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Sicily's Corvo Winery Sold for $64 Million


Michèle Shah
Posted: May 15, 2001

Italian producer Casa Vinicola Duca di Salaparuta, better known to most wine drinkers simply as Corvo, was sold by the regional government for $64 million (141.5 billion lire) to Illva Saronno, owner of Amaretto di Saronno and Florio Marsala.

Corvo, the largest winery in Sicily, produces about 830,000 cases of wine annually from purchased grapes. The brand is well-known in the U.S. market, though its market share among Italian imports has decreased in recent years.

Illva Saronno bought Corvo "to complement its range of products, which include Sicilian liqueurs and Marsala, with a high-quality range of wines," said GianFranco Caci, managing director of Illva Saronno.

The sale includes the brand and its two wineries, which buy more than 14,000 tons of grapes from about 300,000 acres of vineyards in Sicily, according to Giovanni Russino, production manager for Corvo.

Corvo, founded in 1824 by Giuseppe Alliata, duke of Salaparuta, has been part of the Sicilian government's industrial holdings, ESPI (Ente Siciliano per la Promozione Industriale), since 1961. The decision to privatize the wine company dates back to 1996. In 1997, the local authorities drew up a sale offer limited to viticulture and wine companies with a turnover of at least $25 million, with the condition that the wines continue to be marketed under the Corvo brand name. Political controversies followed, promises were made, but nothing came of the efforts until recently.

In September 2000, with a recent change in local government, new authorities drew up a revised tender, making the winery open to bids from companies in all industrial and financial sectors, on the condition that the winery remain in Sicily.

Among the prominent suitors from Italy's wine industry were Ambrogio Folonari, president of Folonari's Holdings and former president of Ruffino; Paolo Marzotto, president of the Santa Margherita group of wineries; and Gianni Zonin, owner of Zonin winery. Other contenders came from the alcoholic beverage industry, including Campari and Illva Saronno.

Although Corvo exported 50,000 cases of wine to the United States in 1999, only 5,300 cases were exported there in 2000. "The reason why exports to the U.S. fell radically in 2000 is partially due to our U.S. importer, Paterno, saying that their warehouse was still full of Corvo, and partially due to their caution over the impending sale of the company," said Russino. "They wanted to see who it would sell to before making a substantial commitment." Russino thinks that U.S. exports in 2001 will go back to a figure around 50,000 cases or more.

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Check our recent ratings of Duca di Salapurta and Corvo wines.

Read more about Corvo:

  • Aug. 31, 1996
    Corvo Producer Brings Elegance to Sicilian Wine
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