Allegrini 2018

Top Italian wine denominations look, with concern, at the US lockdown

The presidents of Brunello di Montalcino, Barolo and Barbaresco, Barbera and Monferrato, Chianti Classico, DOC Sicilia, Bolgheri and Prosecco
Italian wine in front of the US lockdown

From Europe to the United States, the Coronavirus emergency has become global, and even those who initially took it lightly, treating it as trivial flu, are now forced to take draconian measures, following the example of Italy. Starting with Donald Trump: the US President has declared a state of emergency throughout the country, and the Governors have had no choice but to proceed with the closure of schools, universities, in many cases museums and, above all, catering activities. In other words, the main channel for Italian wine, especially that produced in the great territories of the Belpaese. And it doesn’t matter that, to limit the damage, everyone is guaranteed the possibility to make deliveries, because the open bottle at the restaurant, especially if of a certain level, is something else. Thus, for the names at the top of the Italian production pyramid, a new crisis front is opening up, after Asia, which is giving the first important signs of awakening, the internal market, and Europe, as the presidents of the Consortia of great wines of Italy told WineNews: there is a concern, but also the awareness that there is little we can do but wait and be ready, in the hope that the crisis will last as long as possible.
The first to sound the alarm about the prospects of the US market was the president of the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino Fabrizio Bindocci who, reiterating the closeness “to our American friends and aware that the restart will see us in the front row next to them”, underlined “an undeniable concern of our producers in terms of the market. Within a few days our biggest sales channel, the on-trade, stopped in the two main world markets: the USA and Italy represent on average 60% of Brunello's global sales. Now - adds Bindocci - we have to wait, and our wine knows how to do it, and observe the rules, waiting for our 2015 vintage to resume the race that was proving to be very promising before the stop, particularly overseas”.
From Piedmont, the president of the Consortium of Barolo and Barbaresco, Matteo Ascheri, says he is “worried because the risk now is that we can repeat everywhere - starting with the USA, which for us is worth 30% of the export quota, and is fundamental for our economy, like Germany, Great Britain, and Canada - the situation we are experiencing in Italy, with the boom in large-scale distribution and home consumption that does not concern great wines. Our economy is destined to suffer, but right now there is very little we can do, if not wait for the storm to pass, hoping for a prompt rebound in consumption and already working towards 2021”.
On the same line Filippo Mobrici, at the head of the Consorzio Barbera d’Asti and Vini del Monferrato, one of the most dynamic territories of the national wine scene, which shares “the concern for an emergency that will last for a long time, 2020 will be a difficult year, and the U.S., who took note of the situation last, are already starting to show the first slowdowns. For now, the decline is felt much more in other countries, but out of 65 million bottles produced, 10% fly overseas, on what is the richest market and capable of recognizing the value of our production, which is why we are particularly concerned. Much, however, depends on how long the emergency will last, if it is resolved in the space of a few months I believe in the rebound in consumption, in the USA as in the rest of the world. We note, however, starting from Italy, which is holding up Gdo, because those who are used to drinking well like to do it at home, and that’s what we hope will happen in the USA too”.
From the hills of Chianti Classico, for the president of the Consortium Giovanni Manetti, “the feeling is that in the U.S. in the coming weeks we are heading towards a stop to imports and purchases, as seen in Italy and Europe, where we are experiencing great suffering. For us, the U.S. is the leading market, worth 34% by value for Chianti Classico, but at the moment what gives us hope is Asia: from Seoul to Tokyo, from Hong Kong to Shanghai, after two months of crisis (and who knows what is not indicative, but also a good omen for Italy and the rest of the affected countries, ed.) At this moment, however, it is difficult to make predictions, the most important thing is to respect the rules and put health protection in the first place”.
On the Tuscan coast, in the heart of Bolgheri, Cinzia Merli, vice president - together with Priscilla Incisa Della Rocchetta - of the Consortium, led by Albiera Antinori, talks about “a limbo in which the whole world of wine is living. A very difficult moment to understand, in continuous evolution and concerning which there is little to do. In Italy, the market is at a standstill, and we expect the same to happen soon in the USA too, but the hope, which to date seems too optimistic, is that the situation will be resolved within the time it has been resolved in China. Difficult, because countries like Germany, France, Spain, and the United States, are only taking the first steps now, the important thing is that people are responsible for getting out of it altogether and start again, we are ready”.
The president of Doc Sicilia, Antonio Rallo, is also preparing for the worst, with an extra bit of displeasure dictated “by the extraordinary numbers of January and February, which we put aside, however, and from which to start again, the result of the excellent work done so far. Now, however, on-trade consumption in the USA is destined to collapse, just as it has happened here in Italy. It is difficult to make calculations or forecasts, for Doc Sicilia, which exports 56% of its production, the United States is constantly on the podium of the top markets, now we must understand if the measures taken are sufficient to contain the epidemic in a short time or if, on the contrary, the time will lengthen, precisely because of the delay with which certain decisions have been taken”.
Finally, the point of view of Stefano Zanette, president of Prosecco Doc, a sparkling wine that has become a real status symbol among US wine lovers in the last decade, which tells how “the signals we are witnessing at the moment are conflicting: from on one side the Ho.re.ca. in Italy, it has completely stopped, while the large-scale retail trade is showing signs of significant growth. As regards foreign markets, starting with the United States, but this applies to all the other countries, considering a hypothetical adoption of measures similar to the Italian ones, which from what we are told by the national press and the WHO have become a model, we expect a repeat of the same performance”.

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