One of Italy’s most prominent wine families has split its company into two as the new generation takes a greater role. Wine Spectator learned that Allegrini, one of Italy’s leading wine families, is restructuring their estates and businesses in Veneto’s Valpolicella and Tuscany’s Bolgheri & Montalcino regions.
After the agreement is finalized, Francesco, Giovanni, and Matteo Allegrini, along with their cousin Silvia Allegrini, will take over the majority of the Allegrini estate and its negociant brand, Corte Giara.
Marilisa, their aunt, and Carlotta, Caterina, and Carlotta’s daughters, will focus on winemaking in Tuscany. They will retain ownership of Poggio al Tesoro in Bolgheri and Poggio San Polo in Montalcino. The family will continue to operate the Villa della Torre Luxury Hotel located in Fumane.
Matteo Allegrini will be overseeing the Allegrini winery, Valpolicella. (Courtesy Allegrini)
The separation of a prominent wine family is dramatic, and reaching an understanding was difficult. Marilisa said that the decision to go in a new direction from what was historically followed by Allegrini was not an easy one, especially on a sentimental basis.
Francesco Allegrini, Wine Spectator, said, “My brothers Giovanni and Matteo and I have been on a journey for some time, which has now formalized itself with the purchase of the majority in Allegrini and Corte Giara.” A major step was taken to ensure a strong future for the company and to give it a boost in innovation. This was driven by our passion and built on solid foundations.
A Company of Siblings
Marilisa, the senior member of the family, has spent four decades growing Allegrini’s production, sales, brand recognition, and overall success. Marilisa, aged just 23, worked with her brothers Walter and Franco after the sudden death of their father, Giovanni, in 1983. Walter died in 2003. Franco succumbed to cancer early in 2022. Silvia is Walter’s daughter, while Francesco Giovanni and Matteo are Franco’s sons.
Allegrini was a relatively small winery when my father died. Marilisa said in a 2021 Wine Spectator interview that it was a huge challenge for my brothers and me, who were young and not experts, to carry on his heritage. The work Franco and Walter [to focus on quality] did on the production side was incredible. “My job was to be the ambassador for the winery, and to convey all the hard work that they were doing in the winery.”
Walter and Franco, and later Franco alone, both had a significant impact on the wine quality. Their work in the vineyards included replanting high-yielding pergola-trained grapes with double Guyot, converting organic viticulture, and utilizing precision management of foliage, cover crops, and more.
Franco’s quest for harmony led him to confront the oxidative issues common to many Amarones in the 1980s and 1990s due to botrytis forming on grapes during the crucial em>appassimento/em> drying process. Amarone was able to deliver. Franco’s search for harmony led him to address the oxidative problems that plagued many Amarones of the 1980s and ’90s due to botrytis growing on grapes at during the appassimento dry process. He led the construction of a 54,000-square-foot drying facility that better-controlled humidity, temperature, and airflow.
Marilisa Allegrini has been the face of Allegrini in the world since her father’s death. (Collin Dutton)
Marilisa made her first trip to the United States after the death of her father, while Walter and Franco stayed at the vineyards and the cellar. She said in her interview from 2021 that it was a “formative experience” because her importer would not let her leave their office until she had written out an extensive listing of the estate’s vineyards, grape varieties, winemaking, and more. “Then we marched to Kinkos to make photocopy packets to give to the clients we would visit–with no appointment–stopping at every liquor store and restaurant along the way,” she recalled, with a laugh. “But, I learned from this experience that communicating our philosophy is key.”
Marilisa became the CEO of Allegrini and the face of the company, as well as one of Valpolicella’s most recognized representatives. She was the driving force behind the creation of Famiglie Storiche in 2009, an organization of Valpolicella producers who pooled resources to promote Amarone throughout the world.
Allegrini Winery was producing about 8,500 cases per year when their father died and had an annual revenue of approximately 100,000 euros. Today, they make more than 300,000.00 cases of wine per year from their Veneto estates and Tuscany properties, with a yearly income of over 30 million euros. The company’s presence in the U.S. wine market has increased in recent years thanks to a partnership with E.&J. Gallo’s premium import division.
Franco Allegrini, who died in 2004, was responsible for the cellars of the winery. He dramatically improved quality. (Collin Dutton)
Allegrini was a success story that involved each of the siblings. But, despite their clear roles in it, there wasn’t always peace. Franco and Marilisa both readily admit to having a sometimes tense relationship. In a 2017 Wine Spectator Interview, Franco said: “My sister believes that the most significant part of wine is the business. I believe the most significant part is the vines.” Marilisa was always conscious of the image of her winery and expressed her trust in Franco to do what he loved. “I am able to travel around the world, because I know Franco is taking care of all things at home.”
Marilisa was able to resolve their tensions with Franco in the main. After Franco’s passing, the division of company operations may have been easier with a younger generation playing a greater role.
Marilisa reflected on her time working with her brothers and her announcement of the redistribution. “But I want to work with those who will understand my sacrifices.”
Two New Wine Companies
The Villa della Torre includes 40 acres of vineyards, in addition to its Tuscan estates. Marilisa also owns 25 acres of land in Veneto, the white wine-producing Lugana appellation. “Me and [my daughters] Carlotta or Caterina will have plenty to do in my family business,” she said.
Lon Gallagher of E.&J. Gallo said that “Marilisa, and her family, have been championing Valpolicella for six generations.” We look forward to building on the Allegrini legacy with the next Allegrini generation. We’re also excited to continue the partnership with Marilisa for the prestigious Bolgheri wines produced by Poggio al Tesoro.
Both parties know that they will need to work hard in the future to continue their success. Francesco said, “The legacy that has been passed on to us is an important commitment to face as we recognize the importance of Allegrini’s role in representing Italian wines worldwide and promoting Valpolicella territory to which we have a deep connection.”
Marilisa said, “[It is] the time when the passion and experience of ‘the builder’ will now be revealed.” “Where freedom, autonomy and creative spirit will accompany the new generation to the challenges the world of wines will face.”