Allegrini 2018

Global consumption, costs, EU policies: Morellino and Chianti face the challenges of 2023

From Chianti Lovers to Rosso Morellino, the presidents Bernardo Guicciardini Calamai and Giovanni Busi offer their perspectives on the world

2023 was supposed to be the definitive rebirth of both the global economy and wine. Instead, once the pandemic crisis passed, the world was thrown into an even worse spiral: the war in Ukraine. As a result, gas and raw material prices skyrocketed, pushing inflation to its highest level in 40 years. Consumption, including wine, is clearly one of the first goods to be sacrificed by shopping trolleys in Italy and around the world. Furthermore, the drop in global consumption, particularly for still wines, is nothing new, but a long-standing trend that territories of all sizes must deal with, whether by opening up new markets, particularly in the Far East or by focusing on more profitable price dynamics.
Finally, as if the picture wasn’t complicated enough, Europe appears to be moving towards health policies (as evidenced by the EU Commission’s approval of the back-labeled health warnings sought by the Irish Government) that aim to reduce alcohol consumption by 10% by 2030. What tools do wine consortiums have, and what solutions can they implement, to look forward with optimism? We discussed it with Giovanni Busi, president of the Chianti Consortium, and Bernardo Guicciardini Calamai, president of the Morellino di Scansano Consortium, in Florence, in the setting of the Fortezza da Basso
“The past years have been difficult, and while we are used to dealing with nature’s whims and adapting accordingly, the pandemic and then the Ukrainian crisis forced us to deal with new market dynamics”, says Bernardo Guicciardini Calamai, president of Morellino di Scansano. “During the pandemic, our denomination was effectively supported by the large-scale distribution channel, but we were unable to make the cost increases resulting from the war in Ukraine fall on shelf prices, and the decline in consumer purchasing power led to a decline in the large-scale distribution channel. On the other hand, the internal market, particularly art cities, has driven the Horeca sector, offsetting the decline in large-scale distribution and leading to an increase in average price. It is a difficult trend to balance; special attention will be required for foreign markets, where Morellino di Scansano still has a lot of work to do”.
Foreign markets in which, however, Chianti has been strong for some time, from historical to emerging ones, especially in Asia, where, as Giovanni Busi, president of the Chianti Consortium explains, “the data for the beginning of 2023 is a decidedly more comforting than one might have imagined until mid-2022. Chianti, which exports 70% of its output, is once again seeing significant growth in China, as well as the United States, but also in Russia and Ukraine, which continue to buy despite the conflict. The issue at this point is not quantitative: “we have reduced stocks by 200,000 hectoliters in the last four years, so an important production like 2022, after five below-average harvests, is important for maintaining a certain presence on the markets, especially on the large-scale distribution channel, which accounts for 70% of sales in Italy and abroad”, Busi adds.
And it is precisely in foreign markets that the Consortiums and Regions must make effective use of the marketing, communication, and promotion tools at their disposal. “The pandemic has changed the way we deal with the market promotion”, Bernardo Guicciardini Calamai concludes. “There are fairs that no longer function as they once did, operators who travel less, and so you need to go abroad in a targeted and intelligent way, and the other great goal is to get operators to come and learn about the beauty and uniqueness of the territories, particularly in places like Maremma, which is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination. A choice that helped a lot was to bring the mention of Tuscany on the label, which brought important benefits to various markets, starting with the USA, where we are not yet so well known”.
On the contrary, for obvious historical and dimensional reasons, Chianti is perhaps the most well-known of all Italian wine denominations, and indeed the one with the most history behind it. “And yet, it is not as well-known as it should be”, Giovanni Busi recalls. “We must teach consumers from all over the world about the production characteristics of an enormous territory that encompasses a large part of Tuscany: we must get people into the glass, bringing them closer to the various expressions of Sangiovese. In this sense, bringing operators and wine lovers into our daily lives is a common goal for all, and the activities we carry out go in this direction, without leaving any market behind, from America to Asia, passing through European countries, bringing the companies with us, because it is the only way to bring Chianti to the markets”.
Precisely Europe, in a mocking way, risks proving to be the greatest impediment, because the European Union’s public health protection policies risk penalizing wine itself, as the Irish battle recounts to the great problem of alcohol abuse, which has ended up carrying health warnings on the label that, contrary to what the European Parliament decided in the Beating Cancer Plan, do not make any distinction between use and abuse, entails. “The Irish initiative is not surprising; the country has serious problems with alcohol abuse, but the solution cannot be written on the label. It is an existing problem that must be addressed rationally and scientifically: “It is good for the consumer to be informed, but at the root, we need solid and shared data, because many studies demonstrate the beneficial effects linked to limited consumption of wine, and it would be taken into account”, says Bernardo Guicciardini Calamai, president of the Morellino Consortium. “Many producing countries, including Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal, are moving at the European level to carry on these principles, and the institutions are functioning well; however, it is not enough to hide behind traditions; science must be supported, and there is no shortage of literature in this regard”.
Finally, as if that were not enough, the data on consumption in many countries, from France to the United States, passing through Italy itself, shows that while still wine, globally, is experiencing a long negative trend, its main competitors, namely spirits, thanks to the great success of mixology, and beer, on the wave of the growing popularity of craft beers, are on the contrary going through a decidedly happy moment, especially among the youngest. “There is room for everyone on the consumer market, but it is clear that the wine world must work well on the communication front, particularly that which passes through social networks”, concludes the president of the Chianti Consortium, Giovanni Busi. “In this regard, we must pay close attention to the messages that circulate: The seriousness of the Irish case stems from the fact that we are not discussing abuse, but rather a consumption in general. In reality, the same concept applies to any agri-food product: it is not the use, but the abuse that hurts: a stick of butter a day is bad, but it certainly cannot be argued that butter is bad at all court, and the same goes for wine”.

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