A couple of weeks ago, a Milan-based company called WineTip put together a tasting of 2006 barrel samples from a handful of producers in Italy in hopes of promoting the idea of selling wines en primeur, or wine futures.
The wines in the tasting included those from the following wineries: Altesino, Bruno Rocca, Conti Costanti, Grattamacco, Le Macchiole, Luce della Vite, Marchesi Mazzei, Michele Satta, Paradiso di Frassina, Planeta, Querciabella, Sottimano, Tasca d'Almerita, Tenimenti d’Alessandro, Tenuta di Serramarrocco, Tenuta Podernovo and Tenuta Sette Ponti.
I was keen to taste the wines and report on this tasting, but in the end I decided against it, because WineTip had not organized any way to buy the wines outside of Italy, and even sales in Italy were questionable. Yet, I think the idea of buying top Italian wines as futures or prearrival is a very good one.
Think about it. You could buy 2006 Altesino Brunello di Montalcino or Le Macchiole Messorio right now and assure that you get the quantity and bottle sizes you want. I am not sure it would be a lot less expensive than what you would pay when the wines finally come out in bottle, but at least you would be assure to get some.
Many top Italian wines, particularly small production Barolos and Barbarescos and Tuscan cult wines, are very difficult to find these days. For example, the annual production of the pure Merlot from Le Macchiole Messorio, only equals about 250 cases, and about 50 of those are shipped to the United States.
I don’t know if futures sales of Italian wines could ever become as big a business as Bordeaux. It would probably be more like Burgundy, whereby American consumers buy wines from key US retailers a year or so before the wines are delivered in bottle.
Maybe US importers and distributors aren’t even interested in the idea? They make so much money anyway, why would they bother? Just the other day, a Brunello producer told me that he sells his Brunello to a US importer for $15 a bottle and by the time it goes through all the distributors including agents, wholesalers and retailers it sells for about $80 a bottle. They all make more than the wine producer himself!
Regardless, what do you think about the sales of futures or pre-arrivals of Italian wines?