Rome Business School study: The Italian wine sector demonstrates its resilience by confirming itself as the largest producer in the world (18%)

  • In 2021 it is expected that the wine sector will produce 11 billion euros (+ 9% compared to 2020, but far from 13 billion in 2019);
  • The wine market will hit 207 billion dollars by 2022;
  • In recent years, Italy has seen a “return to the vineyard” by young producers under 25, with a record increase of 38% in 2018;
  • Veneto is the country’s leading wine producer but Sicily is the region with the most organic wines;
  • The pandemic has decreased the purchase of wine in physical stores, but the online market has grown exponentially;

Rome, October 2021. Rome Business School, the business school with the greatest international presence in Italy with students from 150 countries and part of the Formación y Universidades network created in 2003 by De Agostini and the Planeta Group, published the study: “L ‘Italy of wine: analysis of a market in full expansion”. It is curated by Valerio Mancini, Director of the Research Center of the Rome Business School and Camilla Carrega, Director of the Master in Tourism and Hospitality Management and of the Master in Food and Beverage Management. The research highlights how despite the difficulties of the pandemic, the Italian wine market is growing rapidly both locally and abroad.

In Italy, agri-food is not just an industry, but a real brand recognized and appreciated all over the world. A sector that, according to forecasts for 2021, will produce a total turnover of 11 billion euros (+ 9% compared to 2020, but still far from the 13 billion recorded in 2019) and continues to expand rapidly, attracting the attention of young people, new producers and the international market.

The research shows that Italy is confirmed as the world leader ahead of Spain and France despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic. This primacy is consolidated by the 602 varieties registered in the vine register, compared to about half of the French cousins, with the “made in Italy” bottles destined for about 70% to DOC, DOCG and IGT: in fact, 332 wines are recognized in our country controlled denomination of origin, 76 wines with controlled and guaranteed denomination of origin and 118 wines with typical geographical indication.

Already in 2019, the Belpaese was the first in volume exports, which had reached 21.6 million hectoliters of wine (+ 10%) against Spain’s 21.4 million. Despite the crisis, in 2020 the damage was contained, and in 2021 the recovery period began: the wine sector is confirmed as an important component of the Italian economy and shows a positive health status. The current year will bring about an almost complete reabsorption of the turnover of the Italian wine sector, which in 2020 lost 4.1% but is up by 3.5% in the current year.

Consumption trends see a decrease in purchases in physical stores and large organized distribution (from 58% of Italians to 52%) and an online boom. The data of the digital market are clear: + 74.9% sales on web portals owned by wineries and companies in the wine world, + 435% for specialized online platforms, + 747% the increase in generalist marketplaces.

Globally, for several years we have been witnessing a growth in the wine market, so much so that it is expected to reach the value of 207 billion dollars by 2022. According to the data, however, it is clear that the wine business is still concentrated in a few markets.

There are only ten countries in which more than half of the wineries market from all over the world converge: in first place the United States with a turnover of 32 billion dollars, followed by China, where the wine market has profited in the last year a good 24 billion dollars. In the last step of the podium, in third place, is France, with a value of 14.4 billion dollars. Italy is only fifth, with about 11 billion dollars.

Italian wine abroad

Italian exports of wines and alcoholic beverages increased + 16% in the first half of the year and are worth 30% of our cross-border sales of food and beverages (7.8 billion euros in 2020). According to the study, the United States (+ 2%) and Germany (+ 3.1%) are growing, consolidating the national presence in the two main reference markets. China also gave excellent answers, with + 6.3% in the two-year period 2021-2022, and a surprising market like Vietnam + 9.6%, but exports to the United Kingdom decreased (-1.9%) and Switzerland (0.8%).

Veneto, the first Italian wine producer (one fifth of the total), thanks to Prosecco and related products, leads the export share with over a third of the total. Although the pandemic has decreased the numbers, Italy remains strong compared to France: exports of Italian sparkling wines fell by 6.4% compared to 2019, a non-tragic figure when compared with Champagne, which marked a drop of 20% in 2020. In the case of Italian products, other than French ones, a factor of no small importance must be considered: the use of bubbles in aperitifs (smooth and mixed).

Internal consumption

With the change in habits caused by the pandemic, the consumption of wine has also changed: still wine is growing like sparkling wines, with 7.4% and 8.1% respectively, and red wine as much as white, favoring the high-quality categories (+8) compared to low-level products (+ 3%).

The downward trend in domestic consumption, in parallel with the sharp increase in US demand, has made Italy slide into third place among consumer countries. In fact, people drink less – 26% lower volumes compared to twenty years ago – but practically everyone does it and in a more responsible way: the average is 2-4 glasses per week, consumed mainly at home (67%) millennials being the ones with the highest penetration rate (+ 84%).

Lambrusco remains the most popular wine in Italy, first in terms of volumes, followed by Chianti. As regards white wines and bubbles, the best-selling remains Franciacorta, followed by Pinot, Chardonnay and Vermentino Sardo. The study also highlights the growth of “emerging wines”, where Lugana is in first position, followed by Primitivo di Manduria and Passerina.

The boom of organic wines and winemakers under 25

The pandemic has led consumers to become more interested in the quality of wine, which has led to a boom in organic wines. In Europe, 8.5% of the land is destined for this crop and in Italy the leadership remains in the hands of Sicily, which represents 34% of the country’s vineyard area. Only producers who use only grapes grown with organic farming methods and carry out winemaking using only oenological products can use the organic logo and avoid the addition of chemicals usually used to correct the wine.

Young people follow this line of sustainability. In recent years, Italy has witnessed a “return to the vineyard” by young producers under 25, with a record increase of 38% in 2018. The element that most characterizes the new season of Italian wine is the attention to environmental sustainability, marketing policies, also through the use of social media, and the relationship with consumers. Today, several courses of study related to the world of oenology are offered and there are about 100,000 companies led by young people under 35 (25% women), demonstrating that it is a sector of great interest for the new generations.

Tastings at the time of covid

To react to the pandemic, some winegrowers and consortia have begun to offer B2B digital tasting experiences that included virtual meetings with journalists and specialists or “digital tasting”, where samples are first sent and then moments of presentation of wines are organized remotely. . Others have addressed consumers directly by offering tutorials and webinars in which winemakers accompany the discovery of their wines, informative videos on social networks with in-depth information and advice on possible combinations, e-mail newsletters edited by sommeliers and wine ambassadors, and more. These initiatives and the slowdown in restrictive measures during the year compensated in a way for the decline of -9% in 2020 with a “rebound” in 2021 of + 7% for the sector.

Consumers of the future

Globally, in 2022, China should reach second place after the US and ahead of France and Germany, while the United Kingdom would overtake Italy in fifth place. USA, France and Germany will hold the first three places for the consumption of fine wine, but Canada will slightly surpass Italy in fourth place, at least in terms of value. Finally, the contribution to the growth in consumption in Africa and in the smaller markets as a whole is important.

The research concludes by underlining the urgency of developing an organic and articulated idea of ​​the Italian wine sector for the next 10 years, also taking into account the new trends accelerated by the pandemic, in which the various wine models contribute, where appropriate, to the enhancement of resources. physical and human existence with an ever-increasing attention to sustainability, understood in its various aspects (environmental, economic and social).

It will therefore be necessary to prepare effective support strategies – of a regulatory and spending nature – aimed at seizing the opportunities of the various territories, thus supporting the different production models in an appropriate way to the circumstances.

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