Consorzio Collio 2024 (175x100)

Alison Napjus: “US remains very important for Italian wine, but consumption slows”

For the Senior Editor of “Wine Spectator”, “in the future, the connection with food should be promoted more”. The territory of the moment? Sicily
Credit: Veronafiere/Ennevi

With 1.76 billion euros in 2023 exports, despite a -5.3% decline over 2022, “the U.S. market remains very important for Italian wine. Restaurants and retail stores offer vast selections of labels even beyond the classic regions. And we see that younger generations are very interested in lesser-known wines, and as they grow up they will maintain these habits. We do detect, however, a small slowdown in wine consumption, which we all need to reflect on. It is not only about bringing young people closer to wine, but also about creating a connection between food and wine: we all eat several times a day and can find the right time for a good glass of wine. This represents the right approach”. This is the trend highlighted, face-to-face with WineNews, by Alison Napjus, Senior Editor & Tasting Director of the influential American magazine “Wine Spectator”, from Vinitaly 2024, which opened, today, in Verona.
“"Wine Spectator” which, as has become a tradition, yesterday, once again signed “OperaWine” 2024, the official prologue of Vinitaly for no less than 13 editions, at the Mercatali Galleries, and the only event organized abroad by the American magazine, with 131 Italian producers selected with their iconic labels to represent Italy, and celebrate the great passion there is in the world for Italian wine. “The names of “OperaWine””, explains Alison Napjus, “are those we already know, and they are very important for the regions they represent. This year we focused on Sicily: I had not been to the island very often in the last 10 to 15 years, but every time I go there I learn something new, I feel a new energy and a desire to collaborate, so all the wines featured at “OperaWine” this year were fantastic, and Sicily deserves this moment of glory”.
“I think Italian wines bring with them other values that are cultural, in terms of food and the good life”, adds the Senior Editor of “Wine Spectator”. “For Americans the connection between wine and food is not as obvious as it is for Italians, and this is something I notice more and more, and something I will promote in the future. The wines are fantastic, our tastings are always blind, but the real beauty of Italian wine is when you pair it with the right dish: it’s a great thing”. But the time has also come to also tell more about the territories and their beauties and not just limit ourselves to what's inside the bottle: “sure. Our reviews deal with what’s in the glass, but in the magazine you also find a broader story, we take readers to places, let them experience the sensations that we felt firsthand in Italy”, says Napjus.
After all, Usa loves Italy, remains a mantra for Italian wine, an object of desire toward which Americans point their fingers like old Uncle Sam and his “I want you”. And that makes the U.S. the No. 1 for Italian wine, but, after decades of growth, wine consumption is holding back even in the States, amid geopolitical tensions, a struggling economy that pushes Americans to save money, with premiumization no longer enough to make up for declining volumes, competition from other alcoholic beverages, and non-alcoholic beverages, which is causing importers to slow down “destocking”, and widespread healthism among the more “moderate” youth of “Gen Z”, in which only 7% of those of legal drinking age are “regular wine drinkers”. Many operators and producers, interviewed by WineNews, are hoping for a rebound in 2024, but according to forecasts by Iwsr-International Wine & Spirits Research between now and 2027 consumption will decline by -2% per year in volume, at stable values, especially for still wines, which account for 85% of the U.S. market, and with growth in sparkling and other wines failing to make up for things. So continuing to preside over the market, is the other mantra of Italian producers, and in 2024, among the opportunities to do so, there will be Vinitaly USA, in Chicago on October 20 and 21, the largest ever exhibition of Italian wine in America by Veronafiere and Ice. “It probably will be”, says the Senior Editor of “Wine Spectator”, “but I am not aware of the exact numbers and there are other big fairs as well. Let’s wait and see”.
After as many as 13 editions, however, what’s in the future of “OperaWine” as the Vinitaly preview, concludes Alison Napjus, who attended the tasting with Jeffery Lindenmuth and Bruce Sanderson, respectively, Executive Editor and Senior Editor & Tasting Director of “Wine Spectator”, “it’s hard to say, we will continue to select high quality Italian wines, and as always we will put fresh and positive energy into this initiative, together with the valuable team at Vinitaly, which will help us select new regions and realities to be included in “OperaWine”. Every year is a new year, we will see what happens”,

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