Piedmont entrepreneur Oscar Farinetti is becoming a serious player in the local wine industry. Just six months after buying the historic Giacomo Borgogno estate in Barolo, the owner of the Turin-based Eataly luxury supermarket chain and a business partner concluded a deal to take a combined majority stake in Fontanafredda, an Alba winery owned since 1931 by Monte dei Paschi di Siena, one of Italy's major banks.
The deal, concluded on June 30, gives Farinetti 32 percent in Fontanafredda and his partner, Luca Baffigo Filangieri, another 32 percent. The remaining 36 percent was purchased by the Monte dei Paschi di Siena Foundation, an entrepreneurial foundation that owns a majority stake in the bank. The estate was valued at 90 million euros for the purpose of the sale.
Fontanafredda, located in the Serralunga d'Alba commune, is one of Piedmont's largest wineries, with 153 acres of vineyards in the Serralunga, Barolo and Diane d'Alba communes. The winery produces around 540,000 cases of wine a year, which, in 2007, generated sales of over 30 million euros.
According to Giovanni Minetti, who remains general manager of the winery, the change of ownership will spur the quality drive that started a few years ago under the previous owners.
"We believe we have some of the finest vineyards in Piedmont," he said. "And the new owners concur with the need to keep working to make the best estate wines possible."
For Farinetti, who could not be reached for comment, the two recent purchases are a way to invest in a passion. The businessman grew up in the region and is reportedly a devoted fan of Piedmontese wines.
The estate came into being in the mid-19th century, when King Victor Emmanuel II, Italy's first king, bought around 130 acres of land as a country and hunting retreat. It was his illegitimate son, Emmanuel Guarneri, who enlarged the property and set it up as a wine estate.
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions