilley, Director of Marketing for Constellation Wines U.S. successful, into the Prosecco fray earlier this year (THE TASTING PANEL, June 2011), had left it struggling to juggle the sizable debt incurred to cover that expansion and huge infrastructure. With Constellation's commitment to purchase it outright, Ruffino now has a considerable bankroll with which to look firmly towards the future. Given that so often these transfers in owner- ship spell big changes for the winery being acquired, one of the most surprising news bytes to come out of this change of hands is that Constellation actually has no real plans to change anything at all. "The last thing on our minds for Ruffino right now is to make a lot of waves by making sweep- ing changes to what has been a great business for well over a century," said Angus Lilley, Director of Marketing for Constellation Wines 74 / the tasting panel / december 201 1 U.S. while in New York recently on a tour to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the first release of Ruffino's most recognizable wine, the legend- ary Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale. "We have no plans for large changes, buying additional vineyards or to dramatically retool the marketing strategy or management style at this point," Lilley continued. "Ruffino has a great name, a great following, and our goal is to help it maintain its market share [its mainstay wines, the aforementioned Chianti Classico Riserva and Riserva Ducale Oro, currently have a 40% share of all Chianti Classico sold in the over-$20 price point within the U.S.*] while firming up the infrastructure and helping it to grow organically to meet future demands." Welcome news for Ruffino's huge and very loyal fan base, to be sure, and echoed in the words of the company's longtime Cellar Master and current Senior Brand Ambassador, Beppe D'Andrea, who joined the winery in 1987 and helped define the modern, all-red (post 1967 when DOC laws were enacted banning the inclusion of white varietals in Chianti) blends that Ruffino's Riserva Ducale and its stunning sister wine, the Riserva Ducale Oro (made only from the finest grapes picked in the best growing years) have become. "We love when people feel the wine in the glass," says D'Andrea, "and for that to happen, we, the caretakers of the wines, must respect the land, respect the vines—and most of all respect the consumer." *Source: Symphony IRI, Total Food, Drug, Mass, Convenience, 12 weeks ending Oct. 2, 2011. PHOTOS: ROD MORATA

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