Lamberto Frescobaldi: "Let's Stay Curious"

Lamberto Frescobaldi, president of the renowned Tuscan family business and the Italian winegrowers' association UIV, shares insights on the state of the Italian wine industry, current developments within his company, in Tuscany and across the global wine sector.

Reading time: 9m 30s

Frescobaldi owns several castelli and wineries around the world. (Photos: Frescobaldi, Kurt-Inge Eklund, Clemens Gerke)
Frescobaldi owns several castelli and wineries around the world. (Photos: Frescobaldi, Kurt-Inge Eklund, Clemens Gerke)

How did you perceive the vintage of 2023?

A significant portion of Italy lost a substantial amount of its production due to the rain. In the north-eastern region of Italy, in the mountains, there were fewer losses because people there were more accustomed to the weather. Winemakers here had the skills and machinery to do what was necessary.

Nevertheless, we had an amazing September and October. The quality is very good. The wines are spectacular. I am very sorry that many of my colleagues lost a large part of their production because while the weather in May and June did affect the quantity, it did not affect the quality.


Lamberto Frescobaldi
Lamberto Frescobaldi

One of the largest and wealthiest markets in the world is Germany, and it is a challenging market. Sometimes I go to German supermarkets and see very cheap wines coming from all over the world, sometimes not even knowing exactly where they come from. That saddens me because I would rather drink less but at least something I know where it comes from. I don't want to offend anyone working in this industry, but Germany has changed a lot. A country like the Netherlands historically has always been very tough, but it is a smaller market.

"I don't believe there are too many vineyards."

You are the president of UIV. In addition to addressing your company's issues, you also deal with Italy's matters. Are there too many vineyards in Italy today?

I don't believe there are too many vineyards. However, I do think that in some areas of Italy, the maximum yield is probably a bit too high. This impacts the identity of the wines. The wines become simpler. That's not necessarily bad. Nobody wants to drink a complex wine every day. But I believe it's not a matter of complexity; it's a matter of identity. When vineyards produce too much, the wines they yield lose their identity. They lose their charm.

The world is moving towards moderate consumption. What we should do is to have a much more balanced diet. If you want to eat balanced, you have to pay attention to the details of what you eat and drink. I want to produce less, and that will make the wines much more interesting.

Some vineyards will soon be abandoned. There is a demographic shift, and the children of the old winemakers no longer live in the region. I believe that we will soon lose 100,000–150,000 hectares in pretty much all Italian regions. This is a natural process that happens.

Castello Nipozzano is arguably one of the most renowned wineries owned by Frescobaldi. The castle used to be the family's residence and is located in Chianti Rufina.
Castello Nipozzano is arguably one of the most renowned wineries owned by Frescobaldi. The castle used to be the family's residence and is located in Chianti Rufina.
With Domaine Roy & Fils, the Frescobaldi family now owns its own winery in Oregon, "to become more American", according to Lamberto Frescobaldi.
With Domaine Roy & Fils, the Frescobaldi family now owns its own winery in Oregon, "to become more American", according to Lamberto Frescobaldi.

How great is the threat posed by the European Union's anti-alcohol initiative Beating Cancer (BECA) to the wine industry?

Beating Cancer poses a threat to the wine industry, but it is an even greater threat to the spirits industry. Wines typically have about 14 degrees of alcohol, whereas spirits have 40. Wine accounts for 18 percent of the average alcohol consumption in Europe, beer 35 percent, and hard spirits 47 percent. The contribution of wine to overall alcohol consumption is relatively low.

BECA has taken a stance against meat, olive oil, butter, alcohol, and essentially everything. They discuss anything and everything and forget one thing: average lifespan has dramatically increased over the past 30 years. What we eat and drink might not be so bad after all. In 1963, the average life expectancy in America was 63 years, now it's 83 years. I don't think our diet is that bad. Of course, there are people who weigh 200 kilos, and those are people who drink too much. BECA is supported by cancer studies. They're against everything. They have to say that. I believe it's the wrong approach to focus on restricting things and forget about the really harmful ones.

Let me come back to your company. For a long time, each of your wineries was located in Tuscany. In the meantime, you have expanded to Oregon and Friuli. Why these regions? Isn't Puglia, for example, more lucrative?

You have to decide what you want to express with your portfolio. We moved to Friuli in 2000. At that time, we felt the absence of white wines from Tuscany and the need for more white varieties. Friuli is an excellent region for white wines. Over the past 20 years, the southern part of Tuscany has experienced a boom with Vermentino. Now there are a lot of white wines in Tuscany too, and they are very good.

We ventured into Oregon because we felt the desire to embrace a more American identity. We aim not only to export to America but also to become part of its society. Our philosophy revolves around cultivating vineyards to craft wine from our fruits and grapes. We strive not to be mass producers but rather artisanal craftsmen.


Reacting to low prices and high volumes, the President of the Italian Wine Association (UIV) wants radical action.

Reading time: 1m 45s

The global consumption trend is shifting from red wine to white wine and rosé. Are you adjusting your production to accommodate these trends?

Not really. Historically, white wine and red wine have always comprised 50/50 of production. Yes, rosé has set a new trend, increasing to 10% of global production. However, medium-bodied and red wines have not disappeared from the market. There are a few places in Tuscany where good white wines can be produced.  We have Maremma with Vermentino. With Chardonnay, you have to bear in mind that it is very sensitive to frost. There is often frost in Tuscany.

That's why we have the Pomino estate, which is located at a very high altitude. There, we never experience frost because it descends into the valley. However, this wouldn't affect the policies of a company like Frescobaldi. We are small in this world and not obligated to follow the trends out there. Instead, we should focus on what we can do well.

Speaking of Pomino: Tuscany isn't particularly known for sparkling wines. Yet, you produce excellent sparkling wines right there in Pomino. Why did you choose Pomino instead of Franciacorta or Trento, which are more famous in Italy for sparkling wine?

Yes, we had this beautiful winery called Pomino. Pomino is the place where my great-grandmother had the apple trees - pomo. Then she visited France and started planting varieties like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. Pomino is a place where it is regularly very cold. This is because the vineyard is 600 meters above sea level.

Now, we're planting a new vineyard at 750 meters altitude. That's a cooler location. In combination with the right variety, we can produce great sparkling wines. Nowadays, the tradition of a product isn't as significant as it used to be. Tradition means more to people like me. The younger generation is much more open-minded.

The most significant personnel change in your company is the departure of Giovanni Geddes. How do you compensate for his departure?

Giovanni was an exceptional manager and a wonderful friend. I grew up with him; he's exactly 18 years older than me. He joined us 25 years ago. Now, he's being replaced by a younger individual, Fabrizio Dosi. Giovanni and I selected Fabrizio back in 2018. He's been working with us for six years now. He's no longer a rookie. He knows what he's doing. Besides, companies are not a one-man show. Relying solely on one person is very risky for a company.

Which other family members besides you play a key role in the Frescobaldi Group?

My cousin Stefano serves as the Vice President and is responsible for the export of the Frescobaldi brand. Additionally, I have another cousin who oversees the olive oil brand Laudemio, which we own. Recently, we also introduced a pasta made from wheat grown on our land. Furthermore, I have a sister who manages some restaurants—one in London and one in France.

At Frescobaldi, we are a large family, and we aim for the company to thrive. We need individuals who are not part of the family to become integral members of the company.

"We would prefer to hire only those who are making significant progress in their careers."

Is the next generation of Frescobaldi taking steps to join the company?

The next generation is quite sizable, and they are preparing themselves. Some are already working in other companies. Some are building successful careers, while others are not. We would prefer to hire only those who are making significant progress in their careers. We must show great respect to those who work with us. We shouldn't only consider family members. Those who will eventually work with us must bring significant experience. We don't need to lecture them because as we grow older, we'll start imparting our fears and weaknesses to them. When you're young, you have a different pace. Older people can only say, "Be careful."

Do Ornellaia and Masseto play a special role in your company? Although they are not listed in the portfolio of Frescobaldi wineries, they are still part of the Frescobaldi wine family.

Certainly, they do. We have great respect for Luce and Ornellaia. This respect leads us to keep them separate from our neighboring wineries. This way, they can maintain their own style. It's important to have a strong identity. Uniqueness and differences are our strengths. In this case, independent distribution is also part of that.'

Do you expect Ornellaia's style to change with the new team?

No, I don't believe so. Former manager Axel Heinz was very clear that he did not want to produce commercial wines. Ornellaia is a wine that expresses its terroir. The new team from Marco Balsimelli to Denise Cosentino is young, but they already have the experience to be very careful.

"Sometimes we tend to provide a wine with more and more information, which confuses consumers."

Are you looking forward to the first generation of Chianti Classico Unità Geografiche Aggiuntive, abbreviated as UGAs, the newly introduced single vineyards?

Yes, they are all good. It's exciting. Although I am a little concerned that we are making Chianti Classico too complicated. Sometimes we tend to provide a wine with more and more information, which confuses consumers.

The Perano Gran Selezione is to be replaced by a UGA.
The Perano Gran Selezione is to be replaced by a UGA.

How important is sustainability for your company?

It's essentially ingrained in our DNA. We started working with renewable energy many years ago. What we consume, we also produce. When talking about sustainability, social sustainability is a crucial part. We have equal wages for women and men, and there's respect for women in the offices.

Sustainability in the vineyards is also important by replacing tractors with modern engines that consume less fuel and produce less CO2. We must be mindful of what we spray in the vineyards, also being careful not to use too much copper. It is a heavy metal that remains in the soil. All these things are very close to our hearts. We need to be critical in what we do and how we do it. Conducting an interview like this over Zoom may be better than taking a plane.

What question should I have asked that I didn't ask?

I don't dare to pretend to ask you a question. As the President of the Unione Italiana Vini, I am well aware that there is room for wines from many parts of the world, provided that producers truly make an effort to create something that is different and unique.

The origin of the wine is of utmost importance. The connection between the vineyards, the people distributing it, and the market out there must be in harmony. I hope that no one dares to drink the same wine every day of their life, for that would be very sad. Let's stay curious.

The interview was conducted by Clemens Gerke

About the Frescobaldi Group

Under the slogan Frescobaldi – Tuscany, the family business brings together nine wineries from classic DOCs of Tuscany such as Chianti Classico (Tenuta Perano), Brunello di Montalcino (Castelgiocondo), Chianti Rufina (Castello Nipozzano), Nobile di Montepulciano (Calimaia), as well as innovative ventures like Gorgona from the prison island or Castello Pomino with Burgundian varieties and the sparkling wine brand Leonia. Furthermore, there are wineries where the involvement of the Frescobaldi family is minimal, allowing for independent management in distribution, such as Tenuta Luce in Montalcino, Ornellaia and Masseto in Bolgheri, Attems in Friuli, or Domaine de Roy in Oregon. According to Mediobanca's assessment in 2022, the group was the most profitable major company in the Italian wine industry.

Insights Styles & Regions

In Trentino, Pinot Grigio represents a formidable product in its marketing arsenal. However, the situation of this universally admired varietal here starkly contrasts with that in other wine-growing regions. Clemens Gerke reports.

Reading time: 4m 15s



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