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Allegrini 2018
THE HARVEST IN ITALY

Harvest 2019, -16%, 46 million hectolitres: estimates by Unione Italiana Vini, Assoenologi and Ismea

State-of-the-art forecasts for the vineyard at the end of August. Italy towards world production primacy, Veneto and Puglia the most abundant regions

The 2019 harvest was “lower” in quantity, compared to the abundant 2018 (-16), but not poor (about 46 million hectoliters), which can give some breathing space, perhaps, on the front of prices at the origin (-13% on average in 2018 compared to 2017), while exports of Italian wine, all in all, continue to grow (+11% in volume and +5.5% in value, to 2.6 billion euros). This is the scenario outlined by the harvest estimates that, for the first time, see united, in synergy, Unione Italiana Vini, Assoenologi and Ismea, presented today in Rome, while the harvest, back in time closer to the tradition, has just begun or is about to begin in many areas of Italy. The processing carried out at the end of August, therefore, estimates the national production of wine 2019 at 46 million hectoliters, with a reduction of 16% compared to the record year of 2018, with almost 55 million hectoliters (Agea data, based on production declarations). The estimated figure, as usual, results from an average between a minimum hypothesis of 45 million hectolitres and a maximum of more than 47 million, however lower than the average of the last 5 years. A drop expected in all the Regions, except for Tuscany (+10%). Despite a perfect national average decrease of -16%, the region's leading producer will still be Veneto, at 11.2 million hectolitres, before Puglia, which, with a similar percentage decrease, should reach 8 million hectolitres, ahead of Emilia Romagna, which is down by 20%, at 7.5 million hectolitres. Among the most productive regions follow Sicily (-20%, at 3.7 million hectolitres), Abruzzo (-11%, at 3 million hectolitres), Tuscany (+10%, at 2.5 million hectolitres) and Piedmont (-15%, at 2.4 million hectolitres). The biggest losses, underline Uiv, Assoenologi and Ismea, are counted on early grapes, while for the later ones the evolution of production will be linked to the weather in September.

Despite a less generous harvest, neither unexpected nor experienced as a problem by operators, according to the forecasts, the world leadership of our country seems to be saved also for 2019, given that France is expected to reach a figure of 43.4 million hectolitres (estimated on August 19 by the French Ministry of Agriculture) and Spain should not go beyond 40 million (data from the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture).

“With the 2019 harvest we are back in the average of recent years, marking a marked downturn compared to the exceptional production of last year - said Ernesto Abbona, president of Unione Italiana Vini - with a variable quality, between good and excellent depending on the area, which allows us to look to the future with optimism and confidence. We can expect prices to hold up on Denomination wines, which, remaining within the volumes of the regulations, will suffer less from the drop, just as last year they were less affected by the increase in production, and a possible high adjustment of the price lists for bulk wines, given the drop in the harvest also in France and Spain. We are maintaining our leadership in world production but in a difficult geopolitical context where worrying signals are arriving from some important markets for our wine, while new prospects for development are being opened up thanks to free trade agreements. The domestic market shows a slightly growing trend, even if in a context of decisive change that invites us to reflect more carefully on new strategies to be adopted towards our traditional consumer”.

“If the 2018 vintage was generous, in 2019 we are witnessing a reversal in many areas. From a climatic point of view, also this year the weather variability has been felt - underlines Assoenologi president Riccardo Cotarella - in particular in May with a lowering of temperatures accompanied by abundant rainfall that has caused a slowdown in the vegetative cycle of the vine. There is a general delay in ripening of about 10/15 days, so much to bring the time of harvest in periods more closely linked to tradition, after the countless advances recorded in recent years. This year, however, there are evident differences in ripening even within the same plot of land, as a result of the now established weather variability and a climate shift from temperate to dry heat, with irregular and stormy rainfall, resulting in irregularities in the vegetative cycle, where the work of the winemaker, through their skills and experience, will be crucial and fundamental to the quality of future wines”.

“In recent years Italian wine has consolidated an important path of internationalization through the concentration and reorganization of the supply towards products of higher quality and appreciation in foreign markets. The effects of this evolution towards the quality and effectiveness of commercial policies - stressed Raffaele Borriello, general manager of Ismea - are witnessed by the constant increase in export turnover, almost doubled in the last ten years. In perspective, the future of the sector will be weighed down by the way of exit of the United Kingdom from Europe and the uncertainty of the new global geopolitical order, where the dynamics of the markets will be increasingly difficult to read and will impose increasingly complex, differentiated and flexible strategies: more risks, but also more opportunities, for those who know how to anticipate trends, working on a careful segmentation of export trade policies”.

Back to the 2019 harvest, the drop in production is mainly due to climatic conditions that were far less favorable than those that led to the abundant 2018 harvest.

The anomalies started already in winter when temperatures were slightly higher than normal and rainfall was lower than average. The weather condition also continued in March and April, while May saw a marked reversal of the trend: the lowering of temperatures and the abundant rainfall caused a delay in flowering and a slowdown in the vine's vegetative cycle.

From that moment on, every phenological phase of the vine was affected by a climate that was not particularly suitable: the thermal trend disrupted the flowering and hindered a perfect fruit set in some varieties. The months of June and July, on the other hand, saw little rainfall, which forced emergency irrigation operations in some areas, particularly on young plants. Some stormy rains caused heavy hailstorms. For almost the entire month of August, then, the temperatures remained high, as well as humidity, favoring a flourishing development of vegetation in the vineyards, which forced the winemakers to take careful measures of green pruning.

At the end of August, the health of the grapes was generally good: the return of rain in some areas has encouraged a good growth of the bunches and, fortunately, there were rare problems from attacks of downy mildew and powdery mildew, circumscribed and well contained by appropriate treatments, results, however, higher than last year. This mix of factors, accompanied by good temperature ranges between day and night that favored a slow but gradual ripening of the grapes and an optimal development of aromas, allowed to obtain a generally good quality throughout the national territory. The first analytical results, however, show average gradations in the norm, a good sugar/acidity ratio and for the first grapes harvested a good aromatic framework. There is also an optimal synthesis of coloring substances in red grapes.

All the climatic and meteorological ups and downs have led to a delay in ripening of about 10/15 days compared to the past campaign, to bring the time of harvest into a normal calendar, after the advances recorded in recent years. This is demonstrated by the fact that for the first few days of September it is estimated that just over 15% of the grapes will arrive in the cellar, whereas only two years ago it was over 40%. Also this year, Sicily opened the harvest in the first week of August, followed, at mid-August, by Puglia and then by Lombardy (Franciacorta) in the second ten days of August. Between the end of August and the first week of September, in most regions, harvesting operations were carried out for early varieties (Chardonnay, Pinot, Sauvignon).

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