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A new brand of boxed wine connects Sicily to the North Shore

For the local couple behind Alileo, bag-in-box wine is just the beginning.

Alileo Syrah in a boxAdam DeTour

To grow a business, you have to dream big. That bit of entrepreneurial wisdom certainly applies to Antonio Bertone and Alexandra Drane, the husband-and-wife duo behind Alileo, a new wine import company based in Gloucester. They’re connecting Sicily to the North Shore and building their dream — one box of wine at a time.

Bertone and Drane’s inaugural product line is boxed wine made in Sicily. The bag-in-box format that houses the wine is lighter to ship than traditional glass bottles, resulting in lower transport emissions and a smaller carbon footprint. Environmental friendliness is just one of several consumer preferences they’re keeping in mind. They’re also tuned into organic viticulture, low-intervention winemaking, and alternative packaging that keeps wine fresher longer. And their company’s origin story is just as compelling.


The couple had been talking for years about starting a wine business with Bertone’s Sicilian relatives. But when the pandemic hit, and Bertone’s mother, Mimma Bertone, was diagnosed with a terminal illness, they sped up their timeline. “We started thinking, ‘How do we make sure she feels in her bones that we’re not going to desert Sicily?’” Drane recalls, remembering her mother-in-law, a native of Sicily who immigrated to the United States in 1970. “There were nights we literally danced around the kitchen, playing the music from her formative years — Sicilian folk songs — and we would pick her brain for ideas for Alileo.”

The time they spent with Bertone’s mother was precious. Mimma Bertone died last spring. By then, the family’s wine adventure was well underway. Antonio describes how he and his wife got the ball rolling in those early days. “Al and I are both doers,” he explains. “She’s a serial entrepreneur, and I’ve held a lot of expansive roles at consumer brands, so we started calling friends who were designers, and figuring out logistics, like, ‘How do you get an importer’s license?’ and ‘How do you sell the stuff?’”


A winemaking cousin connected them with Cantina Foderà, a six-generations-strong winery in Marsala, on Sicily’s west coast. The Foderà family maintains 10 acres of organic-in-practice vineyards that trace back to the mid-19th century. For years, the family has kept a portion of the crush for their own winemaking, and has sold the balance of juice in bulk. Bertone’s cousin taps into that bulk supply, and oversees all aspects of winemaking for the Alileo brand. The product line includes two white wines made from grillo and zibibbo grapes; plus a rosato and an unoaked red, both crafted from syrah. (While the French grape is most associated with the northern Rhône, syrah has been cultivated in Sicily since the early 20th century.)

It’s fitting that “Alileo” blends together the couple’s names, as well as that of their daughter Lily, son Leo, and niece Alessia. The company is quickly growing into a family-wide endeavor. Another of Bertone’s cousins is researching how to expand the company’s online presence in Europe. They’re also talking about wine in cans and Tetra Pak cartons, and one day, importing salts harvested from Marsala’s salt flats. There’s a reason Bertone and Drane are thinking expansively: They’re intent on providing upward mobility for their Sicilian relatives as well as building a financial foundation for them as they grow old.

Mimma Bertone, who would have celebrated her 85th birthday this month, feels present in every aspect of the family endeavor. “She’s living on in it,” Drane says.


Alileo Syrah Offering plummy red fruit, black pepper, and a dash of umami on the nose and palate, this juicy, appealing pour will stay fresh on your counter for weeks. Count on it as your go-to everyday red. Dispense into a decanter or straight from spigot to glass. 13 percent ABV. Distributed by Hangtime. Mid-$30s to low-$40s for a 3-liter box, equivalent to four standard bottles. Available at Streetcar Wine & Beer, Jamaica Plain, 617-522-6416; American Provisions, Dorchester, 617-514-4599; EBO & Co. Grocery, East Boston.

Ellen Bhang can be reached at

Ellen Bhang can be reached at