After producing wine in Tuscany for 125 years, Ruffino is expanding to the region of Friuli, in northeastern Italy, with its $8.5 million purchase of the 105-acre Borgo Conventi estate.
Under the terms of the deal, which was concluded last month, the estate's former owner, Gianni Vescovo, will continue to oversee production for at least the first three years. Responsibility for marketing the wine passes into the hands of Ruffino.
Ruffino -- which has estates in the Chianti Classico, Montepulciano and Montalcino areas of Tuscany -- had been looking for some time to buy an existing wine estate in the Friuli region, according to Ruffino's export director, Adolfo Folonari, whose father, Marco, is president of the company.
"We were, and are, anxious that the company should expand outside Tuscany," said Adolfo Folonari. "We would like to be known as makers of quality wines, but not just on our home ground. The first stage is Friuli, but in the future, we may be looking elsewhere, too."
In June 2000, Ruffino's wine holdings were split up among the members of the Folonari family, following disagreements over management of the company. The company is now owned by brothers Marco and Paolo and their sons; the other two brothers, Ambrogio and Alberto, left to form their own company, but retained ownership of some of the family's Tuscan estates, including Cabreo and Nozzole.
The Borgo Conventi property, in Farra d'Isonzo, near the Croatian border, includes 42 acres of vineyards, either owned or under long-term rental, straddling the Collio and Isonzo del Friuli appellations. The estate's red wines include a Bordeaux-style blend called Braida Nuova, a pure Merlot and a small-production red made with the Schioppettino grape. The estate also produces a range of whites from Chardonnay, Tocai Friulano, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc grapes.
According to Folonari, Ruffino will introduce state-of-the-art technology in Borgo Conventi's winery and start a vineyard-replanting program this year. At the same time, he said, the company wants to acquire new vineyards in the area, in order to increase the estate's current annual output of 29,000 cases to 37,500 cases.
"We have no plans, at present, to make any new wines at Borgo Conventi," said Adolfo Folonari. "But we want to boost the production of the whites and reds already made there, introducing the new vines progressively, so that we can maintain a good equilibrium between quantity and quality."
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