Allegrini 2018

Italian wine, the “American dream” continues, despite the pandemic

In 2020 exports held up, and at the start of 2021, despite a complex picture, positive sentiments arrive for the great denominations of Italy
Wine in the USA in the illustration of Kasey The Golden

Some positive sensations, despite everything, with two certainties: that if, on the one hand, the pandemic is not loosening its grip on most of the world, with all that this entails, on the other, Italy's wine industry can continue to rely on its greatest ally, its most important market, the United States of America. Which not only seems to have held up, on the whole, in 2020 (the closing estimates of the Vinitaly Wine Monitor speak of -2%, to 1.7 billion euros, pending the latest official data) but which, from the very first sentiments gathered by some of the Consortia of the most important wine denominations in Italy (from Brunello di Montalcino to Barolo from Valpolicella to Chianti Classico, from Doc Sicilia to Barbera d’Asti, from Prosecco Doc to Pinot Grigio delle Venezie), offer elements of hope for 2021 certainly not easy but, perhaps, less hard than 2020. Not only for the fact that Italy, at least for now, has remained unscathed by the new duties introduced by the U.S. on the already penalized wines of France and Germany both in the dispute Boeing-Airbus and in the dispute on the Digital Tax, and because it is hoped that, between restrictions and vaccines, the second half of the year will see a return to something like normal. But also because with the new U.S. presidency of Joe Biden, it is hoped that there will be an easing of relations between the U.S. and the EU, which will help the recovery of the economy as a whole, and above all because, in particular for some denominations, the closure of 2020 and the very first stages of 2021 reveal a positive picture that was almost unhoped for only a few months ago. The most positive voice is the one of the President of the Consorzio del Brunello di Montalcino, Fabrizio Bindocci: “thanks to the expectation created behind the excellent 2016 vintage, together with the Riserva 2015, two of the best vintages ever according to international critics, importers are pressing to speed up the shipment of wines, in order to be present right away on the US market. All of us producers are working on it”.
Chianti Classico also has high hopes for the US market, as Giovanni Manetti, president of the Consortium, explained to WineNews: “for us, the United States represents 34% of the market, which means that one bottle of Chianti Classico out of three will end up overseas. And in 2020, despite the closures of bars and restaurants that affected the whole country for months and months, Chianti Classico held up well. In the end, the year ended in substantial balance compared to 2019's numbers, and that was anything but expected. US wine lovers, in this period, proved that, among the many things they can do without, there is no Chianti Classico, as the consumption lost away from home has been rebalanced by wine shop and online purchases. Good support also for the beginning of 2021, which we expect to be full of difficulties at least in the first half of the year, in the hope, in the second part of the year, to start seeing the light again”.
“We have a fairly positive sentiment - comments, to WineNews, the president of the Consorzio del Barolo e del Barbaresco, Matteo Ascheri - even if the news related to the pandemic always keeps us on our toes. Orders are coming in, we can’t complain, even if the situation is very peculiar. The U.S. is moving despite everything, and Canada is also reacting well, as is Germany, which is holding up for us thanks to direct sales to private individuals. The market most in crisis, perhaps, is England, not so much because of Brexit itself, but for the overall situation. In any case, there are no more 2016s in the Barolo cellars, 2017 is just getting underway, the first orders are arriving, there is attention for a vintage that was too soon underestimated and that is growing in interest among the operators”.
Also from Piedmont, Filippo Mobrici, head of the Consorzio della Barbera d’Asti e Vini del Monferrato, has a positive outlook on the US: “for us, the United States has never stopped, exports to the US have held up as well as to Canada, and positive signals are coming, such as the growing interest not only in Barbera d’Asti, but also in smaller denominations such as Grignolino and Ruchè. Clearly these are smaller numbers, but they are important signals. The change of presidency has brought some new enthusiasm, and we hope that with President Biden the discussion on duties will be completely closed. Our various denominations, however, on the whole, have held up, at the level of bands in 2020 we are at +0.4% on 66 million bottles. Given the premises, this is an almost unhoped-for result, and we will start from here”.
The words of Christian Marchesini, president of the Valpolicella Consortium, convey a certain tranquility: “things have held up, exports for 2020 closed in line with 2020 as a whole for our denominations. In the USA there was a small but not worrying drop, partly compensated by the good performance in monopoly markets such as Canada and Scandinavia, where Valpolicella is very strong. As for 2021, there are no particular data yet, but requests are coming in, the interest is strong especially for wines such as Ripasso. Obviously there is great attention to what is happening, but on the whole we can be satisfied”.
“It’s hard to predict what will happen in 2021, but in 2020 the US market performed well, supporting the growth of Pinot Grigio delle Venezie - comments the president of Doc delle Venezie, Albino Armani - which closed the year, overall, at +4.7%, at 1.751 million hectoliters bottled and sold. A performance in countertendency with respect to the decline of many appellations, thanks to the stability overseas: the USA is our leading market, absorbing 44% of bottled wine, the fortunes of Pinot Grigio depend, for better or worse, on the United States. The glass is half-full, orders continue to arrive and, unlike last year, we have already started bottling the 2020 vintage, a sign that demand continues to be strong in this early 2021. From here to say that everything will be fine, or that we have already sold everything, it is a long way off. Certainly, the end of the year, with +16% of bottlings, is an excellent sign for a denomination like ours, because it should never be forgotten that 75% of sales come from four markets: USA, Canada, Great Britain and Germany”.
Positive sentiment, not only on the U.S. front, also in the words of Luca Giavi, managing director of the Prosecco Doc Consortium, who just in the last few hours announced that the 500 million bottles certified in 2020 had been surpassed, an increase of 2.8% over 2019: “we are checking the final data, but, overall, it went well, in the end we should have recorded a small growth in exports to the U.S. as well, which for Prosecco is an increasingly important market. There is confidence in a different year, in the vaccines that are arriving, even if it is natural that we live day to day, it is impossible to plan. So it is clear that there is some concern, in general, but also optimism. The market of Prosecco however is lively, also thanks to its price positioning which I define as “democratic”, it is an accessible wine which guarantees quality at a cost accessible to most of consumers, and this is a very important aspect”.
“Data still can not say much - concludes Antonio Rallo, at the head of the Consorzio della Doc Sicilia - but there is no lack of elements that make us look positive. Last year, between the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, we all exported much more than normal to the U.S., because there was an overstocking due to the fear of duties, which rewarded at the beginning but then slowed things down during the year, along with, of course, the pandemic. Distributors and importers, however, despite the difficult situation and the fact that the restaurant industry was very penalized, consumed the stocks, and this bodes well for when the market starts up again, there will be space to regain and greater regularity in terms of flows”.

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