Allegrini 2018

The harvest begins in Italy: the first bunches have been cut in Franciacorta with Chardonnay grapes

Coldiretti: production in decline (45 million hectoliters, -5% on 2019). In the difficult 2020, exports decreased (-4%)

Expected, never like this year, difficult but with work in the vineyard and cellar that has never stopped, in Italy the 2020 harvest has started, with production estimated at around 45 million hectoliters, down 5% on 2019. It emerges from an analysis by Coldiretti for the cutting of the first bunches of grapes in Franciacorta, where, according to tradition, the harvest of Chardonnay grapes for the production of sparkling wines, the first to be harvested - in the Faccoli winery, in Coccaglio - inaugurates the beginning of the harvest throughout the peninsula, with timing in line with recent years and a vintage that promises to be of high quality. “With the grape harvest in Italy, an economic engine is activated that generates more than 11 billion in turnover from the sale of wine alone and that gives employment opportunities in the supply chain to 1.3 million people directly involved in vineyards, wineries, and commercial distribution, both for those employed in related activities and service,” explains President Coldiretti, Ettore Prandini, highlighting “the importance of supporting a sector that plays a leading role of Made in Italy in Italy and abroad”. Abroad where, for the first time in the last 30 years and after the record of 6.4 billion euros in 2019, with a historic reversal of the trend, Italian wine sales have also dropped by 4% in 2020, based on Istat data on exports in the first 5 months of 2020, due to the difficulties recorded by the catering industry worldwide for the COVID emergency.
Returning to the harvest that has just begun, Coldiretti is once again facing a challenge with France, where production is estimated between 44.7 and 45.7 million hectoliters according to the Statistics and Forecast Service of the Ministry of Agriculture beyond the Alps, while in Spain it is estimated between 43 and 44 million hectoliters.
In terms of time, the start of the harvest is in line with that of recent years, which, however, due to climate change, shows an advance of about a month compared to 30 years ago, which denies the proverb “fill the kitchen in August and the cellar in September”. Despite crazy weather with African heat alternating with water bombs and hailstorms, Italy is expected to have a good/beautiful vintage, although the harvest will depend heavily on the rest of August and September to confirm the forecast also in terms of quantity. From North to South of the Peninsula, the harvest traditionally starts with the Pinot and Chardonnay grapes in a path that continues in September and October with the harvest of the great native red grapes Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Nebbiolo and even ends in November with the grapes of Aglianico and Nerello on 658,000 hectares cultivated nationwide.
70% of the tricolor production will be destined to Docg, Doc and Igt wines, with 332 wines with Controlled Denomination of Origin (Doc), 73 wines with Controlled and Guaranteed Denomination of Origin (Docg), and 118 wines with Typical Geographical Indication (Igt) recognized in Italy and the remaining 30% for table wines. On the national territory, there are 567 varieties registered in the vine register against 278 of the French cousins, demonstrating the rich heritage of biodiversity on which Italy can rely, which boasts throughout the peninsula the possibility to offer local wines of the highest quality thanks to a millenary tradition.
The 2020 vintage is the first to be marked by the effects of the world pandemic, international trade tensions with the threat of US duties and Brexit with the exit from the European Union of Great Britain, which has been for a long time the main customer of Prosecco, the most exported Italian wine in the world. In China, where the virus was the first to hit, the consumption of tricolor bottles between January and May 2020 fell by 44% in value, in the United Kingdom sales fell by almost 12% also due to the uncertainties and tensions linked to Brexit, France fell by 14% while exports to Germany and the United States, two of the main markets for Italy, fell slightly (- 1%). However, on trade with the United States hangs the axe of the tariffs of the President of the United States Donald Trump, whose verdict will be known shortly and could hit precisely the wine with an export value of over 1.5 billion euros, is the most sold Italian agri-food product in the States. The United States is the world's leading consumer of wine and Italy is its first supplier, with Americans appreciating Prosecco, Pinot Grigio, Lambrusco, and Chianti, which, unlike French wines, had escaped the first blacklist published in October 2019. If 100% ad valorem duties were to come into force on Italian wine, a bottle of Prosecco sold today at an average retail price in the US of 10 dollars would cost 15 dollars, with a significant loss of competitiveness.
The 2020 harvest in Italy is also influenced by the safety measures against infection and the difficulties of traveling of foreign seasonal agricultural workers who, explains Coldiretti, in the past contributed significantly to the harvesting of grapes. The necessary quarantine restriction for the countries most at risk has slowed down the arrival of workers from abroad and in this context at least 25,000 occasional jobs among the vineyards could be available for the harvest with a radical simplification of the “agricultural” voucher.
“With almost 4 out of 10 Italian wineries (39%) experiencing difficulties as a result of the emergency, it is necessary to intervene quickly to support exports, reduce stocks, reduce costs and cut bureaucracy,” says Prandini in stressing that “we need to rethink for the current harvest to an instrument for the sector that simplifies, is agile and flexible, responding above all to a criterion of timely availability for employment and on the other hand generates opportunities for income integration for young students, retirees and integrated fund”.

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