Whatever happens in the race one thing is for sure the Ferrari name will be celebrating on the winners’ podium at this weekend’s inaugural Las Vegas Formula 1 Grand Prix. The event is arguably the pinnacle of the Lunelli Group’s bold decision to partner with Formula 1 and have its Ferrari Trento sparkling wine as the “toast” for every Grand Prix held around the word. Here Abigail Bennington sits down with the Camilla Lunelli, the producer’s head of communications, to look back on how the sponsorship has gone, and reflects on another major deal – the signing of Champagne winemaker, Cyril Brun to the group.
All Formula 1 fans’ eyes will be on Las Vegas this weekend as the Formula 1 circus finds a city more than capable of living up to the hype that comes with each Grand Prix.
In a comfy corner of a boutique hotel, in a very wet west London sits a chic Camilla Lunelli, director of communications for the Lunelli Group. With many iconic drinks brands under the wider Lunelli Group umbrella, today was about the latest updates from its iconic sparkling wine label, Ferrari Trento. The rainy morning must have been a far cry from the clear mountain skies of Northern Italy but Lunelli was keen to point out: “It’s okay, it’s London! It’s part of the charm.”
There was excitement in the air the day we met as Lunellil was in London to attend The Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships. The event later saw them receive the award for ‘Sparkling Wine Producer of the Year’ (for the sixth time) and the ‘Best Trentodoc’ for their 2016 Perlé Magnum.
This weekend the bubbles will keep flowing stateside in Las Vegas for what will be the first official Formula 1 race to take place in the city. In a rare first not just for Lunelli but for its high profile sponsorship of Formula One that has seen Ferrari Trento sparkling wine sprayed by the drivers on the winners’ podium at the end of each Grand Prix. A deal that will see Ferrari Trento remain as the ‘official toast of F1’ until 2025. The early hours of Sunday GMT will see Ferrari Trentodoc as the official toast of F1 in the neon capital of the world.
Viva Las Vegas
It’s been over forty years since the “Sin City” has hosted a Grand Prix, but back then it was known as The Caesars Palace GPs and took place in 1981 and 1982. Now the revitalised Formula 1 brand is back with a new race – dubbed The Heineken Silver Las Vegas Grand Prix.
A unique opportunity to see the world’s best drivers put their skills to the test on another challenging street circuit – with speeds reaching 200km an hour – that takes them around this iconic city, sweeping past the new Sphere dome before heading past The Venetian hotel and down the world famous Strip taking in all the glamour and sights, including Caesars Palace and The Bellagio. The 50 lap race will cover some 310km in this new purpsose-built circuit.
“It will be a first in modern F1,” says Lunelli. “We also have an edition of our F1 series (of wines) for Las Vegas as part of our dedicated series of bottles.” These wines are often coveted by collectors and have included Monza, Silverstone, Mexico City and Miami to name a few.
The Las Vegas Ferrari NV F1 Edition is a Blanc de Blancs Trentodoc featuring the race name and outline of the track. Made with 100% handpicked Chardonnay grapes from the mountainous slopes of Trentino. With no less than two years on the lees the sparkling wine is pale gold in colour and intense with green apple and brioche notes. Having tasted the wine it is clean and vibrant bubbles persist on the palate and is in line with the high quality we’ve come to expect of this coveted producer.
Away from the dazzling lights of the Las Vegas strip it’s been a momentous year for the Lunelli family who were given the responsibility of continuing the prestige associated with the brand by their grandfather who bought the winery over 70 years ago from Giulio Ferrari (no relation to the car manufacturer). The group likes to boast that it’s their wines which make them the leading brand and as they like to say ‘a symbol of the Italian Art of Living.’
2023 has also seen a surprise appointment for the family with former Champagne winemaker, Cyril Brun, joining the group. It’s the first time a chef de caves has left Champagne to join an Italian winery as a full time oenologist.
So how has his first harvest been? “It was not an easy one,” says Lunelli. “A very varied harvest, but generally speaking we are satisfied with the quality. We had to make some sacrifice with the quantity. Both our vineyards and our growers vineyards were hit by hail, its been very varied with some very wet months. It’s becoming more and more extreme. For Cyril and his team it was not an easy harvest to manage.”
What changes has Brun instigated so far?
“He’s given us some good suggestions of something we might do in a different way and some small scale experiments.”
Whilst Lunelli would not be drawn on what those experiments are she said the business was already excited by Brun’s “influence already.”
“Cyril promised to learn Italian by December back in June. I called him in September and said would you prefer French or English to which he replied ‘per que?’ He’s already having all the meetings and all the activities in Italian, honestly I was so impressed.”
Brun is planning to move with his family to the region next year. “We are very very happy with how he is doing so far” she says.
The challenge and opportunity are both there for what promises to be another busy year in 2024. Lunelli explains: “The marketing activity will still be F1 and will take most of our energy and focus.”
She says it is hard to quantify the sales impact of its Formula 1 sponsorship worldwide, but it has definitely been a “turning point” for its activities in the US and Mexico.
Sustainability, the watch word for many wine producers, will continue to be driving force behind any work the winery and brand does. The producer’s work was recognised this year when it was picked up the ‘Sustainability Winery” award from Global Intel drinks ESG.
Next year will see a wider sustainability report published, says Lunelli. “It’s further proof that we want to keep working on sustainability and that we work more as a group on sustainability.”
It seems for the Lunelli Group with their sparkling wines and Cyril Brun at the wheel that they have a winning formula both on and off the track.
“We always try to focus on quality then sales to follow, my dream would be to get higher and higher with scores by opinion leaders. The idea is to try and work on the quality of the wine more and more and the commercial side will follow.”