Time was when Italian wine producers were men of their village. They knew every nook and cranny of their native heath but hadn't visited the nearest city, let alone Rome.
Nowadays, most of the best-known of them are busy buying up land all over the country, following the likes of Gaja with his fingers in the Montalcino and Bolghéri pies, Frescobaldi also in Montalcino and Collio, and Antinori all over the place. Ruffino had until recently been more modest, restricting its expansion to Tuscany with Greppone Mazzi in Montalcino and Lodola Nuova in Montepulciano. But rumour has it that this substantial Chianti house has just acquired the Borgo Conventi estate in Farra d'Isonzo (the same town as Silvio Jermann) as well as vineyards in Collio and Isonzo.
Meanwhile incomers continue to flood in to the Tuscan Coast and its nascent wine regions. The Monteregio di Massa Marittima zone has recently attracted some of the most glamorous investors, including Antinori, Bellavista of Franciacorta and now Eric de Rothschild of Château Lafite. He has apparently bought 500 hectares in the Maremma, of which at least 100 will be planted to vines, in a joint venture with financial publisher Paolo Panerai who already owns the Castellare estate in Chianti Classico. The most surprising aspect of this new half-Bordelais venture is that Sangiovese and not Cabernet Sauvignon is rumoured to play the major role. Perhaps this is the influence of his Italian wife.
News just in: After last year's Ruffino split, Ambrogio Folonari and his son Giovanni now have their own operation called, with Burgundian catchiness, Tenute di Ambrogio e Giovanni Folonari. They have just acquired La Fuga, a first-class small estate in Montalcino whose Brunellos from 1993 to 1998 have been some of the best in the zone. They are also developing a property in the newish Montecucco DOC, just across the Orcia river from giants Villa Banfi. It's a great time to be a Tuscan realtor/estate agent.
20 December 2001 - updated 6 January 2002