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British merchants back Italian fine wine

As Asian demand grows for top-end Italians, UK wine merchants are upbeat about Italy’s prospects.


Solaia vineyard in Tuscany

“The market for all things Italian is very strong at the moment,” Joss Fowler, head of fine wine at the London-based merchants, Fine & Rare, told the Spirits Business. “You can spend £500 on a case of Barolo, and you’re very close to the top of the tree. It’s a wine that has quality, rarity and a handmade aspect to it when you compare that to the price of Bordeaux. Wine is seen as much less of a commodity than it was 3 – 4 years ago.”

Martin Buchanan, head of private client sales at John Armit, has also noted a boost in

Italy. “People are collecting Sassicaia, Ornellaia and Masseto in particular and they seem to go up 10% a year once they get going. Bordeaux’s been down for quite a long time and I think a lot of people have moved their investment over.”

Buchannan believes Italy’s biggest stars “are not really trying to make the market as such. They tend to go up £5 – 10 on release with prices increasing in line with demand. They could overplay it at some point, and Masseto is probably closest to doing that, but it’s genuinely low production which is why they get away with it.”

Alex Cannetti, who looks after Antinori in the UK for Berkmann’s, credits the British

Barolo La Serra

merchants for “realising that Tuscany in particular had these wonderful wines that were solid, made in small quantities, known by the world and not totally greedy. I think Solaia, Sassicaia, Masseto, Ornellaia and Tignanello have been let in this time and they’re not going away.”

Demand for these wines is spreading eastwards according to Joss Fowler. “The Asian market of 5-10 years ago is completely different today. There’s this extraordinary thirst for knowledge and consumers are increasingly looking for more interesting things than Bordeaux, or the staples that were put in front of them initially.” At Fine & Rare, the 2010 Barolos have been the star of the year. “Next year the 2010 Brunellos will be the wines to watch when they’re released in the spring,” said Fowler.

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