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Frescobaldi wants to buy Ornellaia outright

Marchesi Frescobaldi intends to take full control of Ornellaia, the luxury Tuscan wine it co-owns with Mondavi.

Leonardo Frescobaldi told decanter.com he could not go into detail as at this stage ‘it is not certain who will be the owners of Ornellaia.’ The deal between Mondavi and Constellation, in which the latter company takes over the whole of Mondavi, will not be finalised until the end of this month.

But Frescobaldi said they considered Ornellaia ‘a strategic prospect and an investment’ and they would open negotiations when the deal was signed.

The Tuscan producer became joint owner of Ornellaia in 2002, when Mondavi took over full control of the brand from Antinori, with whom they originally developed Ornellaia. Frescobaldi were already partners with Mondavi with another joint venture, Luce della Vita.

‘We are certainly interested in maintaining our share in Ornellaia or to have full control of the company,’ he said. ‘This is our intention. When the deal is completed we are going to use the proper channels to initiate negotiations.’

Ornellaia has 120ha of vineyards and produces about 500,000 bottles a year. It is unquestionably one of the jewels of Tuscany – and one of Robert Parker’s favourites, which guarantees an American market.

Frescobaldi would not be drawn as to the value of Ornellaia, but highly-placed observers in Chianti suggest the multi-million euro price tag will be too much for the producer to meet. One said he thought the most likely course of action would be for Frescobaldi to borrow the money to buy Constellation’s share, and then sell 49% of the brand, thus retaining control.

Frescobaldi confirmed that the terms of the contract with Mondavi state that if either party sold its share of the wine, the other would have the option to take full control. But he said that did not stipulate a price. ‘That is what we will be negotiating.’

Frescobaldi said they would also like to take control of Luce: ‘we are also working on that.’

Written by Adam Lechmere

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