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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Nicolas Belfrage MW & Franco Ziliani

Italy's highest-profile wine family, the Antinori family, has pulled a surprise by purchasing vineyards in the now-famous New Zealand production zone of Marlborough, for NZ$2.8 million ($1.5 million). Currently almost 11 of the nearly 13 hectares are planted - with Sauvignon Blanc, of course. The purchaser is in fact not Marchesi Antinori srl, Piero Antinori's company, but Campo di Sasso, an entity jointly owned by Piero and his younger brother Lodovico, founder and ex-proprietor of Ornellaia. Elvira Ackermann, spokeswoman for Campo di Sasso, who was meeting recently with the Grigg family, vendors of the block, said proximity of the vineyard to the Wither Hills block was a determining factor in the transaction. A winery is being planned, while the current harvest will be processed at Indevin at Riverlands. The main emphasis will be on the creation of a world-class white wine to match the company's illustrious reds produced in Chile, California and Hungary. In addition to its own fruit, Campo di Sasso will purchase Sauvignon Blanc grapes from the Griggs' Meadowbank vineyard, and there may in future be a joint venture between the Grigg family and Campo di Sasso. Meanwhile, the Griggs will be able to invest more capital in the development of their remaining vineyards, a spokesman for the Grigg family affirmed. Apparently there has been considerable foreign interest in the Marlborough area. Philip Gregan, chief executive of New Zealand Winegrowers, welcomed the invasion' with the words: You have one of the most prestigious families in wine in the world investing in the New Zealand wine industry.'