The Antinori family of Tuscany has paid US$1.8 million dollars for 31 acres of vineyard land in New Zealand's Marlborough region and plans to launch a new Sauvignon Blanc label starting with the 2004 vintage.
The yet-to-be-named brand will use grapes from a 26-acre Sauvignon Blanc vineyard on the property. The new wine will be released in the United States, as well as Asia and Europe, next year.
The purchase expands the Antinori family's interest in New Zealand wine. Starting with the 1998 vintage, Lodovico Antinori, the founder and former owner of Tuscany's famous Tenuta dell'Ornellaia, began producing Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc under the Mount Nelson label, using purchased grapes. Mount Nelson is marketed by Tenuta Campo di Sasso, a new venture owned by Lodovico, who in 2002 sold Ornellaia to the Mondavi family; his brother, Piero, head of the Antinori wine firm; and other members of their family.
Campo di Sasso is based on the west coast of Tuscany, near the town of Bibbona. Spokeswoman Elvira Ackermann said that the company wanted a high quality white wine to balance a portfolio that consists mainly of reds. The new wine will be positioned at a higher price point than the Mount Nelson and will be made in a different style, said Ackermann.
Vineyard manager William Grigg said grapes have already been harvested from the vineyard and quality looks promising. Grigg's family sold the vineyard to Campo di Sasso and plans to supply the company with additional grapes from their adjacent 34-acre vineyard next year.
Construction of a new winery will begin later this year. Grigg's fiancée, Jayne Cosgrove, has been appointed winemaker for the new brand. Cosgrove is currently assistant winemaker at Spy Valley, a midsized Marlborough winery. She will use a local contract winemaking facility until the new winery is completed, in time for the 2005 vintage.
Campo di Sasso plans to purchase more vineyards in New Zealand, but only in the Marlborough region. The Antinoris intend to focus entirely on Sauvignon Blanc.
Brent Marris, founder of nearby Wither Hills winery, is enthusiastic about Campo di Sasso's investment. "They've chosen a fantastic location on an alluvial shingle fan that is quite unique in Marlborough," he said. "In my view, they've picked about the best site in the valley. The fact that the Antinori family has chosen to invest in our area reinforces the global success that Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is now enjoying."
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