Begins Next 50 As America’s Favorite Italian Red Wine
OLD BROOKVILLE, NY – Today in the USA, a bottle of Riunite is sold every 1.4 seconds – enjoying a level and length of popularity few envisioned when the first 100 cases of the wine were imported to the USA in 1967. Less than ten years after it first entered the USA, Riunite was the number-one imported wine – a distinction held for 25 years.
This year, Riunite celebrates 50 years of success – including the last 40 as America’s number-one Italian red wine. It is in 2017 as it was in 1967: an affordable, easy-to-drink, everyday crowd-pleaser attracting new consumers to the wine category. Honoring its heritage, the Riunite label was restyled in 2015 to resemble the original packaging, which has been a hit with millennials. This audience is discovering Riunite through a Live Nation partnership, targeted tastings and advertising in millennial hub cities, and a massive social media push featuring the This Is R Moment campaign.
Much in the world and in the wine industry has changed in the past half-century, yet Riunite remains on retail shelves – a testament to the brand’s taste, positioning, and continuity in leadership.
Only three individuals have served as President of Cantine Cooperative Riunite since 1965: WWII veteran and Italian Senator Walter Sacchetti (1965-1990), Sergio Nasi (from 1990 to 1993), and Corrado Casoli (1994-present).
Just as stable has been Riunite importer Banfi Vintners – guided by the Mariani family since 1919. John Mariani, Jr. and his brother Harry took control of the company from their father John Sr. in 1964, and in 2007, their children Cristina Mariani-May and James Mariani became co-CEOs.
In 1967, John and Harry traveled to Italy in search of a wine that was more fruit-forward and refreshing than what had been offered by any other producer at that time.
“America’s palate a half century ago was unaccustomed to the classic dry wines of Europe, which were limited to an elite audience,” says John Mariani, Jr. “We knew that for wine to become popular, it had to be palatable to a generation weaned on soft drinks and fruit juice. We listened to the consumer, and with Riunite offered them a wine that was — and is — compatible and consistent with an easygoing American lifestyle. They responded by making Riunite America’s best-loved wine.”
The Mariani brothers and Riunite’s winemaking team perfected the taste and did so using a pure and natural process — no additives were employed to sweeten, stabilize, or preserve the wine. Riunite’s combination of characteristics – a light, natural, low in alcohol, slightly sweet and bubbly wine best enjoyed chilled – was precisely what the American public was looking for in the early 1970s, filling a void that attracted new, young drinkers to the wine category.
Shelly Margolis, longtime industry pioneer and former owner of one of the USA’s largest wine and spirits distributors, said, “In 1967, we launched Riunite Lambrusco in Pennsylvania. It was a huge success. The popularity of Riunite is due to its quality and flavor. It is a blockbuster hit because we all worked very hard and responded to the desires of our customers. Today, Riunite is not just popular. It’s part of American culture.”
Riunite sales soared from 20,000 cases in 1969 to half a million in 1974, then shot past the million-case mark in 1976 – thanks in part to innovations and creativity that matched its unique flavor profile. Using proprietary technology, Riunite was the first nationally distributed 750ml wine sold with an airtight screwcap, both for customer convenience and to ensure the wine’s lively freshness. The Riunite winemaking process was similarly cutting-edge for its time, as it used natural methods of stabilization, preservation, and softening the wine’s flavor (when others relied on additives and chemicals). And of course, Riunite’s marketing and advertising strategy was unprecedented for a wine brand – it was one of the first wines to advertise on the radio and in prime time on national television. “Riunite On Ice … So Nice” is hands-down the most successful wine jingle of all time, and one of the most memorable of any advertising campaign in TV history.
Riunite’s rise inspired Fortune magazine to write “Riunite’s success, the catalyst for the entire category, has been the astonishment of the decade for the US wine industry … Indeed, Riunite was one of those rare products that sold itself once it got into a consumer’s mouth … the reason was almost absurdly simple: it was better than anything else in the same category.”
At its pinnacle, Riunite sold nearly a million cases per month and was “in the glass “ of one out of every four imported wines poured in America – it held an astonishing, and never since repeated, 27% market share among imported wines.
Since 1967, over 160 million cases (nearly two billion bottles) of Riunite have been sold in the USA – more, by far, than any other imported wine in history. If one were to stack those bottles on top of one another, the height would be tall enough to circle the Earth 15 times.
“Riunite Lambrusco is like no other wine I have been honored to represent,” says James Mariani. “Just past the millennium, a focused work initiative on this number one Italian red wine commenced, and since then has grown to its current position as the number one imported red, and consistently among the top three of ALL wines in Nielsen 1.5L grocery scans — an incredible and unique feat for an Italian wine of half-century brand cycle.”
Through its first 50 years, Riunite answered America’s ubiquitous thirst for something light, lively, and flavorful, and is poised to continue pleasing the palates of Americans another 50 or more.
About Banfi Vintners
Banfi Vintners, the exclusive importer of Riunite in the United States, was founded in New York in 1919 by John F. Mariani, Sr. and built into America’s leading wine marketer over the last four decades. The company continues to be family-owned by the founder’s children and grandchildren, who are also proprietors of the Castello Banfi vineyard estate in Montalcino, Tuscany; Banfi Piemonte Cellars in Strevi, Piedmont; and Pacific Rim Winery in Washington’s Columbia Valley. For more information, visit www.banfiwines.com.