Classification of Italy’s Grand Cru wines: the evolution of international auctions – Live from Vinitaly 2024

Blog

Going on with our report from Vinitaly 2024, let’s now delve into Italian Grand Cru wines auction trendsPresented by Flaviano Gelardini and Sagitta Frullani from Gelardini and Romani Auctions, this masterclass was quite a change from previous sessions. Gelardini & Romani wine auctions opened in Rome in 2003, then moved to Hong Kong in 2011, where they remain the only auction house focused exclusively on Italian wines. Flaviano Gelardini explained the importance of the classification of Grand Cru in Italy. He reported: “At the last auction we did, last Sunday [14 April 2024], the native Italian grapes like Nerello Mascalese are doing very well at auction, alongside the classically collectible wines.”  He went on to say that “The auction price is a crucial indicator and shows the real market value. This is where supply and demand actually meet.” COVID had an impact on the auction market, with many wines doing very well. In Hong Kong they were able to hold a live auction, despite many pandemic restrictions. Prices for Italian wines have gone steadily up since COVID, with buyers’ clear preference being for more elegant wines, a move away from the typical USA taste for more robust wines.

Among the wines Gelardini mentioned was Trebbiano d’Abruzzo from Valentini, a white wine that has rocketed up in sales and price, becoming one of the first Italian white wines to command a high price at auctions. Conversely, traditionally high price wines such as Tignanello and Ornellaia are losing some ground. Bordeaux wines and Bordeaux-style blends are also suffering as the market turns to Burgundy and Burgundy-style wines. Gelardini commented that “We knew the potential of Etna wines 10 years ago, but we now see the market responding. People at the last auction were waiting for the lots of Etna wines. People really appreciate these wines and how important the territory is for the future of Italian wines.

Wines that are approachable and drinkable now are also very popular at auction and consumers in Hong Kong primarily buy to drink now, even when buying older and collectible vintages.

The first wine tasted was Etna DOC Bianco Superiore Casselle “Vigna di Milo” 2016 from I Vigneri di Salvo Foti.  The wine was 100% Carricante, matured in large oak botte. RIch and phenolic with a medium gold color, the nose was full of ripe yellow citrus, melon, cedar and dried bitter herbs. Retaining a good level of acidity and lovely rich ripe fruit on the mid-palate, this wine was crying out for some Sicilian seafood to accompany it.

Gelardini spoke about wines that begin at a price of over €200 being very stable in the market. This consistency then helps to drive up the price of older vintages of these wines.

We tasted Barbaresco DOCG Montestefano 2020 from La Ca’ Növa, a ruby red wine that needed a few minutes to fully open, moving from scents of warm sun-dried tomato at the start, to more typical floral notes of rose petals and on to ripe cherry fruit. A very pleasant acidic spine kept this wine feeling young with lots of potential for the future.   

Castello di Verduno gave us Barbaresco DOCG Montestefano 2020 as the third wine. Bright and lively with a typical Nebbiolo nose full of hot tar and warm red floral notes, this wine was very approachable and delightful, with beautiful silky tannins adding to the structure.

The fourth wine was Barbaresco DOCG Montefico 2020 from Carlo Giacosa: divine, fresh, sheer and rosey, with complex red fruit notes of ripe cherry and plum, vibrant acidity and hints of gentle, sweet baking spices, combined with very restrained, soft powdery tannins. Sagitta Frullani pointed to this wine as one that shows “People want wines with elegance and minerality. We pay attention to trends. Auction houses cannot be distributors. We are ambassadors. We promote identity. It’s the only way to compete with French wines.

Moving on to wines priced above €400, Gelardini said that “Wines like Masseto, Giacosa and Biondi Santi go up and up and up. All the people in Asia who buy these wines want only bottles before 2016.

Barbaresco DOCG Riserva Rabajà 2016 from Produttori del Barbaresco (did you listen to this interview with Aldo Vacca of Produttori del Barbaresco?) was the fifth wine, showing a less sheer composition with a slightly savory nose and a lovely soft mouth feel on the palate, where the fruit was ripe and warm red cherries and red plums.

Galeradini told us that wines that start above €600 peaked during COVID at prices as high as €1800 but have now dropped back to more affordable prices. Frullani pointed out that “Burgundy lovers are moving to these Italian wines with a great identity, particularly Nebbiolo, Nerello Mascalese and Sangiovese.”

The final wine was Montevertine’s Toscana IGT “Montevertine” 2013, showing a bit of its age with a pale garnet color and a savory nose, becoming deliciously fruity on the palate, with lots of citrusy and cherry flavors beautifully complemented by notes of sweet cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. Well balanced and delightfully drinkable.

May 27, 2024
5StarWines & Wine Without Walls Trophy Award Ceremony & Masterclass – Live from Vinitaly 2024

5StarWines & Wine Without Walls Trophy Award Ceremony & Masterclass – Live from Vinitaly 2024

Best Wines to Drink Now – Spring 2024 – Live from Vinitaly 2024

Best Wines to Drink Now – Spring 2024 – Live from Vinitaly 2024

Classification of Italy’s Grand Cru wines: the evolution of international auctions – Live from Vinitaly 2024

Classification of Italy’s Grand Cru wines: the evolution of international auctions – Live from Vinitaly 2024