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Prosecco DOCG is resisting Covid19 with “laboratory of the future” and “smart land” territory

The thoughts of Aldo Bonomi and Enzo Risso and Ermete Realacci (Symbola) in the “Economic Report” of the Conegliano Valdobbiadene Consortium
Prosecco DOCG is resisting Covid19

Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG is synonymous to quality, sustainability and the identity of the UNESCO Hills from which it was created. It is defying the pandemic, holding on to world markets, even though it is suffering, and growing more than all other sparkling wines in the mass retail channel. The sociologist Aldo Bonomi said that the historical territory and its hills, from which the Prosecco phenomenon began, are the “laboratory of the future2 of what will be the “smart land”. It is a model of that “marginal that becomes center”, in a territorial sense, which will be one of the keys to the post Pandemic era. Data, ideas and reflections were revealed in the 2020 “Economic Report” that the Consortium of Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG, led by Innocente Nardi published on the denomination. Professor Eugenio Pomarici of CIRVE explained in numbers, the denomination’s state of health and resistance, “following 2019, in which 92 million bottles of Prosecco DOCG were sold for a historical record of +1.6% on 2018, and 524 million euros in turnover, the +1.2%, in 2020, taking the number of certified bottles at the end of November 2020 as an indicator, the overall drop was just -2%”.
“This means that the consumer still appreciates our denomination, which was exceptional given the year we are experiencing. Credit goes to the work of the producers who work all year long for the territory, but also to the Consortium that has chosen the logic of caution and value, which rewarded us”, said Innocente Nardi. “We have made courageous choices to guarantee our value policies and eliminate the logic of speculation, according to the Consortium’s strategy,” added Nardi, “to implement the culture of this territory, and the sense of community, which is extremely important. The UNESCO recognition in 2019 was decisive, like other choices, such as banning glyphosate. We are working to create a definite cultural identity for our wine and our territory, based on values such as sense of community, vocation, beauty and respect for the territory. Sustainability, environmental, but not only, is an extremely important issue that the Consortium has made its own, by reducing chemicals and also working with the Symbola Foundation. Together, we are expanding the concept to 360 degrees, looking at ‘circular economy’, departing from the “extractive” approach and moving towards the regeneration of local activities, with partners such as Enel X”.
The excellent aggregate figure does not mean that producers have not felt the Covid19 crisis, added Pomarici. “Since the HORECA channel has closed and exports slowed down, Prosecco DOCG has relocated, increasing sales in the mass retail channel (+1.7 million bottles, ed.), e-commerce, proximity stores and also direct deliveries. Prices at the origin, of wine and grapes alike, have been stable, thanks also to far-sighted choices such as mandatory storage and not having unlocked the harvest reserve, or the reduction of yields in 2020. The general data say that the territory is healthy and has held up, while the analysis, instead, says that small producers have suffered most of all, and this aspect must be taken into account”.
Numbers, in any case, matter and the numbers from IRI in the mass retail channel, the real (although obviously partial) stronghold to the collapse of away from home, are flattering for the entire Prosecco sector, as Simonetta Melis (IRI) pointed out. “As of November 22, 2020 sparkling wines in the mass retail channel saw sales grow +9.9% in volume, and prices were substantially stable, at -0.3%. Prosecco is worth 53.7% of the total, boasting +16.4% growth in value and +19.9% in volume. In detail, Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG grew +15% in value and +16.8% in volume (Prosecco DOC, +17% in value and + 21% in volume, ed.). One figure needs to be emphasized; i.e., the growth in value of Prosecco DOCG at +13.7%, compared to 2019 was stronger than that of 2019 over 2018, and also in previous years”. This is a sign of great strength for a denomination that, like the rest of Italy, has suffered the total collapse of tourism, as Erika Mingotto of CISET (International Center for Studies on Tourist Economy) of the Cà Foscari University of Venice, explained. She pointed out that a return to normalcy, on average, will presumably be between 2 and 4 years, but a territory such as Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, will be able to re-start before others, “because all the trends say that we will be looking at proximity tourism, smaller accommodation facilities in localities situated in small villages, in the most beautiful rural landscapes that give a sense of greater security” , for what will increasingly become “tourism of the cultural landscape”.
Part of the Prosecco DOCG estate stands within a broader consumption perspective, as Enzo Risso, scientific director of IPSOS Italia explained. “The second wave of Covid19 has again changed the economic and social scenario. Today 42% of Italians want to save as much as possible, +12% on 2020. The consumers’ stimulus for choosing products has changed. Everything that is wholesomeness and natural counts even more, but there is also growing interest in the product chain, so more attention to local products, not necessarily locally grown. A great amount of attention is also paid to the hygiene issue. Plus, the search for consumption proposals that let you discover antique flavors, have simpler narratives, and a better relationship between man and nature, is also growing. People’s collective imagination is also changing, in part, as the words that describe the mood of these times tell us, like uniqueness, care, kindness, giving, as well as distinctiveness, because people are looking for things that are unique to them. These are the sensations around which consumer choices revolve. There is more, however. The relationship with brands is changing, as 72% of Europeans and Americans hope that companies will be increasingly committed to battling Covid19, and will help those in difficulty, while 71% emphasize their interest in rewarding those brands that tangibly help people overcome the crisis.
From this point of view, the relationship between brands and people has increased on the issue of the role of companies in society, and in the wellbeing of the local society. This is what”, explained Risso, “consumers recognize in Prosecco DOCG: 64% of wine consumers consider it elegant, 59% typical, 56% authentic, good, trendy and healthy, and 41% of consumers also consider it ecological. Additionally, 52% of Italians say they know the Conegliano Hills and Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG, a figure that has grown 20%, thanks to the UNESCO recognition. A profitable and reciprocal two-way process between territory and wine has definitely been triggered. On the one hand, the Hills offer the appellation a valuable habitat, and at the same time Prosecco DOCG has become an ambassador of this territory. This means that it is a territorial, identifiable and mature product and it is therefore, through its link with the territory, in harmony with the environment as well as giving harmony to those who drink it, give it away, buy it, and taste it”.
The sociologist Aldo Bonomi outlined how to plan the future based on the current situation. “We must start from a clear point when the denomination includes the perimeter of the Community, and this is a very important aspect. It is not enough, though, because identity does not lie in the subject, but rather in relationships. And facts tell us that the Consortium community has to face large flows, i.e., mass retail channel, international markets and online are flows, tourism is a flow, Covid-19 is a flow that has intervened by changing the economy and daily behavior.
Then, it is necessary to relate to these flows through the awareness of place, which is created starting from memory. The memory of the community must be maintained, and the memory, in the Prosecco DOCG territory, is made up of the farming backbone, which is the very memory of the community. The dry stone walls that evoke labor and farmer’s knowledge, have produced landscape and beauty. Without it, they would not have received the UNESCO recognition. The UNESCO Hills are an example of a very important “bourgeois” dimension today- their maintenance, beauty, landscape, and villages is what many are currently looking for. However, it is still not enough, because we need a perimeter that is open and we need the transition to an industrious community, which will hold together land and territory that are two different things. Land is agriculture, it is where the vineyard is planted, the territory is the social construction, and the Consortium is where the territory is socially built.
We need a modern, industrious community that is sustainability and green economy. But there is no green economy without a “green society”, and the Consortium is the driving force of this process. The hills of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene are now a “laboratory territory” of the future, of what will be the “smart land”, made up of digitization and innovation, with the territory at the center. The future economy will be experience, and I hope that the wine tourists who come here will have the same attitude as those who go to Piazza San Marco in Venice to drink a cup of coffee, and do not complain if it costs 10 euros, because they are also drinking in the bell tower in San Marco. Here, instead, you will be drinking Prosecco DOCG knowing that you aren’t just drinking the wine, but also the beauty and the history of these territories. As has been said in the past, there is no rich city without a flourishing countryside, and vice versa. And, I would say that the Prosecco DOCG territory is a concrete example of the “margin that becomes center”, concluded Bonomi.
“Prosecco DOCG has moved well”, said the president of the Symbola Foundation, Ermete Realacci, “and it is increasingly evident that being good is worthwhile in every sense. It is the theme at the center of our Manifesto of Assisi, for an economy and a society that are more to human scale, as well as more competitive. Those who have invested in the environment and sustainability resist better than others today. And it is not just a matter of reducing chemicals or combating climate change. The Prosecco DOCG Conegliano Valdobbiadene Consortium, for instance, has a been farsighted response for its positioning on the market as well. The denomination is the largest wine growing area to have said no to glyphosate. Today, Prosecco DOCG is worth more because it is a more sustainable and a more beautiful product. It calls to mind Italy, and those wonderful landscapes that at the moment, unfortunately, cannot be visited. Today, those who considered more sustainable are perceived as having the highest quality. The Prosecco DOCG Consortium has been betting on this for some time, and must continue to carry it out.”
“We can look to the future starting from the strength that is the stability of the denomination in this particular year”, concluded President Nardi, “we must be aware and proud of it. Certainly things are changing, channels are changing, so the relationship between land and territory that the sociologist Bonomi mentioned, will be fundamental. We must be aware that our success cannot be based on a vision that stops at companies, but rather on the logic of relationships. Our path, the UNESCO recognition, must look to the future. Pieve di Soligo is a candidate for the Italian capital of culture in 2022 and is very important in this sense. Past, present and future must always be present in our strategies. We must be proud to belong to this community, for the work of our fathers as well as for the work we are doing, with a vision for future generations. Alongside pride and awareness, however, there must also be concepts such as harmony and inclusion. We must lead a high level district, we are among the national leaders, and we need harmony among producers, members and communities, in the logic of inclusion and confrontation with the outside world. This is the premise from which we all must start for a better future”.

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