Portrait / Alessandro Lunelli
The name Ferrari represents a commitment to uniqueness and quality. At the sparkling wine producer in Trento, ALESSANDRO LUNELLI ensures this philosophy
is upheld in the third generation
lessandro Lunelli may be the youngest management member of the Lunelli Group, which includes the Ferrari brand, but he speaks with the assurance of a veteran
winemaker: “COVID-19 affected us from March to May. Since June, things have been picking up again. In the last two years, our top qualities were sold out. We may even have to distribute our Vintage Spumante, such as the Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore, in lim- ited quantities in the future.”
Such problems would have been unimaginable for Giulio Ferrari, who studied at agricultural school in the late 19th century before travelling to wine schools in Montpellier and Geisenheim on the Rhine and then to Epernay for two years of practical experience. He returned home in 1902 with new-found expertise, fresh ideas and Chardonnay vines in his luggage before, at the age of 22, founding the cellar in Trento Alto Adige that still bears his name. Initially, he produced “Champagne”. At that time, he was still al- lowed to call his sparkling wine by that name. But since 1994, the name has been protected and may only be used for wines from the French region of Champagne. The name “Metodo Classico” is now used for top-quality Italian sparkling wines instead.
Ferrari was the first winegrower to plant Chardonnay in Trenti- no. Through soil sampling he discovered that the high altitude of the vineyards, in combination with the climate, made them ideal for champagne-like wines with fragrant complexity, tangy fresh- ness and fine acidity. In addition, he learned that a sparkling wine can achieve at least twice the price of a still wine from the same base wine – with a manageable additional expenditure: 24 grams of sugar, which trigger the second fermentation in the bottle, plus costs for cellar work and capital commitment for the storage over several years.
Ferrari’s success encouraged most of the winegrowers in Trenti- no to switch to Chardonnay. In 1952, he sold the winery with an annual production of 8800 bottles to the local wine merchant Bruno Lunelli, who continued to develop the sparkling wine brand.
Production grew to about 200,000 bottles a year, and eventually the company needed more space than the city centre of Trento could offer. In 1971, it moved to a modern factory building on the other side of the river Adige. From the motorway, it is easy to recognise by the striking six-metre high bronze sculpture by the artist and architect Arnaldo Pomodoro, who also designed the Lunelli Castelbuono winery in Umbria.
The three brothers of the second generation increased Ferrari Trentodoc sales to over 3.5 million bottles sold in more than 50 countries. They conquered the market in bottle-fermented sparkling wines in Italy and invested in new projects. Then in 2016, the third generation of Lunellis took over the management: Matteo became CEO of the Lunelli Group as well as of the Ferrari brand and, in the same year, President of the Altagamma Foundation, which includes 110 of the most prestigious brands “Made in Italy”. Camilla has been responsible for communication and external con- tacts since 2004. Marcello has been responsible for the wine as- sortment as an oenologist since 1995, supported by the cellar mas- ter Ruben Laurentis since 1986. Alessandro is the Technical Direc- tor responsible for all investments of the Lunelli Group.
While in 1903 Ferrari was still the only producer of Spumante in the region, there are now 56 wineries producing Trentodoc, includ- ing three large cooperatives. This has lead to a strong demand for suitable vineyards. A maximum of one million bottles of high-qual- ity Metodo Classico can be produced from the 100 hectares bought by Ferrari over the years. For the remaining four million bottles, additional grapes must be purchased, which are only accepted by Ferrari after strict specifications and ongoing checks, thus in- creasingly limiting the offer from year to year. “We have invested a lot in new vineyards, recently in another 30 hectares at good alti- tudes. But it takes a few years before they produce the desired quality. The most important things for our sparkling wines are the vines, the grapes and the vineyards. Or as my father Mauro, who was Ferrari’s chief oenologist for many years, used to say: ‘The cel- lar can only ruin a wine.’”
The worldwide success of Ferrari sparkling wines is remarkable. Its production volume of five million bottles annually is compara- ble to that of renowned Champagne houses such as Taittinger, Du- val-Leroy or Pommery – as are its prices. Ferrari products have won many awards and are highly praised by wine critics. And de- mand continues to outstrip supply.
Although Ferrari from Trento is neither related directly nor by marriage to Ferrari from Maranello, and the two brands strictly avoid appearing together, the sparkling wines have probably bene- fited from the myth and prestige of the sports car and Formula 1 racing team of the same name. Despite having different typefaces, and capital letters versus mixed cases, both are luxury marques and comparison of their qualities is difficult to avoid.
One could fill many pages explaining to consumers the differ- ences between tank-fermented sparkling wine and Prosecco or bottle-fermented wines such as Champagne, Franciacorta or Alta Langa. So, are the currently 15 different labels of Ferrari still dis- tinguishable for sparkling wine lovers? “If a wine merchant or restaurant has five or six of our qualities, that’s quite enough for us,” says Alessandro Lunelli.
The Group, which is one hundred percent family-owned, started its horizontal diversification twenty years ago. For a long time now, the company has also been producing still wines – in Trenti- no with the Tenute Lunelli, in Tuscany with the Podernuovo estate and in Umbria with Castelbuono. It also produces the grappa “Seg- nana” and has the table water “Surgiva” in its range, which is popu- lar with sommeliers and upscale gastronomists. A few years ago, the Prosecco house “Bisol 1542” also became a part of the Group. And in 2017, the Michelin-starred restaurant “Locanda Margon” opened next to Ferrari's guest house, the 16th-century Villa Mar- gon. With so much entrepreneurship and successful businesses with annual sales of over 100 million euros, further expansion in the beverage market is almost to be expected. “We want to buy wineries. Either in renowned regions – or developable first-class brands,” Allesandro Lunelli reveals.
Text: Christian Wenger
Photos: Mattia Balsamini
Vineyards with rows and rows
of wine grapes are located on south- or southwest-facing
At Ferrari, as elsewhere in the world, picking grapes destined for high-quality wines is done exclusively by hand
Before pressing, the grapes are mechanically stripped – i.e. the rather bitter stems are removed – and visually selected
Bottles of sparkling wine are stored in riddling racks for the last few days until all sediment has reached the top of the bottle and can be removed
During the multiple-year matur- ing process, the bottles are stored horizontally, with the crown caps closed. Internal pressure totals six bar
The 42-year-old began his career at
McKinsey after studying electrical engi- neering. This was followed by employment at Unilever in Milan and stays abroad in Singapore and Manila. In 2004, he re- turned to Italy and has been working in the management of the family-run Lunelli Group ever since. The father of two chil- dren is active in the Confindustria (Con- federation of the Italian Industry) and is Vice President of the University of Trento.