Straitalian winemakers Quintessential Italy, with a difference
By Ellen Budge photographs: courtesy of the winery, posted on 11 September 2023
One of its flagship lines may well be called ‘crazy bottle’ – aka Bocciamatta in Italian – but StraItalian Winemakers and its managing director Gaetano Peragine have their feet firmly on, and in, the ground.
“StraItalian is not a conglomerate of producers”, stresses Gaetano Peragine, at the helm of a nevertheless tight-knit group of grape growers spread over seven Italian wine regions. “It’s a company that works with small grape growers from northern to southern Italy, and from east to west, making our own distinctive blends that will set us apart in the market and carry our brand”. Tostorreddu, an innovative blend of Carignano del Sulcis, Cannonau and Bovale which spends two years in barrels, is the ultimate epitome of this strategy. It means stubborn, by the way.
StraItalian managing director Gaetano Peragine advocates a transparent, simple, authentic and honest approach to marketing the company’s wines
Economies of scale for small producers
With a choice of 75 grape varieties, 600 hectares of vineyards and 12 brands to work with, the variations are endless but there are also numerous common threads. “The grape growers work the land then our in-house winemakers monitor the quality and deliver specifications about how we want the vineyards to be run, when we want the grapes harvested and so on”. Most of the wines are made at the winery in Castellina Marittima, where StraItalian also owns its own vineyards. “We are twenty miles from the port of Livorno so it’s very convenient for shipping abroad”, points out Peragine. This is no accident for a company that exports 95% of its 5.5 million bottles annually, and it aligns perfectly with its emphasis on the value chain and cost savings. “There are 43,000 producers in Italy but only 10-15 can truly say they have well-known brands. Our aim is therefore to generate economies of scale for small producers. The average export price of Italian wine is around 3 euros. If you can generate savings of up to 20% on a bottle of wine, it’s very significant”.
Controlling the value chain
The policy has reaped rewards for Straitalian, primarily in one of its major target markets, the United States, where it has established its own import company, StraItalian Inc. “This is our gateway to the US market. It allows us to be in charge of the value chain, generates savings and means that our wines travel straight from Tuscany to Miami or New York with no intermediaries”. The cost savings have even taken US retailers aback but they’re not the only advantage of having a dedicated US-based structure. “Flexibility is a key selling point for us. Having stock already in the US is a great lever. Even the big retailers we now work with did not want to commit in the beginning and buy a full container. We have warehouses in New York and Miami, allowing retailers to access smaller batches, one or two pallets. For me, that’s genuine flexibility”. The strategy has been so successful that Peragine is now looking to replicate it in China and Japan. “We have been working for a while on a joint-venture for both countries that would give us more direct control over these markets”.
StraItalian focuses on retaining control over the value chain to offer the best prices to its growers, and its customers
Premiumising two Italian range staples
The US market has also allowed the company to premiumise two Italian appellations that to a certain extent have become commoditised. Italian Pinot grigio has undeniably been a resounding success internationally in recent years but with this success has come a measure of trivialisation. “Pinot grigio is very well-known worldwide, but we want to take it further”, explains Peragine. “So we steered away from Veneto and went to Friuli, which is the best region in Italy for white wines”. After an 18-month quest to design a premium, signature Pinot grigio, StraItalian produced Strato Pinot Grigio DOC. The name is a nod to the different layers of soil vines put their roots down through, but also to the company’s name and to its potential ‘stratospheric’ success. The packaging is also key to the higher-end approach. “We drew the bottle in-house. It’s a Champagne bottle and is exclusively made for us”. With the blessing of the critics – James Suckling awarded it 91 points and Gilbert & Gaillard a double gold medal – Strato Pinot Grigio is all-set to enter the US market with a price point of $18.99 that sets it apart from the customary range of $6.99 to $13.99 for the varietal. “We have been picked up by three big box retailers – which I cannot name yet – and also by Fresh Market”.
By designing an exclusive bottle, sourcing Pinot grigio in Fruili and leveraging awareness of the varietal, StraItalian has successfully secured listings in major US supermarkets
Italian design at its finest
The success mirrors that of StraItalian stable mate, Bocciamatta Private Collection Aquatic Creatures, a range extension with a difference of the company’s Prosecco in its distinctive painted white bottle. “We wanted to take our existing Bocciamatta line further by making the bottle even more distinctive”, recounts Peragine. “So we met with Riccardo Capuzzo, who is a Milan stylist. He had already produced these extraordinary pen drawings and has a range of products that sport them. The white painted bottles of Bocciamatta really enable them to stand out”. The drawing is scanned and digitally imprinted onto the bottle. “It is not a plastic sleeve or a screen print. We don’t want to add to the plastic already in the world”. The sustainability of the design is echoed in the potential post-consumption usage of the bottle. “Once you’ve drunk the wine, the bottle is so beautiful that you want to keep it and do something with it, like a lamp or a vase”. The collectability of the bottles is enhanced further by the desirability of Capuzzo’s own collections, with some items retailing for €250. “If you buy a bottle of our Prosecco, it will cost you €25-30!” StraItalian has thought through every detail of the process: “The regulatory back label can easily be peeled off, with a little press of the finger, and it leaves no stickiness”. The result has been “overwhelming demand. We only produced 3,000 bottles to start, and they sold out within 72 hours. So we’re now scaling up production to meet that demand, in Italy and worldwide”.
The unique pen drawings by Milan stylist Riccardo Capuzzo add undeniable shelf stand-out to the Bocciamatta Aquatic Collection
StraItalian, which means quintessentially Italian, has leveraged its distinctive approach to production and marketing to grow sales relentlessly year-on-year. “That’s due to our new product launches, like Strato and Bocciamatta, so the best is yet to come!”
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