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Abramovich shows interest in three Montalcino estates

Published:  23 July, 2008

The Russian tsar of petrol is set to spend a fortune buying his way into the world of Brunello. Having been turned down by Castello Banfi, he has entered into negotiations with Argiano, Col d'Orcia and Il Poggione.

According to reports, representatives of the boss of mighty Chelsea have arrived in Montalcino with suitcases stuffed with cash and a mission from HQ to spend it on a top name (or top names). The first offer - rumoured to have been as high as half a billion euros - went to the American-owned Banfi, with its 850ha of vineyard and its fairytale castle (see The Italian Job, Harpers 9 December). It appears that the current owners, the brothers Mariani, spurned the offer despite its enormity.

Abramovich apparently then studied the map and decided

he would like to possess not one but the three prestigious properties mentioned above. Here, again, the answers seem

to have been negative, or are expected to be.

This is not the first time that business magnates from around the world have bid for a role in what is arguably Italian wine's greatest success story; Abramovich is just the latest in a long line. Indeed, another football-club owner, he of AC Milan - none other than Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi - was negotiating for Castello di Velona, one of the most fascinating of Montalcino's properties, in 2003 before inexplicably pulling out. Abramovich, however, seems more determined to get among the grapes, even though he has never reportedly graced the green fields of Montalcino. He did, however, recently embark on a vineyard tour which took him to Torgiano

in Umbria, as well as to the wineries of Ornellaia and Sassicaia in Bolgheri.