Giacomo Tachis, the most celebrated Italian winemaker, has outlined a bleak future for corporate-owned Italian wines – and says those who inflate the price of the top wines are ‘vultures.’

At the Vini di Toscana 2004 awards ceremony held earlier this week in Florence, the legendary oenologist, who was honored with a lifetime achievement award for his pioneering work with Super Tuscans, surprised the audience with some outspoken observations.

Referring to a string of recent acquisitions of historical estates in Tuscany by large outside investors, Tachis warned, ‘There is a risk that our quality wineries could be bought out by foreign competitors who are both smart and economically strong.

‘But if they buy our estates, they need to work with the right spirit and mentality in order to produce quality wines, otherwise they will just physically own our best brands.

‘These foreigners are good and have a lot of money, but they don’t have our culture and cannot beat us,’ he said, but added, ‘they are so strong and good at sales and marketing’ there is a danger that quality alone will no longer be enough to keep top wines in their leading positions in the Italian fine wine market.

Tachis, who helped create the original Super Tuscan, Sassicaia, as well as Tignanello and Solaia, says the current crisis in sales of Italian wines can be partly blamed on inflated prices.

Referring to the retail price of around €130 and about €200 on restaurant lists for Sassicaia 2000, he said, ‘The wines I consult for don’t leave the cellars this expensive. But around Sassicaia, there are vultures. It is the succession of overheads which are added that inflate its final price, reaching as much as €200, which is exaggeratedly overpriced.’

‘The prices for many wines are exaggerated. If I had to pay a fortune for a bottle of wine, I wouldn’t buy it’.

Written by Kerin O’Keefe