A stroll down the Champs Elysées these days might offer the surprising sight of Parisians sipping Castello Banfi Brunello or SummuS in their sidewalk cafés. It may be even more surprising to see wine lovers doing the same in the upscale bistros of Phnom Penh, Bombay, Warsaw and Moscow.
Yet it's easily understandable to Cristina Mariani, family proprietor of Castello Banfi, Montalcino, Tuscany. In recent months, her winery has partnered with distributors to represent the estate's wines in each of these five markets, and they've been warmly welcomed.
In France, the distributing arm of Baron Philippe de Rothschild S.A. has been marketing six Castello Banfi offerings with considerable success since last March. Long dominated by domestic wines, the French market is now opening up to quality products of other countries, and Castello Banfi has an edge with its four-time rating as Best International Winery at the annual World Enological Concourse.
Another French company, Moet-Hennessy, is introducing Castello Banfi to the growing wine markets of Cambodia and India through local affiliates. A trade reception and tasting in Hotel Le Royal Phnom Penh this past August established the Tuscan vintner as one of the first major European vintners to establish a foothold in Cambodia.
Castello Banfi's launch in India is scheduled for late November, with open house tastings in Bombay and New Delhi. Hugh Johnson, world-renowned wine authority and author, will guide the tasting for consumers and diplomats as well as representatives of major hotels and restaurants. With the world's second-largest population, a GDP growth of nearly seven percent, and a growing middle class embracing the western lifestyle, India offers great potential for Castello Banfi, noted Ms. Mariani. In addition, the Indian government is expected to lower its current high wine import tariffs later this year.
Ms. Mariani also has high expectations for Poland and Russia, as gateways to the growing Eastern European marketplace. She reports that Castello Banfi offerings can be found on the wine lists of Warsaw's top restaurants, and are gaining distribution on the Russian market as that country gradually recovers from serious inflation shock and poor consumer purchasing power.
Altogether, Castello Banfi wines are currently exported to 53 countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, North America and South America. The winery anticipates opening at least seven more markets in 2001.