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LAMBERTO GANCIA: "SPARKLING WINES, A FAMILY ISSUE"
Rome - (Ign) - A success story that is confirmed over the generations. Gancia is the only large company to have successfully maintained its characteristics as a family-run business and to have remained 100% Italian, like the still and sparkling wines it produces. For over 150 years owned by the same family, today Gancia is run by the fifth generation, represented by Lamberto, Edoardo and Massimiliano. And it is precisely Lamberto Vallarino Gancia who tells us something more about his company and the prospects for the future of the wine sector.
Gancia Spa is a market leader, with a growth rate taking turnover in 2005 to around €100m. What are your company's medium/long-term goals?
The conquest of new markets, both in Italy and abroad. The fifth generation of the Gancia family, which has been running the business since 2003, has already brought significant innovations. One of the strategies introduced involves the search for excellent winegrowing land in various parts of Italy. This has led to the Vallarono estates in Piedmont, where we have begun to produce Asti red wines with excellent results, and the Capocroce estate in Sicily. So far, growth has been continuous, particularly abroad: today we export 25% of what we produce, to over 60 different countries (in particular Portugal, the United States and France) in Europe, Asia and America. In 2005 exports saw significant growth in Japan - an historic market for Gancia, whose presence there dates back a good 60 years - , where today ours is the best-selling sparkling wine; and in Russia, thanks to the 2003 agreement with the Ladoga and MBG groups. The new move in 2005 was the launch of our products in China, while in 2006 we have great plans for the Indian market.
Could you tell us about your company's origins?
Since 1850 it has always been based in Canelli, in the province of Asti, where my ancestor Carlo Gancia began the story that still continues today. His father was a winegrower, and he began to study chemistry and pharmacy in Turin to help him perform experiments in the winemaking field. After years of study in France and experiments back in Italy, he made the first dry Italian "champagne" and a sweet version known as Muscat Champagne, a sparking wine obtained with the local Muscat grape. This subsequently became the Asti Spumante which we still produce today. The label of our "Riserva Brut Metodo Classico" is dedicated to our founder.
I know that both definitions may seem restrictive, but you feel more a craftsman or an industrial manufacturer of sparkling wine?
I feel more of a craftsman, because to make products like ours you need to start with the land and the vine and to follow processing in the winery like a craftsman. Of course when you transform 5 ½ million kilos of grapes per year into wine and you're responsible for 150 employees, it's difficult. But our quality bears witness to the love that we put into everything we produce.
People often speak badly of "family-run" businesses. In your case, however, they say that you are "veterans of the generational handover". You are chairman, and your brother Massimiliano and your cousin Edoardo are managing directors. You represent one of the oldest family-run businesses. What is the secret?
The reason is that since childhood we have always been brought up to have deep respect for the company, and for what it means to our family. Gancia has always been characterised by the attention paid to teamwork; the importance of our employees and the family; and a commonly shared vision, mission and strategy. Obviously there have also always been excellent family relations, independently of the business.
Your Internet site is extremely modern and updated. What help have you had from new communications technologies in business development?
New technologies have helped us great deal, especially thanks to the support of the "Selezione Castello Gancia", our direct sales platform, which provides a direct contact with the consumer, allowing us to provide him with information and tell him about the interesting aspects of the company. Seeing that we are significantly expanding our product range, in order to satisfy the tastes of the various consumers as far as possible (in addition to sparkling wines and still wines, we are introducing spirits, with grappa, gin and vodka), a direct sales channel is extremely useful.
The Achilles' heel of Italian wine, according to many, is not quality, nor even quantity, but company structure. In Italy, only 430 wineries out of 250,000 have a turnover of over €2 million, which means that 99.2% are microbusinesses. The danger is that the intermediate companies may become the prey of major international groups. What do you think?
I think this is only partly true, insofar as the history of Italy is full of small and medium-sized companies, above all in the field of food and wines, which survive without any difficulty and which in some cases have enviable profits. It's hard to imagine mass mergers. There have always been large-scale and small-scale producers, but success will always depend on ideas and quality. Of course, we could also do with a greater valorisation of products linked their local territory and the development of Italian grape varieties, and a great deal of teamwork with the authorities is required, especially in Europe, in order to protect a unique product like ours. Gancia invests around 5% of its overall turnover in advertising; it focuses a great deal of attention on below-the-line channels: promoting its products through wine tastings, winery visits and promotional activity in retail outlets. This is because we are sure of our product's quality and know that it does not take a great deal to attract the interest of connoisseurs.