The history of the company that wants to rethink the concept of sustainable agricultural enterprise

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In just five years, it has attracted the attention of the best wine bars and restaurants in Italy and Europe. It was born from the desire to rethink the concept of sustainable agricultural enterprise through the valorisation of indigenous terroirs and with the proposal of an unprecedented wine experience in its own territory, Caleffi Winery is immersed in a tongue of land that once belonged to the Gonzaga family, in the municipality of Spineda, on the border between the provinces of Mantua and Cremona: an area historically devoted to agriculture and animal husbandry, an activity to which the family has also been dedicated since the early 20th century.

2018 is the year in which the winery begins to market the wine produced from its eight hectares of vines. "The desire to valorise the knowledge handed down through generations and the desire to leave a trace within the winemaking world ignited the spark in us that prompted us to open this new branch of our company," explains Mattia Caleffi, at the helm of the winery together with his father Davide and uncle Emanuele. "After careful analysis of the socio-economic context and the trends that characterised a market that was in some ways saturated, we seized the opportunity to enter a niche that would recognise as valuable the characteristics and values of the wines of yesteryear made using so-called 'ancestral' methods".

Today the Cantina produces 36,000 bottles of natural wines each year from its indigenous grape varieties, seven types including reds (four Lambrusco varieties and one Cabernet Sauvignon) and whites (two Malvasia di Candia). "The production of authentic, quality wines has thus enabled us to position our offer in the most prestigious venues for the expression of wine and food talent, achieving selection by starred chefs and Michelin Guide restaurants, as well as being recognised by the most important wine guides and experts in the sector". The commercial and distribution policy is articulated on several fronts. "Direct sales, first and foremost, both in the winery and online.

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In the first case, getting to know our wines takes place in the context of experiences such as a visit to the cellar with tasting, a lunch or dinner in our wine farm or during an aperitif in the vineyard. In the second, however, you will soon be able to count on a new e-commerce portal which we will launch in the course of 2024, a platform structured in such a way as to provide users with a totally customised, intuitive and engaging experience'.

Cantina Caleffi has therefore entered into an exclusive agreement with a major distributor, "a choice that allows us to preside over the best points of sale in Italy and Europe, including wine shops, wine bars and exclusive restaurants, thanks to a sales network of single-handed agents. A carefully selected partner in order to be able to guarantee the end customer a quality service and, therefore, optimal consumption conditions'.

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The development in economic-financial terms, Mattia continues, emerges clearly from the numbers. "Growth has been constant over the years, especially for ebitda in 2023, thanks also to the launch of a renewed wine experience and the gradual expansion of our wines in the national and international territory. The company has also witnessed a progressive increase in turnover, which, over the last three years, with a compound annual growth rate of 56%, has increased more than proportionally to operating costs. The latter, in spite of increases in raw material and energy prices, have undergone a virtuous rationalisation thanks to the streamlining of production processes and a major redesign and streamlining of the value chain.

Investment strategies in the medium to long term see as key points "on the one hand the development of the new business model devoted to experiences as value-added services, and on the other hand the consolidation and expansion of commercial activities. The research and development of new wines, supported by new facilities and infrastructures that allow us to increasingly raise the quality of the product and expand the range, also remain the guideline along which we pursue our growth path.

In terms of exports, Cantina Caleffi has achieved a consolidated position on the continent and is registering increasing interest from the American markets and the Asian regions, "which we intend to preside over in the coming years through participation in international trade fair events. Another area of interest is the Middle East, a market in which the big luxury and restaurant brands, to whom we address our products, are investing more and more, thus opening up important frontiers for the entire sector'. Opening up to foreign markets, in Caleffi's vision, 'must not, however, make us forget who we are and where we come from.

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The valorisation of products through the proposal of unique and exclusive moments in the place where they are born, it is our conviction, will remain the key to success for the wineries of the future; an experiential field for which we are still reserving an important part of our production".

Furthermore, Mattia Caleffi concludes, 'relations with stakeholders operating within our community are of fundamental importance. A programme of attention to the territory that manifests itself through projects linked to issues of social, humanitarian, cultural and artistic impact, such as charity events organised for non-profit associations, the establishment of relations with important academic institutions (such as the Department of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences of the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Cremona) in the field of research and development policies, and, finally, partnerships with international formats, such as TedXto promote educational themes. A true ecosystem with which we want to leave a tangible trace that will last over time'.

by Andrea Salvadori

Article from the Small Giants supplement of the December 2023 issue of Forbes Italy.

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