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Assoenologi, Uiv and Ismea: a satisfactory harvest in quantity and surprising in quality

Thus, in a nutshell, the forecast for the harvest 2022: production at 50.27 million hectoliters and grape quality from good to excellent
The grape harvest on Etna

A satisfactory vintage in terms of quantity and surprising in terms of quality: so, in a nutshell, are the harvest forecasts of the Assoenologi, Ismea and Unione Italiana Vini (UIV) Observatory, presented today in Rome at the Ministry of Agriculture. This year’s drought and record heat have not compromised the Italian vineyard, which, at the start of the harvest campaign, promises grapes of good to excellent quality, with quantity in line with the average of recent vintages. Ensuring that the final product holds up, in addition to the providential August rains, is the extraordinary research and application work of producers on a vine that is increasingly resilient to climatic and meteorological adversity.

According to the data, 2022 production is expected to be around 50.27 million hectoliters of wine, the same quantity as in 2021 (50.23 million hectoliters, Agea 2021 data) and at +3% over the average of the five-year period 2017-2021, although weather patterns in the coming weeks remain crucial. Favorable weather conditions for grape ripening could turn the forecast into a positive sign, while unsuitable weather for late varieties would negatively affect the harvest product.

With -46% cumulative rainfall from the beginning of the year to the end of July compared to the average of the last 30 years, 2022 stood out as the driest year since 1800, aggravated also by the hottest temperatures of the last five decades. An exceptional climatic conjuncture, mitigated by the August rains, which did not damage the Italian vineyard where, while keeping a high threshold of attention to the weather in the coming weeks, a more than good vintage is expected with grapes characterized by medium to high potential alcohol contents. Particular attention is paid to the polyphenolic contents of red grapes that determine potential expectations of excellence for aging wines. From a phytosanitary point of view, the situation in the Italian vineyard appears generally excellent, with very few pathogen attacks.

The ranking of Italian regions also remains stable, headed by Veneto, which, with 11.5 million hectoliters, alone produces more than 1/5 of Italian wine. It is followed by Puglia and Emilia-Romagna, with 10.6 and 7.4 million hectoliters, respectively, for a total product of the three regions equal to 59% of the entire Italian vineyard. On the trends front, the peculiarity of the season does not allow for homogeneous forecasts even in the same area. In the Northwest, there is an important drop in Lombardy (-20%), followed by a more moderate one in Piedmont (-9%) and Liguria (-5%) while Valle d’Aosta is estimated to be growing (+10%). In the Northeast reported recovering from last year are both Trentino Alto Adige (+10%) and Emilia Romagna (+4%) while minor losses could be in Veneto (-3%), with Friuli Venezia Giulia essentially stable. Less variable is the situation in the Center, where there is a sharp rise in volumes for Umbria (+10%) and Tuscany (+12%), followed by a more moderate increase in Marche and Lazio (both at +5%). In the South, the slight increase in Puglia (+3%) contrasts with the slight decline in Sicily (-5%); stable production is expected for Abruzzo, Molise and Calabria. Also growing are Campania (+4%), Sardinia (+15%) and Basilicata (10%).

For quality, excellent wines are generally expected in Trentino Alto Adige and Sicily, while they are setting the bar on “excellent” for Piedmont, Val d’Aosta, Friuli Venezia-Giulia, Tuscany, Lazio, Umbria, Abruzzo, Molise, Puglia and Sardinia, with Liguria, Emilia-Romagna, Marche, Campania, Basilicata and Calabria more cautious about “good/optimal” forecasts. “Good”, however, expectations for Lombardy and Veneto labels.

According to production estimates noted today by Ignacio Sánchez Recarte, secretary-general of the European entrepreneurs’ organization Ceev, there is also high variability in production in the Old Continent due to climate. Overall, the European vineyard has held up, with France growing on the five-year average (+3.5%, to 44 million hectoliters), while Spain climbs, where a contraction over the period of 16% is expected. Stable production levels in Germany and Portugal.

With the 2022 vintage, Italy’s wine sector maintains its production record while that of turnover remains in the French house. On the market front, according to the latest elaborations based on Istat, Italy closed the first half of the year with a record 3.8 billion euros in value (+13.5% over the same period 2021) while the trend in exported volumes is flat: +0.4%. Bottled still and sparkling wines registered +10.3% in value but gave up 1.2% in volume. Unstoppable performance of the sparkling wine sector, which in the first part of the year is close to 1 billion euros in value (+25.5%), with volumes at +10.6%. Growing sharply - mainly due to inflation - is the average price, which rises 13.1% and even nearly 18% in the United States, whose market is also held up by the strong dollar. In the world’s top buyer, tricolor growth in value is 13.3%, with volumes down 3.8%.

“The current harvest is handing us grape quality ranging from good to excellent”, comments Riccardo Cotarella, president of Assoenologi. “Much depends on the areas of reference, never as in this season the quanti-qualitative judgment is totally irregular and this is essentially due to an extreme climate that has heavily conditioned, in particular, the months of May, June and especially July with peaks of heat that have exceeded 40 degrees and such a prolonged drought. Fortunately, in August, over much of the country - except for a few exceptions - “smart” rains arrived, that is, rains that did not cause any damage, so that the vines could resume their vegetative growth and ripen grapes without any particular stress. But also containing the negative effects of climate change has been the scientific approach that we winemakers have put in place to support the vineyards. Today, more than ever, science and research in viticulture and in the winery are essential; room for apprentice wine wizards is gone, if there ever was any in the past. Between now and the end of September, we trust in sunny weather, warm enough and perhaps accompanied by a light breeze, so that the grapes yet to be harvested can reach perfect ripeness so as to go on to produce wines capable of once again imposing themselves on the national and international wine scenes”.

For the president of Unione Italiana Vini (UIV), Lamberto Frescobaldi, “the vineyard once again proved to be the pivot of the supply chain, demonstrating that even with heat and drought it is possible to make high quality wines and satisfactory volumes. Kudos then go to the companies and producers, who once again helped the plants cope in the best possible way with the adversity of the weather. But the game does not end with the harvest, because especially in such a delicate economic phase there is a growing awareness that we can and must do better on the value front for our wine. In fact, the much-vaunted production record is not a sufficient condition to generate wealth: the “value yields” of the Italian vineyard - according to an analysis carried out by the Uiv Observatory - perform significantly lower than those of France, which marks three times the profitability per hectare cultivated (16,600 euros vs. 6,000 euros) and per hectolitre produced (294 euros vs. 82 euros). We still need to go a long way to ensure a remunerativeness that is directly proportional to the quality produced, with a path that starts from a more rational governance of the sector in terms of appellations of origin all the way to common wine. We must aspire to write - or rewrite - a true vocational charter for our territories, anchored in real indicators, with few but clear rules for all those involved, from producers to control bodies to the trade and consumers”.

According to Fabio Del Bravo, head of Rural Development Services Directorate (Ismea), “in terms of markets, Italy closed the 2021/2022 campaign with price increases especially in wines at the top of the quality pyramid. The first lines of the new campaign outline a still uncertain scenario where the many unknowns also related to tensions on costs and logistics, which already last year had created concerns for operators but are now even more pressing, weigh heavily. The good estimated production results, in spite of summer fears about drought, mean that there will be availability of quality product in this campaign as well, and while on the foreign front demand seems to be holding up albeit not with the brilliant results of 2021, on the domestic front there are some signs of subsidence in purchases from modern distribution even if we have to consider the recovery of out of home”.

“Despite all the factors that threatened to penalize our wine sector, from rising commodity prices to drought, in 2022 we are still leading the world in terms of production, but also - in my opinion - in terms of quality, thanks to the very high level that our producers guarantee. The ministry’s task is to facilitate their work, reducing bureaucracy and supporting the sector with adequate funds”. Thus the Undersecretary for Agricultural Food and Forestry Policies, Gian Marco Centinaio. “We continue to work to intervene on our weak points, meanwhile we have made available 25 million euros for the supply chain in Italy to promote wine in our country as well, where it is not well known enough and therefore there may be room for growth. I thank the consortia because we have received 63 proposals from them and we hope to be able to give an answer to all of them”. Undersecretary Centinaio then indulges in a digression on the Prosek issue, which has not yet been resolved: “together with Minister Patuanelli, we have set in motion an important task force in which the Ministry of Agriculture has involved everyone, and because of this, excellent work has been possible. However, many people still believe that the word Prosek is a translation of our Prosecco. So there is still a lot of work to be done, including on communication, to enhance and defend our products and our excellence”.

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