When Italy won the World Cup in 1982, player Paolo Rossi celebrated the astonishing victory by raising a magnum of sparkling wine towards his mouth. Viewers took note of the name on the bottle: Ferrari. Overnight, the respected Italian producer became a national icon.
Ferrari was founded in Trento by agronomist Giulio Ferrari. The spectacular region is dominated by lofty snow-capped mountains, and green valleys formed by the Adige river. Culturally the region is as diverse as its terrain; it had been part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, so vineyards had both German and Italian grape varieties. Ferrari had spent some time in Champagne, however, which convinced him that his home region of Trentino was the perfect place for Chardonnay. He became the first person to plant it there, and Ferrari’s first ‘Champagne’ was released in 1902.
The business remained a relatively small one and Ferrari himself had no heirs to hand it on to, so he sold his business to Bruno Lunelli, a wine merchant. Lunelli’s sons took charge of the business in 1968, and the next year one of them, Mauro, created Italy’s first traditional method rosé.
Sparkling wine made using Champagne techniques was still relatively rare in Italy. Like Ferrari before him, Mauro Lunelli also visited Champagne, returning to Italy fired with new ideas, and the realization that bottle ageing the wine on lees for longer would give it more complexity. In 1971 he put this new insight into action.
The company had moved to a new winery and the first vintage bottling was put on lees for five years. A year later, Lunelli went further, bottling 5,000 bottles of Chardonnay – which he hid from his siblings, so he could age the wines for a full eight years. These spectacular wines were finally revealed in 1980 and named the Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore, now the flagship of the house.
It was a good time to launch a prestige product, as the economy of northern Italy was on the cusp of a long boom. Not only that, but Italy’s president Alessandro Pertini decided in 1978 that it was time to serve Italian wine at state functions, and Ferrari was the natural choice to replace Champagne. And then, of course, came the spectacular Italian win against Spain at the World Cup in 1982, which sealed Ferrari’s place in the heart of Italians.
Today, the family baton has passed to Matteo Lunelli, now chairman, and his three cousins: Marcello Lunelli, Camilla Lunelli and Alessandro Lunelli, who are all actively involved in the business.
The Lunelli family have done their utmost to respect the memory of their founder, Giulio Ferrari. Not only have they placed his name on their flagship wine, but every tour through their facilities begins with the tale of Ferrari and his first wine. Ferrari chose his successor well; the Lunelli family have proved not just superb winemakers, but also a dynamic dynasty.
In 1982 they bought the Segnana grappa brand, and then later acquired Surgiva bottled water, which they so revitalized that it has become the chosen water of the Italian Sommelier Association. Later on, their wine holdings spread to include properties in Umbria, Trentino and Tuscany, under the name Tenute Lunelli. In 2014 the company announced that it had acquired a 50% stake in premium Prosecco producer Bisol, to give them access to the growing Prosecco market.
They also have a close relationship to the terroir of Trento, adopting organic agriculture, and spearheading the move into higher altitudes to protect grape acidity as the climate warms and snow disappears from the Dolomite mountains.
It’s this ability to preserve the best of the past and present, while preparing for the future, that has put the Lunelli family at the pinnacle of Italian winemaking.