We investigate the effect of excellence on firm profitability focusing on markets where vertical integration is necessary to achieve product quality and there is limited business scalability. Using data from Italian wine guides, we show that excellence – as measured by wine quality – and vertical integration – as measured by private instead of cooperative ownership – do lead to higher prices of the bottles sold. However, in a second exercise we study the determinants of Italian wineries’ Return of Invested Capital (ROIC) and obtain mixed results. We show that excellence – as measured by firm and collective reputation – is irrelevant. Vertical integration – as measured by in house production of grapes and wine – ensures a better performance, but the most profitable firms are bottlers, which deliver the worst products. Results suggest that excellence and vertical integration are valuable assets, but also that their importance might heavily depend on the scalability of business.