Gallo soon will begin a test TV effort in four U.S. markets for Ecco Domani, a wine produced in northern Italy.
The wine, which comes in pinot grigio and merlot varieties, is priced at $8 to $9 and already is in distribution.
"They are hoping to drive the [Italian wine] category," said one executive familiar with the import push.
SPENDING IN $1 MIL RANGE
The budget for the ad test is undisclosed, but is expected to be in the range of $1 million.
The campaign, under development at Y&R Advertising, San Francisco, is expected to run by yearend in Providence, R.I.; Charlotte, N.C.; Indianapolis; and Portland, Ore.
Following Prohibition, Italian-style wines were eclipsed by French varietals, but the popularity of Mediterranean cuisines has inspired interest in both wines from Italy and California wines made in Italian styles.
"We love pasta and the great bistro foods in America," noted Eileen Fredrikson, partner in Gomberg Fredrikson, a San Francisco-based wine consultancy.
In addition to the Gallo effort, several California winemakers have banded together to popularize Italian-style wines. The Consorzio Cal-Italia, a group of 46 California wineries, launched a promotional series of wine tastings Oct. 13.
California winemakers, having built their identity on grapes grown in the state, are struggling with branding issues as more and more of them move to incorporate foreign-made wines and wines from foreign grapes into their product offerings.
The new products are not a mixture of wines made from California and foreign grapes, but imported wines using the reputation of the California wineries.
Some fear this trend will undermine the brand value of California wine in general and jeopardize the high premium the state's wines afford at retail.
"It's been a subject of much debate," Ms. Fredrikson said.
MONDAVI LEADS TREND
Robert Mondavi Corp. has led the industry in global sourcing of grapes, purchasing grapes from southwest France, Italy and Chile. A number of other wineries also are cross-investing with foreign wineries, or reuniting with wine-making relatives in other nations.
In addition to sprucing up their offerings with imports, California winemakers are facing a flood of production as grape harvests have reached some of the industry's highest yields. In anticipation of the glut, the Wine Market Council