Constellation Brands has acquired a 40% stake in an Italian fine wine producer for around US$80m.

Constellation has purchased a 40% interest in Ruffino S.r.l, while the Folonari family, owners of Ruffino since 1913, will continue to retain the majority interest in, as well as management of, the Tuscany-based company. Investindustrial, a leading Southern European investment group, retains a minority interest in Ruffino.

Franciscan Estates, the fine wine division of Constellation Brands, will oversee distribution of Ruffino's products in the US. The venture gives Franciscan Estates an entry to the attractive Italian premium wine category, and provides Constellation with an interest in Ruffino's premium wine brands.

Jon Moramarco, president and CEO of Constellation's Franciscan Estates, said: "The wine brands and rich heritage of Ruffino give us a much-desired place in the attractive Italian premium wine category, and we look forward to expanding the Ruffino brand's distribution, image and prestige."

Adolfo Folonari, added: "We're excited about partnering with Constellation. We believe that Franciscan Estates will dedicate resources, focus and distribution capabilities that we need to ensure a robust and prosperous future for making Ruffino more successful."

The Folonari family maintains responsibility for day-to-day wine making and operations from Ruffino's headquarters in Tuscany. Adolfo Folonari will continue to focus on international operations, and his brother, Luigi, will continue to focus on domestic operations.

The 4,000 acres of Ruffino estates, including 1,500 acres of vineyards located Tuscany, will continue to be entirely owned by the Folonari family. The prestigious 100-acre Borgo Conventi Estate, purchased three years ago and located in Northern Italy's Friuli region, is also part of the family's properties.