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Berlusconi gets into wine

Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi already owns vast swathes of the country's print, publishing and broadcast media – and now he's getting into the wine world.

Berlusconi has just bought Castello della Velona, a 15ha estate in Montalcino, from Roman property developer Luigi Piermartini, who ran the ancient castle and its land as a hotel. The estate dominates the hillside area of Sant’Antimo, some 9 km from Montalcino and looks over the Val D’Orcia countryside.

The property includes 5ha of newly planted vines, of which 1.5ha are planted to Brunello and the remaining to Sant’Antimo DOC and Rosso di Montalcino DOC. The first vintage in production will be 5,000 bottles of 2002, to be released in 2007, with a potential of increasing production to 30,000 bottles.

It is understood Berlusconi would have paid around €10m for the property. According to neighbour Ezio Rivella, highly-respected ex-winemaker at Castello Banfi, Brunello vineyards are currently priced at €1m per hectare, while Montalcino DOC vineyards are worth half that.

Companies controlled by the Berlusconi family dominate the Italian media. The family controls three television networks with a 45% audience share and over 60% of total advertising sales, and a third of Italy’s book and magazine publishing industry. Berlusconi controls Il Giornale, a leading national newspaper that competes with La Repubblica, La Stampa and Corriere della Sera. Family companies own Blockbuster Video in Italy, La Standa department store group, the Supermercato supermarket chain, pension funds, the Publitalia 80 advertising group, the AC Milan football team, hockey and volleyball teams, Medusa Films – Italy’s largest production house – and other major holdings.

Stefano Campatelli, director of the Montalcino Consorzio, said the prime minister was welcome. ‘We look forward to the estate’s entrance as a member of the Brunello Consorzio,’ he told decanter.com.

‘Castello di Valone is in a premiere cru production area,’ Ezio Rivella said. ‘Mr Berlusconi is known for his refined taste in cuisine and good wines. I have tasted the estate’s wine and although 2002 is not a great vintage, the possibilities of the vineyards and the grapes are good.’

Written by Michele Shah24 February 2003

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