Assovini Sicilia Celebrates 25 Years

Assovini Sicilia celebrated a double anniversary this year: twenty-five years since its founding, and twenty years since the first edition of Sicilia en Primeur.

A special event was recently held in May during Sicilia en Primeur 2024, which included the preview of the latest vintage. This was a record edition with over one hundred journalists, including national and international press, ten enotours, five masterclasses, fifty-nine wineries and over three hundred labels for tasting.

Cultivating the Future, the claim chosen for this edition, takes stock of the first twenty-five years, emphasizing Assovini Sicilia’s role as a leading player and witness to the Sicilian wine renaissance.

Diego Planeta, Lucio Tasca d’Almerita and Giacomo Rallo signed the articles of association of Assovini Sicilia in 1998. Eight wineries were the first to join the association, endorsing that far-sighted, courageous, revolutionary vision, which saw associationism as a winning strategy to promote Sicily.

Twenty-five years later, the dream of the “founding fathers” to attribute cultural, promotional and storytelling value to Sicilian wine has been fully realized.

The strong wind of change and evolution continues to push the association forward, which, driven by the spirit of teamwork and system, has recently become a beacon in the wine scene, demonstrating not only that in Sicily, wine production is of quality, the managerial profile of the companies is competitive, and wine is a cultural ambassador to the world, but that the Sicily that knows how to team up is a winner.

“I am proud to represent an association that has always conveyed and promoted a contemporary image of Sicily, linked to traditions, dynamic, and elegant,” comments Mariangela Cambria, President of Assovini Sicilia. – Thanks to the courage of those who believed in associationism, defying all cultural resistance and, putting themselves on the line without protagonism, believing in teamwork, today, throughout the world, Sicily is a brand with a powerful and profound cultural value and international appeal. Assovini Sicilia was born from a vision and a plan that pushed the island towards new horizons, made it known throughout the world for its beauty and history. A story whose telling was entrusted to the narrative and symbolic power of wine. The great revolution of Assovini Sicilia was to believe in wine as a cultural product, with potential that is extraordinary and unique, before being economic.”

The story of these extraordinary twenty-five years, divided into multiple themes – the evolution of the vineyard, the cultural value of wine, perception in the American market, wine tourism and the Next Generation – was the heart of the “Cultivating the Future” conference, moderated by Gioacchino Bonsignore, a Mediaset journalist, inside the monumental complex of San Domenico in Cefalù.

Bonsignore retraced the history of Assovini Sicilia through those who have supported the vision and path of the association over the years.

«It’s a bit like what happened with the Italian language: It was born in Dante’s Florence, in the fourteenth century, but the precursor is the Sicilian School of the court of the “Stupor Mundi”, Frederick II of Swabia, in the thirteenth century.

Members of Assovini Sicilia speak about history, culture and values. They are all aiming for exports: Europe confirms itself as the main export market, for 95.7% of the companies, followed by North America. «I have witnessed the Sicilian wine renaissance firsthand over the past twenty years, and writing about the wines of Sicily has given me some of the most rewarding professional moments. I am deeply convinced that the bright future of Italian wine begins here, in Sicily, in the heart of the Mediterranean” – states Monica Lerner, an American journalist and wine critic for Robert Parker Wine Advocate.

Alessio Planeta, Antonio Rallo and Alberto Tasca, sons of the original founders, took up the torch and carried forward the initial plan of teamwork that laid the foundations of the winning “wine system” of Assovini Sicilia.

«I have always been convinced that collaborating and sharing long-term objectives is the right way to create value and promote our extraordinary wine-growing contexts.
Therefore, associationism for me has been and continues to be a successful path, which fully embodies the spirit of collaboration and commitment to excellence that characterizes Sicilian wine-growing,” comments Antonio Rallo, past president of Assovini and current President of the Consortium for the Protection of Sicily DOC wines.

Alessio Planeta defines the time span and history of the Sicilian vineyard in three emblematic eras: the enchantment of the past, the fervor of the 1980s and the vitality of the new millennium. «Each stage tells a story, interwoven with numbers, trends and varieties that reflect our commitment to the future. It is not just an exercise in meditation, but a bridge to tomorrow, shaped by family experience and innovation. In a world where we export to 75 markets, operating in five different Sicilian regions, we rely on the wisdom of our predecessors, like my uncle Diego Planeta, and our vision,’ adds Alessio Planeta, CEO and President of Planeta Winery.

Not only quality production and promotion abroad, Assovini Sicilia has won the bet on wine tourism as a tool for telling the story of the territory and its historical and wine-growing heritage.

Today, 84.8 % of the member companies have implemented a series of wine tourism services in their wineries that are true wine experiences, contributing to the evolution of wine tourism services from simple wine tastings to a part of experiential tourism.
In Sicily, the wine experience is a metaphor for a land that is changing and that has managed to enhance an asset, the wine industry, capable of representing our Sicily at its best,’ commented Marcello Mangia, president and CEO of Mangia’s – Aeroviaggi and host of the Sicilia en Primeur conference.

With its roots firmly anchored in tradition and the past, Assovini Sicilia is laying the foundations for the future by continuing to follow the winning trajectory and strategy that has led the association to celebrate these first twenty-five years successfully. The wineries are preparing for the generational transition: About 78% of the member wineries have already integrated a new generation into the company management. Within the association, the ‘Next Generation’ group has been created to represent the new generations of Assovini Sicilia, young people under 40 years of age who are already operational and family members within family businesses and who, guided by the example of Assovini, are committed to creating a team that looks to the future and to the enhancement of the Sicilian wine-growing territory. Among the new group’s main areas of intervention: communication, training and promotion of the territory.
«I believe that the NextGen of our entrepreneurial families have very clearly in mind what kind of ancestors they want to be: And this is how they will transform business models, here in Sicily and in the wine industry as in all sectors and geographical areas,’ Giovanna Gregori, executive director of AIDAF – Italian Family Business, commented during the conference.
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Sicilia en Primeur, the event conceived of and organized by Assovini Sicilia since 2004, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. An itinerant event that has based its success on a winning format: combining the preview of the latest vintage wines with visits to wineries and territories, telling the story of Sicily’s historical-archaeological and landscape beauties through the stories of wine.

“With Sicilia en Primeur, wine becomes an instrument of narration not only of the wine heritage but also of the human and historical heritage of Sicily. Wine is the leitmotif that unites the stories of the producers with those of the territories, weaves tales, joins pieces of a unique mosaic where Sicily is an extraordinary wine-growing continent” President Mariangela Cambria concludes.

Stefano Ricagno Appointed President of the Asti DOCG Consortium

Stefano Ricagno, a sixth-generation winegrower, graduate of University of Turin and of Alba’s school of Oenology, as well as Director of Piemontese sparkling wine producer Cuvage, which part of the Argea portfolio.

Beginning a three-year term as president, Ricagno said: “We will work in the interest of the denominations in a framework of unity of intent to consolidate the protection, valorisation and promotion of Asti Spumante and Moscato d’Asti in Italy and around the world.”

“In the current context of uncertainty, in fact,” he continued, “I am convinced that the synergy between the different associative souls that has always characterised our denomination will be able to give concrete answers to the challenges of the markets and new consumption.”

Ricagno’s predecessor as president, Lorenzo Barbero, was voted into the role of senior vice-president. Barbero wished Ricagno success in the role and commented: “I trust I can still make an important contribution to the consorzio in a path of continuity and maximum collaboration between all parties involved.”

Tuscany Celebrates 30 Years of Growth and Excellence

Considering the Tuscan town of Montepulciano has been preserved in time since the 16th century, thirty years may not seem like much, but a lot has happened since then for Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. In 1994 the Anteprima event was established by the Consortium to present new vintages that were ready for release to the market. Depending on its label Vino Nobile di Montepulciano has been matured for 2 – 4 years in barrel and bottle before it can be sold. Each year the event is highly anticipated by journalists and wine experts. Since the first Anteprima edition was held in 1994 both bottle production and the number of estate members in the Consortium has doubled. The appellation has truly become a benchmark for Italian wine which is perhaps not a surprise since Montepulciano has been renowned for its wine since the ancient Etruscan civilization.

How Montepulciano moves forward

As it moves into the modern era, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG has upheld its values of tradition, territory and sustainability. The landscapes, architecture and way of life have been preserved in such a way as to honor past generations and their accomplishments. The deep knowledge of the territory that has been passed on to the current winemakers and estate owners is now documented and solidified in history with the creation of subzones called Pieve in Montepulciano. These twelve Additional Geographic Units (UGA) are now labeled on about 10% of Vino Nobile bottles with the name of their Pieve surrounding the town of Montepulciano. Named after the ancient parishes that divided the land since Roman and Lombard times, the Pieve Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG label was approved by the Consortium in 2023 and will be released on the market the following year. For a wine to be able to carry this label not only do the grapes have to come from that zone, the wine must be at least 85% Sangiovese and be made with grapes exclusively produced by the winery that bottles the vintage. Consumers will be able to delve into this historical connection between the physical place and its historic roots. The ability to compare the different zones and experience their specificity is also a way to better understand the Montepulciano territory as a whole.

Sustainability continues to be a strong theme at Anteprima since the Consortium started collaborating with the municipality of Montepulciano to record weather and soil data in the 1980’s and 1990’s. As of May 2022, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano was the first Italian denomination to receive the certification mark for sustainability according to the Equalitas standard. The protocol established by Equalitas for certification is extremely rigorous and includes numerous environmental requirements, such as measuring the carbon footprint, the water footprint, and socio-economic compliance with free trade unions and equal opportunities. The Consortium now has a network of 50 weather stations for data collection and in 2023 published its first sustainability report. It has been recognized as a professional operator for the SQNPI certification to support member companies.

The cultural and historic heritage of Montepulciano

A symbol of local culture, the village of Montepulciano is situated on a gentle sloping limestone hill that separates Val di Chiana from the Val del Orcia. Due to its rich history, Montepulciano represents a sort of open-air museum in the heart of one of the most popular and explored wine destinations in Tuscany. The old town is filled with Etruscan artifacts, Renaissance buildings, ornate churches decorated by illustrious artists, ancient theaters and local artisan shops. A stroll through the center will take visitors to the Piazza Grande with its 17th century Duomo. Just outside of town is the impressive San Biago sanctuary that leads to the picturesque valley of Val d’Orcia dotted with cypress trees, rolling hills, and vineyards.

Whether wandering through the ancient streets of Montepulciano, indulging in wine tastings, or exploring the captivating countryside, visitors will undoubtedly be entranced by the region’s timeless charm and unforgettable experiences. It is truly a perfect place for wine enthusiasts to immerse themselves in Tuscan beauty and history while enjoying plenty of excellent wines!

Filippo Magnani

Italian Wine Travel Pioneer and Writer Filippo Magnani Celebrates 25th Anniversary of Fufluns Wine Travel Concierge in Italy

Celebrating a quarter-century of excellence, Fufluns Wine Travel Concierge, led by Filippo Magnani, commemorates its 25th anniversary, marking a significant milestone in delivering unparalleled wine travel experiences throughout Italy. As a renowned wine travel expert and wine writer, Magnani has spent decades exploring and documenting Italy’s rich wine heritage, showcasing its diverse destinations and the personalities behind its celebrated wines. This occasion reflects not only the success of Fufluns Wine Tours but also Magnani’s contributions to the global appreciation of Italian wine culture through his writings and curated experiences.

Castello di Monsanto, Barberino Val d’Elsa , Chianti, Toscana, Italia

Inspired by the flourishing wine tourism industry in Napa Valley during the 1990s, Magnani recognized Italy’s untapped potential and sought to elevate the wine touring experience in his native country. In July 1999, he founded Fufluns Wine Travel Concierge, pioneering the path as the first Italian wine travel planner dedicated exclusively to Italy’s rich wine heritage. Named after the Etruscan God of Wine, Fufluns, under Magnani’s stewardship, has built a reputation for its immersive itineraries that seamlessly blend ultra luxury experiences with Italy’s undiscovered gems. Fufluns unwavering commitment to authenticity, quality, and personalization has cemented its status as a leader in the industry, creating the opportunity for people from around the world to engage with the wine regions and people of Italy.

“Reflecting on 25 years of Fufluns Wine Tours, I am filled with gratitude for this quest we’ve undertaken,” says Filippo Magnani, Founder and Supervisor, who oversees a team of ten wine expert guides – all holding WSET or Master Sommelier certifications. “We craft a diverse range of thoughtfully designed wine travel experiences led by a team of knowledgeable wine experts, ensuring an authentic and enriching experience for each guest, from avid wine enthusiasts and collectors to wine schools, wine clubs, and industry professionals such as sommeliers and importers.”

Magnani’s extensive experience in the wine trade, including holding the Wine & Spirit Education Trust Diploma (DipWSET), as a wine writer, and wine travel advisor, has enriched Fufluns’ offerings with depth and sophistication. His and his team’s commitment to excellence and their ability to weave together the cultural, historical, and sensory aspects of Italian wine make Fufluns Wine Tours not just a journey, but a celebration of Italy’s enduring wine legacy.

To celebrate the company’s 25th Anniversary, Magnani and his team are thrilled to debut an enhanced Fufluns website, featuring a range of new personalized, comprehensive, and deluxe wine itineraries throughout Italy. Visit www.fufluns.com to learn more. Filippo is also pleased to showcase a refreshed version of his personal website, www.filippomagani.it, focused on his writings and collaborations, consulting experiences, and career achievements.

In addition, Magnani is proud to announce the launch of a quarterly newsletter, along with a new logo ”A Journey Through Italian Wines”. Featuring captivating insights into Italy’s wine destinations, exclusive interviews with key personalities in the wine and hospitality industry, detailed wine tasting notes, and selected excerpts from Magnani’s personal blog, Tales Behind The Wines, this newsletter aims to further enrich the understanding and appreciation of Italian wine culture among enthusiasts and professionals worldwide.

Furthermore, throughout 2024, Magnani will personally lead tours for various wine club groups and private wine collectors across Italy. These tours, featuring long-standing partners and loyal clients, are a special celebration of Fufluns’ 25th anniversary, allowing Magnani to share the beauty and richness of Italy’s wine regions and producers with those who have supported his journey. As Fufluns continues to innovate in the wine travel space, Magnani’s goal is to strengthen his expert team, further enhancing Fufluns’ ability to offer unique and memorable wine experiences while maintaining the personal touch that has distinguished them in the industry.

Magnani will also be participating in a charity auction as part of The Golden Vines Awards this October in Madrid. For this event, he has created a special auction item: “VIP Experience — Discovering the Iconic Bolgheri”, in which he will personally accompany six passionate donors on a visit to the historic estates of this famed Tuscan region. All proceeds will be donated entirely to the Gérard Basset Foundation.

Source: Fufluns Wine Tours

Chianti Classico Collection: Exploring the Charms of Italy’s Iconic Wine Region – Filippo Magnani

Recently, the wine world’s oldest consortium celebrated its 100th anniversary. In 1924 Chianti Classico established the first wine consortium with its headquarters in the historic Stazione Leopolda,Florence. On February 15th and 16th, a centennial celebration provided an opportunity to reflect on the collective narrative of Chianti Classico and pay tribute to the true soul of the consortium: its producers. Over 200 of them came to present a total of 773 different labels available for tasting. The annual event itself began as the Anteprima de Chianti Classico in 1993. Now it is known as the Chianti Classico Collection.

As in previous years there were in-depth sessions focusing on the Gran Selezione category, which was added 10 years ago to the existing Annata and Riserva. At the time this was a first for Italian wine and viticultural legislative history. This new group of stringent regulations account for only 6% of Chianti Classico production and result in exceptional wines that have given the international market a new quality benchmark. The initial 33 Gran Selezione labels have now grown to an impressive 213 today. They are a perfect example of the continued growth in sales and reputation of the ‘Black Rooster’ denomination. Over the last three years sales have exceeded production volumes by 4% and the average price has increased 13% since 2021.

The event also highlighted the strong presence of female figures employed by wineries in the region of Chianti Classico. This is a theme that is being increasingly talked about in the press and Chianti Classico is leading the way with more women taking on leadership roles. Currently the percentage of women employed by Black Rooster wineries is almost half (44%), many of them holding senior management roles, and when it comes to marketing and sales managers women represent the majority at 60%.

Of course, there continued to be much discussion around the fairly new additional Geographic Units approved by the consortium’s Member Assembly in June 2021. These UGA’s are now printed on all labels where relevant and distinguish 11 different subdivisions with unique natural attributes (soil composition, microclimate, position of the vines etc) and human factors (cultural background, local traditions and community ethos). These distinct units are San Casciano, Greve, Montefioralle, Lamole, Panzano, Radda, Gaiole, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Vagliagli, Castellina and San Donato in Poggio. The idea of showing the name of the municipality or village on the label is meant to spark both curiosity and recognition from the increasingly high numbers of consumers who would like to better understand the micro territories of Black Rooster wines.

The Chianti Classico Collection would not be complete without the Black Rooster’s other main product, Olive Oil DOP Chianti Classico. During the event participants had the opportunity to taste the most recent harvest of oils from 33 producers. The 2023 vintage is complex with aromas of fresh grass, artichokes and almonds followed by a distinct arugula and peppery quality on the palate with a long finish. As in previous years, the 2023 oils contain exceptionally high levels of polyphenols which are essential both to preserving the characteristics of the oil and providing high nutritional value.

A blend of history, wine and timeless beauty

Beyond the vineyards, the region of Chianti Classico is renowned for its picturesque landscapes and medieval hilltop towns like Greve, Radda, and Castellina. They offer a glimpse into Italy’s past with their ancient castles, churches, and narrow streets. The territory still preserves evidence of many past cultures. The earliest documentation of the existence of a wine-producing district dates back to the 13th century with the “Lega del Chianti”, formalized between Radda, Gaiole and Castellina and branded with the famous Black Rooster which, after many glorious years, became the Official symbol of Chianti Classico wine in 2005. The rooster symbolizes the spirit of the territory; strong and elegant, lively, and proud. Its crowing marking a new day.

The region itself is perched on a plateau at altitudes between 200 and 800 meters, mainly covered with forests of oak, chestnut, pine and cypress trees. Now held in the arms of its two historic capitals, Florence and Siena, Chianti Classico was a place loved first by the Etruscans, then by the Romans, and was a battlefield of bitter disputes in the Middle Ages.
It has been one of the most popular destinations for wine enthusiasts for centuries and even now producers are eager to welcome visitors offering world-class hospitality. With such a high density of wineries, the region is a true oenological paradise full of castles and ancient abbeys where fine wines are matured, world-famous wineries alongside small and no less prestigious family-run estates, traditional cellars and architectural masterpieces. Producers understand the importance of hospitality which brings great economic value, diversifies income, and creates an effective means of communicating values and enhancing the distribution of their wines. From curious wine enthusiasts to collectors, guests are drawn to the famous winemaking names of Chianti but can also discover exceptional hidden gems. Consequently, wineries work together with the tourism sector to create personalized and authentic wine and culinary experiences.

As always it was a true pleasure to once again meet so many passionate producers who exemplify the culture and philosophy of Chianti Classico.