Tony’s Diary: From small beginnings, how a little Fiat helped make this award-winning wine

“There’s a remarkable true story behind this world-conquering red … and you played a star role!

“30 years ago an energetic young Italian winemaker named Valentino Schiotti was sipping a coffee in the sun as tractors hauled grapes every which way at harvest time.

“Caught up in the mayhem, he spotted a husband and wife in a little Fiat, trailer overflowing with grapes. Two things stood out. The woman was crying … and the grapes were tiny, more like raisins.

“Himself the son of a grower, Valentino knew these were from seriously old vines.

Tony with Valentino Schiotti, his daughter Alessia and their family donkey Gelso (mino)

Tony with Valentino Schiotti, his daughter Alessia and their family donkey Gelso (mino)

“Valentino flagged the Fiat down. They’d been driving around all morning being rejected by the big wineries – hence the tears. Big firms want bulk. Who would waste their time on such a small crop?

“Well, Valentino for one. He knew the poorest growers often have the best grapes … because they can’t afford to rip out the old vines and replace them with more productive ones.

“He promised to take the lot and sign a twenty-year contract to share the profits. “Oh, and tell your friends,” he said.

How Farnese Vini began

“After a morning of rejections, the man thought Valentino must be mad or on the make … and drove off. But perhaps his wife talked sense to him. A couple of laps later and they were back.

“Later they brought their friends too. And Valentino was right … this network of poor growers did have the best fruit!

Tony’s Diary: My first big lesson in how to buy wine

“A few months later I met Valentino and his partners in a tiny office above a chemist. From humble beginnings they were on a mission to show the world how good wines from Abruzzo could be.

Valentino Schiotti spotted the little Fiat and its trailer filled with small grapes and knew he had to have them

From small beginnings … the little Fiat and trailer

“Valentino the fit-as-a-fiddle cyclist son of growers. Camillo the much-loved Bristol restaurateur who retired to his home town and started making wine. Plus Filippo, winemaker at a big local firm who quit to join the quality crusade … and an adventure.

“We helped get them going. Advice, introductions to great winemakers and wine thinkers. And – crucially – an eager bunch of customers who loved the idea of a David against the local Goliaths.

Then came a rush of major acclaim …

‘Wine to buy by the car load’ said fine wine guru Robert Parker.

‘WINE OF THE YEAR’ at London’s biggest show in the early 2000s. 

As you’d expect, prices rocketed. £10 … £15, then £20 … now their top red is more like £30. But Valentino is a family man, a warm-hearted Italian who remembers his winery’s first friends … that’s you and me.

So for our 50th anniversary he’s offered something very special indeed. His top wine at HALF the PRICE everyone else will be paying. Under a different label to spare everyone else’s blushes, but make no mistake, this is one hell of a deal.

Tony’s Diary: Selling Wine in the Seventies

Oak-matured, full-flavoured Italian red made from the big five finest grapes in his arsenal. World-beating pedigree with collectors paying top dollar to have it in their cellar.


As a 50th anniversary treat Valentino has agreed to half the price of his top-end wine just for you!

As a 50th anniversary treat Valentino has agreed to half the price of his top-end wine just for you!

Just £50 reserves your case of 12 now. When the wine arrives mid-April, a second instalment of £105.88 will be automatically deducted. Which means, for once only (Valentino was clear on that!) it’s yours for just £12.99 a bottle. A warm thank you you’d be mad to miss.

Billowing aromas of black fruits, cherry and plum with a luxurious, chocolatey mouthful that’s both rich and sustained. Calls for slow-cooked lamb, hearty stews or the butcher’s
best sausages. Magnificent!

About Tony Laithwaite

Tony Laithwaite, founder of Laithwaite's, whose passion for wine is still going strong!

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