Consorzio Collio 2024 (175x100)

The unstoppable advance of white wines, and the slowdown of reds, in the spotlight at Vinitaly

A modern-day phenomenon in Ismea numbers, in Confagricoltura’s analysis, and in the case histories of Valpolicella, Marche, Friuli, and Maremma

Numbers don’t lie, and those of Ismea relating to Italy perfectly reflect global trends, as Italy is at the top of the charts in terms of production and exports. Data that confirm a recent research by the OIV-International Organization of Vine and Wine, which showed a significant change in wine consumers’ preferences, pointing out that in recent decades the world wine sector has recorded a general positive trend in the production and consumption of white and rosé wines, strongly influenced by the rise of sparkling wines, and a decrease in red wines. Theme addressed by Confagricoltura, during the days of Vinitaly 2024, in Verona, in a meeting in which, in the light of Ismea’s timely data, representatives of several consortia of important appellations illustrated their situation, including difficulties, changes and surprises.
“The increase in whites and rosés has actually been quite moderate”, pointed out Federico Castellucci, president of Confagricoltura’s National Wine Federation, “and is attributable only to sparkling wines and not to still wines. The decrease in reds is particularly affecting the mass consumer markets, so it is necessary to understand what impact these two trends may have on our viticulture”.
“Exports, which are a necessity for Italian wine, dropped in 2023 to 21.4 million hectoliters (-1%) for a value of €7.8 billion (-0.8%), but the good news is that Italy is doing better than other countries”, explained Ismea's Tiziana Sarnari, “because of stocks. But holding out a little better does not mean winning, compared to what we produce. In 2014 the shares of reds and whites were almost equivalent, then in the middle of the same year the trend reversal with the increase of whites up to 62% reached in 2023, compared to 35.52% of reds and 2.8% of rosés. Impressive is the growth of sparkling wines in 10 years, both from a production point of view and in terms of both domestic and foreign demand. If in the PDOs the top 20 products add up to 77% of the value and 70% of the volume, Prosecco alone covers 23% of the value and 27% of the volume, and this well describes the shift to whites. Over the past 10 years, exports have grown steadily in value (+56% in 10 years), while volumes have remained essentially constant. Important signs of the shift in demand, consumption, and also exports, towards more qualified products. However, volume exports of still reds are declining (-9%) in favor mainly of exports of sparkling wines, which have more than doubled. Also in world production, the growth of whites continues: the 2014-2017 average gave them at 47.7% (44.7% reds), while between 2019 and 2023 they rose to 49.9% (reds to 42.3%)”.
The polarization of consumption on low and high-priced wines means that even in the face of volume declines, prices for PDO red wines are holding up, but nevertheless each appellation is a story in itself. “2023 saw a 20% drop in sales, but an increase in average value”, explained Christian Marchesini, president of Consorzio Vini Valpolicella, the most important red wine appellation in the Veneto region. “2024 got off to an uphill start, but we are optimistic for the second half of the year. To go along with the new consumption styles, we are meeting with producers to transfer the need to “lighten” our wines in a sort of “return to the future”, especially for Amarone, which until the 1990s of the last century was less alcoholic, for which we are reconsidering the management of the drying process, and for Valpolicella, which we are promoting as a wine to be consumed even served a little colder in the summer in even unusual pairings”.
Always a white wine territory, Friuli Venezia Giulia “since the birth of the Prosecco DOC with the Glera plantings has become even more characterized in white, a color in which it already excelled also for Pinot Grigio delle Venezie and for its historical DOCs”, pointed out Michelangelo Tambacco, vice-president of Doc Friuli, “the extraordinary performance of sparkling wines has also changed the vision of the wine entrepreneurs themselves, although in recent months there has been a physiological drop in Prosecco sales, but not in values”, and added that “probably the area planted with vines in Italy is now excessive and that we should also rethink the 1% annual replanting granted”.
The Marche region has a 70-30% ratio in favor of whites mostly represented by the Verdicchio wines of the Castelli di Jesi and Matelica PDOs, and tells of a trend that only 10 years ago seemed far away. “The perception of the value of whites is on the rise”, said Michele Bernetti, president of Imt-Istituto Marchigiano di Tutela Vini, which groups all the regional PDOs. “This is borne out by both the search for agé wines, with a number of years on their shoulders, and the increase in the average price, which has risen by 10%, thus more than inflation. Choices to create higher types on the quality pyramid, such as Riserva and Superiore, have also undoubtedly contributed to this”.
Significant is the Maremma phenomenon, in a red wine region like Tuscany, recounted by Francesco Mazzei, president of the Associazione Vini Toscana Dop e Igp (Avito) and the Maremma DOC Consortium. “As many as 58 PDOs and IGTs in Tuscany are too many”, Mazzei said, “and in 2023 we recorded -7% of bottled sales, perhaps due to a phenomenon of destocking. Out of 60,000 hectares 7,000 are planted with white varieties. Within this framework Maremma, which began as a red appellation, has turned to whites, now at 41% of the surface area, 31% of which is Vermentino, for which we have also provided for the Superiore category to avoid the “fashion” effect and consolidate its quality with a more restrictive specification. The wines of this PDO are the only ones with a positive sign (+2%) precisely thanks to the driving force of whites”.
“The world is changing, and as Confagricoltura we want to contribute to help farms at the time we are going through”, concluded Giovanna Parmigiani, “however, I want to be optimistic and hope that we will not have to reduce production by resorting to grubbing-up as is being done in France and California”.

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