From Riondo to Crescendo
By Ellen Budge - photographs: courtesy of the winery, posted on 03 April 2023
Cantine Riondo is set in the beautiful rolling countryside around Verona, one of Italy’s most storied towns and the nexus of the sprawling Veneto wine region. Behind this bucolic setting, though, is one of the country’s largest co-operative groups and a range of wines that reads like a digest of global best-sellers.
RED WINES, LIKE AMARONE RISERVA, ARE CURRENTLY BUCKING THE GLOBAL TREND TOWARDS WHITE WINES.
Luisa Bortolotto has her work cut out for her. Tasked with sales and marketing at Cantine Riondo, a division of Italian powerhouse Collis Veneto Wine Group, she will be helping to steer the company away from private labels towards its own proprietary brands. There are worse positions to be in – Bortolotto has an extensive range of best-selling Italian wines to draw on, including Prosecco, Pinot Grigio, Valpolicella, Amarone and Soave. She can also leverage the potential of a staggering 6,000 hectares of vines farmed by 2,000 member growers disseminated across the countryside around Verona, Vicenza and Padova. “Being a vertically integrated company, with complete control over sourcing, is a huge advantage from a quality perspective”, believes Bortolotto. The caveat though is that this type of structure comes with responsibilities: “Our growers are our fundamental priority, so it behoves us to leverage the full value potential of the fruit they produce”. Despite this, value for money remains at the core of the co-operative’s principles: “Our aim is to stay affordable whilst also offering the high quality that our control over the entire winegrowing process offers us and providing our growers with a proper recognition”, confirms Bortolotto.
CANTINE RIONDO AIMS TO SECURE PROPER RECOGNITION FOR ITS WINEGROWERS.
6,000 HECTARES OF VINES ARE FARMED BY 2,000 MEMBER GROWERS.
Environmental and social accountability
In addition to its enviable line-up of celebrated Italian appellations, Cantine Riondo has earned its stripes when it comes to environmental and social good practice. In 2022, the winery was awarded Equalitas certification endorsing its compliance with the three pillars of sustainability that are environmental, social and economic. The same year, it published its first Sustainability Report to monitor its performance and the environmental, economic and social impact of its business, thereby building on its organic and SQNPI (integrated production) certifications. Its modern facilities contribute to its credentials: the 2017-built warehouse, for instance, reduces the need for air-conditioning, therefore positively impacting its energy consumption. In an era where it has become essential to rein in use of resources and energy, Cantine Riondo can rely on photovoltaic panels for some of its electricity and in 2022 switched suppliers to only use green energy. It reuses the water from its rinsing system, collecting 10,000 m3 of water – that’s equivalent to four Olympic swimming pools – most of which can be used over and over. From a packaging perspective, it purchases all its labels with PET support or silicon paper that are collected and recycled through the Raf-Cycle project and has joined the ‘Tappo Etico’ or ethical closure programme run by Amorim Italia which recycles cork to make sound-absorbent panels or furniture. And further afield, it contributes to the planting of trees in Zambia, Peru and Brazil through the Esso EcoMiles project to offset nearly 70,000 kg of CO2.
TO SUSTAIN INTEREST AMONG BUYERS, CANTINE RIONDO IS EXPLORING NEW AVENUES WITH NATIVE GRAPES.
BEING A VERTICALLY INTEGRATED COMPANY PROVIDES COMPLETE CONTROL OVER SOURCING AND QUALITY.
The metrics deliver on the promise
One of the drivers of the winery’s sustainability policy is its ‘lean-thinking’ approach, which helps organisations enhance innovation and their competitive edge by minimising costs, resources, time, energy and efforts. It may seem incongruous to find the Japanese-inspired concept of Kaizen in the heart of the Italian countryside, but the incremental progress it encourages are borne out by the figures. From 2014 to the present-day, Cantine Riondo has virtually doubled revenue, more than doubled its employee numbers and pushed production up from 9 to 20 million bottles in just seven years, with bag-in-boxes more than trebling. Crunching the numbers becomes all the more relevant considering the company’s relatively short history. Named after the ‘Monte Riondo’ hill, at the foot of which the winery stands, the company was established in Monteforte d’Alpone less than twenty years ago. “When I joined the company in 2021, we increased global revenue by 17% and subsequently closed 2022 with a further +5.5%, despite huge dry goods price hikes of 30% on average”, says an understandably proud Bortolotto. She has no intention of resting on the company’s laurels however: “This year, we have some important re-styling to do and will continue to build brand awareness and recognition”. Though some of the brands have garnered significant success in specific markets – Casalforte is a major player in Scandinavia for example – the aim going forward is to extend that reach to other markets and consolidate existing distribution outlets. “Our Riondo Prosecco DOC is a best-seller in the United States through our successful partnership with one of the country’s largest importers, Terlato. The company also has its sights set on Asia – primarily Japan, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – but has not lost sight of nearby European countries like France, Germany and Switzerland.
DESPITE HUGE DRY GOODS PRICE HIKES IN 2022, CANTINE RIONDO MANAGED TO INCREASE REVENUE.
BEHIND THE BUCOLIC SETTING IS ONE OF ITALY ’ S LARGEST CO-OPERATIVE GROUPS.
From Lake Garda to Frank Sinatra
To continue to pique buyers’ interest, it intends to explore new varietal avenues. Native grapes are an obvious choice: “We want to work with our agronomists and winemakers to identify the varieties from our extensive range that can provide us with new propositions for the future”, explains Bortolotto. Prosecco is not about to fall out of favour with consumers, but leveraging the extensive range of grape varieties the co-operative can tap into is a way of future-proofing the company, and Italy’s wine industry. The strategy has already borne fruit – Casalforte Soave Spumante offers a refreshing change from the ubiquitous Prosecco as does the winery’s Riondo Garda DOC sparkling wine. Though an as yet under-the-radar appellation, Riondo Garda is imbued with the unique weather patterns and vineyard sites surrounding the famed Italian lake. These sit comfortably alongside long-established range staples like Soave, the preferred choice of American crooner Frank Sinatra. “Legend has it that he wouldn’t eat in a restaurant that didn’t serve it”, quips Bortolotto. Cantine Riondo is not about to fly anyone to the moon, but it’s certainly determined to aim for the sky….
CANTINE RIONDO’S MODERN FACILITIES CONTRIBUTE TO ITS ENVIRONMENTAL CREDENTIALS.
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