Grapevine & Wine 02/04/2012

Italian bubbles

The economic observatory on Italian sparkling wines reports and predicts great 2011 and 2012 for Italian bubbles. By Giampietro Comolli

It will be a great 2012 for Prosecco. The boom of Conegliano Valdobbiadene Docg, Prosecco Doc, Franciacorta wines and the revival of Lambrusco Dop e Doc is still on.

In the last three years, the growth of Prosecco Docg and Doc abroad has been a two-digit number every year. According to Ovse, the Economic observatory on Italian sparkling wines, 2011 had been a great year for the export of sparkling wines.

The made in Italy is still very successful abroad: true Italian restaurants, Italian chefs, and Italian products on the table and in the wardrobe. The world is rediscovering the Italy of La dolce vita and as the country with the highest quantity of top quality modern and fashion products.

In this moment of economic crisis and uncertainty, people tries to satisfy their desires. Italian cuisine is the most popular all over the world. Ovse estimates also for 2012 a two-digit growth, between 10 and 15 %, for the export of Prosecco spumante Docg-Doc.

The export is extremely good also for Asti docg and Brachetto d’Acqui docg. The annual increase for both of them is between 15 and 18 %. On the other hand, the wine consumption in Italy is decreasing, except for Asti, Prosecco, Franciacorta and Lambrusco, which are quite stable.

In Italy the Docg sparkling wines do better then others, indicating that high quality standards and strong local identity, as much as the price, are central factors for the customers’ choices. However, this is not true on all markets: this holds for out-of-home and horeca markets, which point to Docg, but not for wholesales and large retailers, hence home consumption, which go for Doc sparkling wines.

This is especially clear for Prosecco doc and Conegliano Valdobbiadane docg. Foreign “imitations” are bad, but at the same time they demonstrate the interest of markets for these kinds of wines.

Even on the Italian market, the popularity at the bar of the request of a “Prosecco” (frequently referring to other Italian or foreign sparkling wines) gives the idea of how much this kind of wine became a symbol of a kind of taste and desire.

In 2010 more than 205 million of bottles of Prosecco, or similar wine, have been consumed. In 2011 this figure reached 225 million, and for the next years the previsions indicate 250, 280 and 300 million bottles for 2012, 2013 and 2014, respectively. Of those 300 million, 80 million circa will be Docg.

A bit more stable is the market for TrentoDoc sparkling wines, unchanged in Italy and in slow increase abroad, in particular in Japan and UK. Clearly the classic “Italian way” is a small production (1.2 million bottles export in the last 3 or 4 years on average), but it is a fact that customers are starting appreciating the made in Italy abroad.

Even more interesting is the success on the internal market of Franciacorta grapes. This has been partially boosted by the choice of Berlucchi to enter in the Docg club by employing Franciacorta grapes instead of the ones from Trento or Pavia. The growth of the last year has recently slowed down.

The consumption of Franciacorta is also growing abroad and on the European market, in particular in east Europe, Germany, USA and Canada. This is the demonstration that working on quality pays back and, in this moment, imposing a reasonable price opens new markets.

South of Italy is a big new market for Italian sparkling wines, too. Producers require new communication strategies there, to present the characteristics and the good value for money of their products.

There are high expectations for the Altalanga piemontese wine, too, which starts from quite low numbers. The promising future is granted by the extension to Asti province of the production area and the opening of new distribution channels abroad.

On external markets the best numbers are still granted by generic sweet sparkling wines originating from Piedmont or Veneto, which are distributed at very low prices.

In 2011 Russia became the third importer of Italian sparkling wines (+180% from 2009) after Germany and France, and it will became the stage for the upcoming boom of these wines in 2012. At this regard it will be important to maintain a high standard quality in order not to endanger the made in Italy export.

For 2011 Ovse calculated a total market value of 3.1 billion euro, with a +5% in respect to 2010.

Good news also for the export of fuzzy wines, once not appreciated on the Anglo-Saxon market, used to still wines. Of the 32 billion bottles of wines consumed every year in the world, only 11% is from fuzzy wines. Italian wines of this kind started exporting recently, with a good 2011. Of the 800 million of bottles produced, 300 million were for export. Among the others, the best performances were for Lambrusco, Malvasia, Moscato, Trebbiano, Pinot, Verdicchio and Soave, both in the Doc and VSQ versions. This especially held for Lambrusco Doc, which in 2011 marked a +24% export. The total export is estimated in 800 million euro.

Then, also Spumante and fuzzy wines are now exporting a lot. Hence, experts warn not to debase the image of sparkling wines.

di Giampietro Comolli