Sicilia En Primeur: Celebrating 25 Years of Assovini Sicilia’s Unified Vision for Sicilian Producers – Filippo Magnani

May 9th and 10th, the Sicilian wine community achieved a new milestone in Cefalù, Sicily with over 100 wine journalists and 59 wineries who convened to explore and evaluate over 300 labels, participate in five masterclasses, and embark on ten curated wine tours.

For over 25 years Sicilia En Primeur has been celebrating the evolution of a diverse wine region on the Mediterranean’s largest island – Its history, culture, traditions and food are as rich as they are diverse.

Some History
Assovini Sicilia was founded 25 years ago by Diego Planeta, Lucio Tasca d’Almerita and Giacomo Rallo who launched an association and has since grown in membership and international success due to their visionary and collaborative approach. The theme of this year’s event was “ Cultivating The Future” which focused on the evolution of Sicilian wine, its cultural value, wine tourism, and future prospects, with participation from journalists, producers, and industry representatives. Mariangela Cambria, President of Assovini Sicilia, emphasized how the association has promoted a contemporary and dynamic image of Sicily, making it a brand of significant cultural value and international appeal. The association’s success is based on innovation and adaptability, integrating new generations into company management roles and focusing on sustainability and wine tourism. Particular emphasis was on the role of the new generation of wine production in Sicily and illustrated with the poignant video entitled “Next Generation”.

The event was moderated by the prestigious journalist Gioacchino Bonsignore (TG5 Mediaset) and featured presentations from an all-star cast such as the one of Monica Larner, Italian reviewer, Robert Parker Wine Advocate who presented the Trends and Perception of Sicilian Wine in the US Market; a glance at the Past to Imagine the Future in the vineyard by Alessio Planeta, CEO Planeta winery; The Story of a Thriving Partnership by Antonio Rallo, President of the Consortium for the Protection of Sicilia DOC; The New Frontiers of Green and the Experience of the SOStain Sicilia Foundation with Alberto Tasca, President of the SOStain Sicilia Foundation and even more including the ambassador of Sicilian culture Regoli, Director of WineNews.

In addition to the conference, Sicilia En Primeur organized their yearly wine tours of the territory which gives participants a chance to delve deeper into the multitude of Sicily’s wine zones, discovering their evolution and the new frontiers of each area. I have had the chance to explore the central-southern part of the island. So, along with the prominent Nero d’Avola, the identity of Sicily in red in different versions (rosé, sparkling, fruity and light or more structured reds); there were also the whites especially Catarratto in which many producers of the area specifically believe in for the production of wonderful Classic Method Sparkling wine especially at high altitude; I could taste different versions of my beloved Frappato with its versatility and captivating juicy character also able to produce rosé, delicious bubbles or it is blended with the generally more concentrated Nero d’Avola for a perfect balance.

Campania Stories 2024 – A Memorable Experience

Campania Stories, one of the most significant wine events in southern Italy, took place this year in Sannio on the northern edge of Campania from May 21st to 25th. The 12th edition welcomed wine writers and other trade professionals.

This year was an incredible success with over 90 wineries who submitted their samples to a wide audience of international bloggers, journalists and wine critics. The setting could not be more beautiful as the event consists of a journey through the main wine areas of a region known by visitors for the beautiful Amalfi Coast and the vibrant city of Naples.

Sannio just north of the Naples, the town of Dugenta hosted the event at the luxury resort, Tenute del Gheppio. Producers had the opportunity to present their latest white wines along with their Riservas. Presentation of the 2023 vintage was led by Francesco Martusciello, one of the flying winemakers of the region, at Rocca dei Rettori di Benevento, in cooperation with Assoenologi. Francesco Martusciello emphasized the 2023 vintage trend which was an uneven year with limited production but of very high quality. The whites were a perfect example with their predominant fermentative aromas that will certainly dissipate with time to show the true character of the grape.

We also enjoyed an in-depth journey through Campania to see producers in their element visiting estates in Sannio and Irpinia where they discovered the landscapes of smooth hills, mainly of clay, with expansive vineyards divided by the main rivers of Calore in Irpinia, and Volturno in North Sannio. These visits were made possible in part by the close collaboration of Miriade & Partners headed by Diana Cataldo, Massimo Iannaccone and Serena Valerian.

This is an area known for is great viticulture, since the Roman times when it was known as Campania Felix. A place where Roman heritage is still evident with the discovery of several amphoras and tools for winemaking, but also marked by incredible buildings dating back the 18th century, such as the majestic Carolino aqueduct that dominates the valley as a Unesco Heritage site.

This beautiful corner of Campania shows history, art and culture that are only discovered by venturing off the beaten path, such as Vigna del Ventaglio near Caserta in San Leucio, another UNESCO World Heritage site. The place was already known in the past for high quality silk production, when the Bourbon King Ferdinando IV selected a vineyard in the shape of a fan and divided it into nine sectors, each cultivated with unique grape varieties he loved the most, like Piedimonte Rosso and Bianco, Procopio, Delfino Bianco and Siracusa Rosso, parental vines of the modern ones.

Modern winemaking equipment has been introduced in Campania. For instance, prominent estates have been using high -ech crushing machines and tanks with cooling jackets, and at the same time the wine estate are preserving certain traditional winemaking techniques like the use of amphoras where local grapes such as Greco, Fiano and also Coda di Volpe perform well.

The two-day tasting was a true pleasure for me, with sparkling, whites, reds and rosè from all over Campania, over 200 samples from 90 producers. I focused mostly on the sparkling wines which are showing interesting improvements. While at the beginning, most sparkling wine from Campania was Charmat method from some of the semi-aromatic grapes of the region, mainly Falanghina, but now several traditional method wines are becoming more and more popular with large improvements in terms of quality.

This was definitely a roadshow of the best expression of Campania viticulture and landscape. For a full immersion in this promising growing region, Campania Stories is wine not to be missed. And now I can only wait for the 2025 edition, which will be hosted by the Volcano Vesuvio.

Filippo Magnani

Tuscany Celebrates 30 Years of Growth and Excellence

Considering the Tuscan town of Montepulciano has been preserved in time since the 16th century, thirty years may not seem like much, but a lot has happened since then for Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. In 1994 the Anteprima event was established by the Consortium to present new vintages that were ready for release to the market. Depending on its label Vino Nobile di Montepulciano has been matured for 2 – 4 years in barrel and bottle before it can be sold. Each year the event is highly anticipated by journalists and wine experts. Since the first Anteprima edition was held in 1994 both bottle production and the number of estate members in the Consortium has doubled. The appellation has truly become a benchmark for Italian wine which is perhaps not a surprise since Montepulciano has been renowned for its wine since the ancient Etruscan civilization.

How Montepulciano moves forward

As it moves into the modern era, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG has upheld its values of tradition, territory and sustainability. The landscapes, architecture and way of life have been preserved in such a way as to honor past generations and their accomplishments. The deep knowledge of the territory that has been passed on to the current winemakers and estate owners is now documented and solidified in history with the creation of subzones called Pieve in Montepulciano. These twelve Additional Geographic Units (UGA) are now labeled on about 10% of Vino Nobile bottles with the name of their Pieve surrounding the town of Montepulciano. Named after the ancient parishes that divided the land since Roman and Lombard times, the Pieve Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG label was approved by the Consortium in 2023 and will be released on the market the following year. For a wine to be able to carry this label not only do the grapes have to come from that zone, the wine must be at least 85% Sangiovese and be made with grapes exclusively produced by the winery that bottles the vintage. Consumers will be able to delve into this historical connection between the physical place and its historic roots. The ability to compare the different zones and experience their specificity is also a way to better understand the Montepulciano territory as a whole.

Sustainability continues to be a strong theme at Anteprima since the Consortium started collaborating with the municipality of Montepulciano to record weather and soil data in the 1980’s and 1990’s. As of May 2022, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano was the first Italian denomination to receive the certification mark for sustainability according to the Equalitas standard. The protocol established by Equalitas for certification is extremely rigorous and includes numerous environmental requirements, such as measuring the carbon footprint, the water footprint, and socio-economic compliance with free trade unions and equal opportunities. The Consortium now has a network of 50 weather stations for data collection and in 2023 published its first sustainability report. It has been recognized as a professional operator for the SQNPI certification to support member companies.

The cultural and historic heritage of Montepulciano

A symbol of local culture, the village of Montepulciano is situated on a gentle sloping limestone hill that separates Val di Chiana from the Val del Orcia. Due to its rich history, Montepulciano represents a sort of open-air museum in the heart of one of the most popular and explored wine destinations in Tuscany. The old town is filled with Etruscan artifacts, Renaissance buildings, ornate churches decorated by illustrious artists, ancient theaters and local artisan shops. A stroll through the center will take visitors to the Piazza Grande with its 17th century Duomo. Just outside of town is the impressive San Biago sanctuary that leads to the picturesque valley of Val d’Orcia dotted with cypress trees, rolling hills, and vineyards.

Whether wandering through the ancient streets of Montepulciano, indulging in wine tastings, or exploring the captivating countryside, visitors will undoubtedly be entranced by the region’s timeless charm and unforgettable experiences. It is truly a perfect place for wine enthusiasts to immerse themselves in Tuscan beauty and history while enjoying plenty of excellent wines!

Filippo Magnani

Italian Wine Travel Pioneer and Writer Filippo Magnani Celebrates 25th Anniversary of Fufluns Wine Travel Concierge in Italy

Celebrating a quarter-century of excellence, Fufluns Wine Travel Concierge, led by Filippo Magnani, commemorates its 25th anniversary, marking a significant milestone in delivering unparalleled wine travel experiences throughout Italy. As a renowned wine travel expert and wine writer, Magnani has spent decades exploring and documenting Italy’s rich wine heritage, showcasing its diverse destinations and the personalities behind its celebrated wines. This occasion reflects not only the success of Fufluns Wine Tours but also Magnani’s contributions to the global appreciation of Italian wine culture through his writings and curated experiences.

Castello di Monsanto, Barberino Val d’Elsa , Chianti, Toscana, Italia

Inspired by the flourishing wine tourism industry in Napa Valley during the 1990s, Magnani recognized Italy’s untapped potential and sought to elevate the wine touring experience in his native country. In July 1999, he founded Fufluns Wine Travel Concierge, pioneering the path as the first Italian wine travel planner dedicated exclusively to Italy’s rich wine heritage. Named after the Etruscan God of Wine, Fufluns, under Magnani’s stewardship, has built a reputation for its immersive itineraries that seamlessly blend ultra luxury experiences with Italy’s undiscovered gems. Fufluns unwavering commitment to authenticity, quality, and personalization has cemented its status as a leader in the industry, creating the opportunity for people from around the world to engage with the wine regions and people of Italy.

“Reflecting on 25 years of Fufluns Wine Tours, I am filled with gratitude for this quest we’ve undertaken,” says Filippo Magnani, Founder and Supervisor, who oversees a team of ten wine expert guides – all holding WSET or Master Sommelier certifications. “We craft a diverse range of thoughtfully designed wine travel experiences led by a team of knowledgeable wine experts, ensuring an authentic and enriching experience for each guest, from avid wine enthusiasts and collectors to wine schools, wine clubs, and industry professionals such as sommeliers and importers.”

Magnani’s extensive experience in the wine trade, including holding the Wine & Spirit Education Trust Diploma (DipWSET), as a wine writer, and wine travel advisor, has enriched Fufluns’ offerings with depth and sophistication. His and his team’s commitment to excellence and their ability to weave together the cultural, historical, and sensory aspects of Italian wine make Fufluns Wine Tours not just a journey, but a celebration of Italy’s enduring wine legacy.

To celebrate the company’s 25th Anniversary, Magnani and his team are thrilled to debut an enhanced Fufluns website, featuring a range of new personalized, comprehensive, and deluxe wine itineraries throughout Italy. Visit www.fufluns.com to learn more. Filippo is also pleased to showcase a refreshed version of his personal website, www.filippomagani.it, focused on his writings and collaborations, consulting experiences, and career achievements.

In addition, Magnani is proud to announce the launch of a quarterly newsletter, along with a new logo ”A Journey Through Italian Wines”. Featuring captivating insights into Italy’s wine destinations, exclusive interviews with key personalities in the wine and hospitality industry, detailed wine tasting notes, and selected excerpts from Magnani’s personal blog, Tales Behind The Wines, this newsletter aims to further enrich the understanding and appreciation of Italian wine culture among enthusiasts and professionals worldwide.

Furthermore, throughout 2024, Magnani will personally lead tours for various wine club groups and private wine collectors across Italy. These tours, featuring long-standing partners and loyal clients, are a special celebration of Fufluns’ 25th anniversary, allowing Magnani to share the beauty and richness of Italy’s wine regions and producers with those who have supported his journey. As Fufluns continues to innovate in the wine travel space, Magnani’s goal is to strengthen his expert team, further enhancing Fufluns’ ability to offer unique and memorable wine experiences while maintaining the personal touch that has distinguished them in the industry.

Magnani will also be participating in a charity auction as part of The Golden Vines Awards this October in Madrid. For this event, he has created a special auction item: “VIP Experience — Discovering the Iconic Bolgheri”, in which he will personally accompany six passionate donors on a visit to the historic estates of this famed Tuscan region. All proceeds will be donated entirely to the Gérard Basset Foundation.

Source: Fufluns Wine Tours

Chianti Classico Collection: Exploring the Charms of Italy’s Iconic Wine Region – Filippo Magnani

Recently, the wine world’s oldest consortium celebrated its 100th anniversary. In 1924 Chianti Classico established the first wine consortium with its headquarters in the historic Stazione Leopolda,Florence. On February 15th and 16th, a centennial celebration provided an opportunity to reflect on the collective narrative of Chianti Classico and pay tribute to the true soul of the consortium: its producers. Over 200 of them came to present a total of 773 different labels available for tasting. The annual event itself began as the Anteprima de Chianti Classico in 1993. Now it is known as the Chianti Classico Collection.

As in previous years there were in-depth sessions focusing on the Gran Selezione category, which was added 10 years ago to the existing Annata and Riserva. At the time this was a first for Italian wine and viticultural legislative history. This new group of stringent regulations account for only 6% of Chianti Classico production and result in exceptional wines that have given the international market a new quality benchmark. The initial 33 Gran Selezione labels have now grown to an impressive 213 today. They are a perfect example of the continued growth in sales and reputation of the ‘Black Rooster’ denomination. Over the last three years sales have exceeded production volumes by 4% and the average price has increased 13% since 2021.

The event also highlighted the strong presence of female figures employed by wineries in the region of Chianti Classico. This is a theme that is being increasingly talked about in the press and Chianti Classico is leading the way with more women taking on leadership roles. Currently the percentage of women employed by Black Rooster wineries is almost half (44%), many of them holding senior management roles, and when it comes to marketing and sales managers women represent the majority at 60%.

Of course, there continued to be much discussion around the fairly new additional Geographic Units approved by the consortium’s Member Assembly in June 2021. These UGA’s are now printed on all labels where relevant and distinguish 11 different subdivisions with unique natural attributes (soil composition, microclimate, position of the vines etc) and human factors (cultural background, local traditions and community ethos). These distinct units are San Casciano, Greve, Montefioralle, Lamole, Panzano, Radda, Gaiole, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Vagliagli, Castellina and San Donato in Poggio. The idea of showing the name of the municipality or village on the label is meant to spark both curiosity and recognition from the increasingly high numbers of consumers who would like to better understand the micro territories of Black Rooster wines.

The Chianti Classico Collection would not be complete without the Black Rooster’s other main product, Olive Oil DOP Chianti Classico. During the event participants had the opportunity to taste the most recent harvest of oils from 33 producers. The 2023 vintage is complex with aromas of fresh grass, artichokes and almonds followed by a distinct arugula and peppery quality on the palate with a long finish. As in previous years, the 2023 oils contain exceptionally high levels of polyphenols which are essential both to preserving the characteristics of the oil and providing high nutritional value.

A blend of history, wine and timeless beauty

Beyond the vineyards, the region of Chianti Classico is renowned for its picturesque landscapes and medieval hilltop towns like Greve, Radda, and Castellina. They offer a glimpse into Italy’s past with their ancient castles, churches, and narrow streets. The territory still preserves evidence of many past cultures. The earliest documentation of the existence of a wine-producing district dates back to the 13th century with the “Lega del Chianti”, formalized between Radda, Gaiole and Castellina and branded with the famous Black Rooster which, after many glorious years, became the Official symbol of Chianti Classico wine in 2005. The rooster symbolizes the spirit of the territory; strong and elegant, lively, and proud. Its crowing marking a new day.

The region itself is perched on a plateau at altitudes between 200 and 800 meters, mainly covered with forests of oak, chestnut, pine and cypress trees. Now held in the arms of its two historic capitals, Florence and Siena, Chianti Classico was a place loved first by the Etruscans, then by the Romans, and was a battlefield of bitter disputes in the Middle Ages.
It has been one of the most popular destinations for wine enthusiasts for centuries and even now producers are eager to welcome visitors offering world-class hospitality. With such a high density of wineries, the region is a true oenological paradise full of castles and ancient abbeys where fine wines are matured, world-famous wineries alongside small and no less prestigious family-run estates, traditional cellars and architectural masterpieces. Producers understand the importance of hospitality which brings great economic value, diversifies income, and creates an effective means of communicating values and enhancing the distribution of their wines. From curious wine enthusiasts to collectors, guests are drawn to the famous winemaking names of Chianti but can also discover exceptional hidden gems. Consequently, wineries work together with the tourism sector to create personalized and authentic wine and culinary experiences.

As always it was a true pleasure to once again meet so many passionate producers who exemplify the culture and philosophy of Chianti Classico.