One of Italy’s top wine families is dividing their company in two, as a new generation plays a larger role. Wine Spectator has learned that the Allegrini family, one of the leading names in Amarone wine, is restructuring its estates and companies in Veneto’s Valpolicella region and Tuscany’s Bolgheri and Montalcino areas.
Once the arrangement is finalized, brothers Francesco, Giovanni and Matteo Allegrini will acquire majority holdings of the Allegrini estate in Valpolicella and its négociant label, Corte Giara, managing the companies with their cousin Silvia Allegrini.
Their aunt, Marilisa Allegrini, and her daughters Carlotta and Caterina Allegrini, will shift their winemaking focus to Tuscany, retaining ownership of Poggio al Tesoro in Bolgheri and Poggio San Polo in Montalcino. They will also continue to run the family’s chief hospitality operation, the Villa della Torre luxury hotel in Fumane, Valpolicella.
[article-img-container][src=2023-12/ns_allegrini-heirs-121423_1600.jpg] [credit= (Courtesy Allegrini)] [alt= Matteo, Silvia, Giovanni, Francesco Allegrini in the cellar.][end: article-img-container]
It’s a dramatic separation in a premier wine family and reaching an agreement was challenging. “The choice to take a different path from that which was traced historically by the Allegrini brand was not easy,” said Marilisa, “Especially on a sentimental level.”
Francesco Allegrini told Wine Spectator, “For some time now, my brothers Giovanni and Matteo, and myself, have embarked on a journey that has formalized with the acquisition of the majority of Allegrini and Corte Giara. An important step, born with the aim of ensuring a solid future and an innovative push to the companies, driven by our enthusiasm and based on significant foundations built over time.”
The surviving senior family member, Marilisa has dedicated four decades to growing Allegrini’s production and sales, name recognition and overall success. Following the death of her father, Giovanni, in 1983 at just 63 years old, a young Marilisa worked alongside her brothers: Walter, who died unexpectedly in 2003, and Franco, who succumbed to cancer in early 2022. Silvia is Walter’s daughter; Francesco, Giovanni and Matteo are Franco’s sons.
“When my father passed away, the Allegrini winery was relatively small. It was an enormous challenge for myself and my brothers—young and not really experts—to carry on his legacy,” said Marilisa, in a 2021 interview with Wine Spectator. “The work that Franco and Walter did [to focus on quality] on the production side was amazing. My job was to become the ambassador of the winery and to communicate all the hard work they were doing at the winery.”
Walter and Franco, and then later, Franco on his own, had a considerable impact on the quality of the wines. In the vineyards their work included replanting high-yielding pergola-trained vines with double Guyot training, converting to organic viticulture and employing precision management of cover crops, foliage and more.
In the cellar, Franco strove for elegance and balance—even during a period that the wine world looked for powerful, extracted reds, something Amarone could easily deliver. Franco’s quest for harmony would spur him to confront the oxidative issues common to many Amarones in the 1980s and 1990s because of botrytis forming on grapes during the crucial appassimento drying process. To eliminate the problem, he led the construction of a 54,000-square-foot drying facility to better control humidity, temperature and airflow.
[article-img-container][src=2023-12/ns_marilisa-121423_1600.jpg] [credit= (Collin Dutton)] [alt= Marilisa Allegrini at Villa della Torre.][end: article-img-container]
While Walter and Franco stayed in the vineyards and cellar, Marilisa’s first trip after her father’s death was to the United States. “It was a formative experience,” she remembered during her 2021 interview, explaining that her importer wouldn’t let her out of their office until she wrote out an exhaustive listing detailing the estate, its vineyards and grape varieties, winemaking and more. “Then we marched to Kinkos to make photocopy packets to give to the clients we would visit—with no appointment—stopping at every liquor store and restaurant along the way,” she recalled, with a laugh. “But I came away from this experience with the notion that communication of our philosophy was key.”
Marilisa went on to be the CEO and face of Allegrini, but also one of the Valpolicella region’s most recognizable representatives as well. In 2009, she was a driver behind the establishment of the organization known today as Famiglie Storiche, a group of Valpolicella producers pooling resources to promote high-quality Amarone around the world.
Allegrini winery produced about 8,500 cases of wine per year at the time of their father’s death, with roughly 100,000 euros in annual revenues. Today they produce more than 300,000 cases of wine annually from their Veneto and Tuscany estates, with annual sales of more than 30 million euros. In recent years, the company has become an even larger presence in the U.S. market, thanks to partnering with E.&J. Gallo’s premium wine import division.
[article-img-container][src=2023-12/ns_franco-marilisa-121423_1600.jpg] [credit= (Collin Dutton)] [alt= Franco and Marilisa Allegrini at the Allegrini estate.][end: article-img-container]
Undoubtedly each sibling played an important role in Allegrini’s impressive success story, but the clear delineation of work did not always mean peace. Both Franco and Marilisa readily admitted to a sometimes argumentative relationship. “My sister thinks that the most important part of wine is business; I think the most important part is the vines,” said the always plain-speaking Franco in a 2017 Wine Spectator interview. Marilisa, ever aware of the winery’s image, expressed her faith in Franco’s abilities to do well what he loved. “I can travel the world because I know that Franco is at home taking care of everything.”
Marilisa and Franco were able to settle their underlying tensions, for the most part. But with a new generation taking an increasing role, it may have been easier to divide the company’s operations, following Franco’s death.
“Nothing is easy—[making wine or traveling and selling it],” said Marilisa, reflecting on her years working with her brothers and the announcement of the company’s redistribution. “But I always want to work with people who understand the sacrifices that I make.”
In addition to the estates in Tuscany, the Villa della Torre property includes 40 acres of vineyards. Marilisa also owns 25 acres in Veneto’s white wine-producing Lugana appellation. “So my family company—me with [my daughters] Carlotta and Caterina and [eventually, my son] Giancarlo, we will have plenty of things to do,” she said.
“Marilisa and the Allegrini family have championed Valpolicella and the larger Veneto region for six generations,” said Lon Gallagher, of E.&J. Gallo. “We look forward to working with the next generation of Allegrini family members in building upon the legacy of Allegrini. At the same time, we’re excited to continue our partnership with Marilisa on the prestigious wines from Poggio al Tesoro in Bolgheri.”
Both parties are well aware of the future work necessary to find continued success on separate paths. “The precious legacy passed down to us is a commitment we face with awareness of the importance of Allegrini’s role in representing Italian wine worldwide and promoting the territory of Valpolicella, to which we are deeply connected,” said Francesco.
“[It’s] a time where the experience and passion of ‘the builders’ [will] now unfold,” said Marilisa. “Where the spirit of freedom, autonomy and creativity will accompany the next generation towards the challenges that the world of wine will have to face.”
Stay on top of important wine stories with Wine Spectator’s free Breaking News Alerts.