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A Supermodel Gets Into The Bubbly Business

Cover and feature photo by Myrna Suarez - Twin B Photography

Christie Brinkley is one of the most successful supermodels in the world. Gracing the cover of more than 500 magazines since the 1970s, her long reign at the top of the fashion world qualifies her for legendary status. She was the face of Cover Girl for a staggering twenty-five years. That’s a record for the longest modeling contract in history. Christie’s passion is to embrace life’s pleasures: adventure, travel, wonderful food and wine. “I believe that celebrating what we are grateful for with family, friends and Prosecco contributes to a healthy, happy and sweetly beautiful life,” she says.

Prosecco, which gets its name from the village outside Trieste where it was originally made, is a sparkling wine now made in the Veneto region of Italy (in and around the city of Treviso, about 15 miles outside of Venice). 

Is Prosecco as much a glamorous wine as Christie Brinkley is a supermodel? Not really. But the truth is, Prosecco hasn’t had its moment. But all that may be about to change. Demand for Prosecco in the UK has seen an astounding increase, with supermarket sales reaching £356 million (approximately $520 million USD) at the end of February. Sales here in the US were up 38% in the last year. So many people are buying Prosecco, that there’s actually a growing fear of a shortage. While that may be a little alarmist, the numbers have a clear message: the world wants Prosecco. Which is exactly why Christie Brinkley has started her own brand, and as with everything else in her life, she has done it her own way and on her own time.

A vegetarian since the age 14 and committed to an organic lifestyle, Christie began by searching the Veneto region for the type of vineyard that fit her demanding specifications: one that was pesticide free for decades, and one that was big on sustainable growing methods. It took a few years of exploring the farmland north of Venice, but Christie found the grapes of her dreams.

Next, Christie teamed up with an importer who has deep experience in the liquor industry. Richard DeCicco, president and founder of United Spirits Incorporated, has had over forty years in the beverage business. Over those years, Rich has developed strong relationships with distillers, brewmasters, vineyard owners, marketers and distributors around the world.

The next step, and a big one in the liquor industry, was bottle design. “I envisioned the bottle sitting on a table, and it had to be exciting from every angle,” says Christie. Christie and Rich turned to a New York ad agency, FLY Communications, for help in designing a bottle that would be as iconic and eye-popping as Christie herself. With Christie directing the project, and with an assist from Botticelli’s famous painting The Birth of Venus, the incredible Bellissima bottle was born. “Venus, the goddess of love, beauty and sex, seemed like the perfect image for a sparkling wine named Bellissima,” says Rich DeCicco.

As far as the name goes, Christie says she “settled on Bellissima because it was a word that makes you feel good just like the Prosecco.” That may be true, but Bellissima, which in Italian means “most beautiful” or “gorgeous,” might also have something to do with a supermodel who was voted one of the twentieth century’s most beautiful women.

The Bellissima brand is starting with three varieties: Sparkling Rosé, Bellissima Zero Sugar and Bellissima Brut Prosecco. Bellissima Sparkling Rosé is light pink, brilliant and very refined. Its bouquet is elegant with hints of strawberry and grapefruit. It’s produced using the “Charmat Method,” whereby it undergoes a secondary fermentation in a stainless steel tank. Bellissima Brut is made from Glera grapes, and also uses the “Charmat Method.” Brut, the driest version of Prosecco, is straw colored with delicate scents of green apple. It is fresh, aromatic and elegant with light scents of freshly baked bread. Bellissima Zero is made from 100% Glera grapes. It’s produced using the “Long Charmat Method” (which allows for seven months in a fermenting tank) with naturally selected yeasts and has no residual sugar. 

Since Bellissima’s introduction in April at this year’s 73rd annual Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America exposition, the phone at Iconic Brands has not stopped ringing. “The response to our introduction at WSWA has been nothing short of spectacular,” says Rich. “In all my years in the business I’ve never seen anything quite like this.” 

Christie and Rich are currently lining up distribution and the vineyard in Italy is gearing up for a long, long run – a perfect fit to Christie’s extraordinary career.

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