Allegrini 2024

Tuscany, pillar of Italian wine, challenges markets and climate-change, looking to the future

One-third of the total vineyard area in the region is “organic” worth 17% of the national certified area. Numbers & messages from “PrimAnteprima”
Tuscany, pillar of Italian wine, challenges markets and climate-change

If in 2022, as a whole, wine Tuscany exported its products worth 1.2 billion euros, in the first 9 months of 2023, the region, suffered a drop in overall value of -7.5%, stopping at 852 million euros. A figure that should not frighten, however, also because it is parameterized to a record-breaking 2022 and perhaps too driven by the exit from the pandemic, as recalled, to WineNews, by Francesco Mazzei, president Avito, which brings together all the wine consortia of Tuscany. But that should be watched carefully, because Tuscany’s is a performance below the Italian average, “mitigated” by the export of the region’s PDOs, at -5% in value in the first 10 months of the year, (but -13% in quantity) to which 95.7% (against a national average of around 65%) of an overall vineyard area has been growing for 4 consecutive years, and is increasingly “green”, given that the Grand Duchy accounts for 17% of the organic vineyard area in Italy. Out of nearly 6,000 hectares of the Tuscan vineyard, in fact, 23,000 are certified organic, or 38% of the regional total. A figure that highlights the achievement and surpassing, well in advance, of the goal set by the European Union’s New Green Deal and the UN 2030 Agenda. These are the data that emerged today from “PrimAnteprima”, the traditional day that opens the Tuscan Wine Preview Week, the “wine week” in which new vintages are presented to the world, promoted by the Region of Tuscany (together with the Chamber of Commerce of Florence and organized by PromoFirenze, together with the Sistema Toscana Foundation).
The picture, then, is of a sector that is, in any case, strong and structured, the wine sector of Tuscany, represented by more than 12,000 wineries with an average of 5 hectares each and a modest propensity for the cooperative model (18%, compared to 50% at the national level), but one that faces the difficulties of the wine market, in particular, on the red wine segment, which is the vast majority of regional production. And that, in the coming years, it will also have to deal with less wine in the cellar, as 2023 production is down by -26% on 2022, mainly due to plant diseases suffered in the vineyard, in a context of a significant reduction at the national level due to the ongoing climate change.
Issues on which the region, by the way, as mentioned by Agriculture Councillor and vice president, Stefania Saccardi, is working to support businesses. At the national level, Tuscany is seventh in terms of wine produced. Its uniqueness emerges in being able to boast no less than 58 recognized geographical indications on its territory, including 52 PDOs (11 DOCGs and 41 DOCs) and 6 IGTs, which preside over almost all of Tuscany’s vineyard area. Two appellations dominate by extension: Chianti and Chianti Classico, respectively occupying 41% and 21% of the claimed area. A predominance that translates into the clear prevalence of Sangiovese (59%) among the vines raised in the territory, followed at a distance by Merlot (8%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (6%). Lower percentages for white grape varieties: Tuscan Trebbiano, which covers 4% of the area under vine, and Vermentino (3%).
At the production level, several factors contributed to the reduction in regional production, in 2023, from too low temperatures in budding to excessive spring rain that triggered fungal diseases, such as the severe outbreak of Downy mildew. According to the first, still provisional, elaborations edited by Ismea for the annual report for PrimAnteprima, 1.2 million hectoliters of Tuscan PDO wine were bottled in 2023, down 7.6% on the previous year, while PGI with 690,000 hectoliters was down 6%. As mentioned, at the market level, things are not going so well. On the export front, influencing the decline is the strong concentration of exports to the United States (31% of volume and 38% of value),
a market that is now undergoing a profound transformation (as reiterated by the analysis presented by Carlo Flamini, head of the Wine Observatory - Unione Italiana Vini, who had already dealt with the topic, of great interest for all Italian wine, given the weight of the States on exports, at “Amarone Opera Prima” in Verona, in recent days). The largest loss in exported volumes was, in fact, to Non-EU countries (-15%) compared to the -7% accrued within EU borders. It is precisely the reduction in U.S. demand (-20% in volume and -3% in value) that has a profound effect on the final result of Tuscan products. Germany, Canada and Switzerland are also bad, while in the UK the 9% reduction in volume is accompanied by a timid recovery in value (+1%). To support the promotion of Tuscan PDO wines in the world, the region has developed a package of measures through the 2023-2027 resources of the SPP Strategic Plan of the CAP: 6 million euros in 2024 for promotion in EU countries (including Italy) and 15 million between 2023 and 2024 to non-EU countries.
On the domestic front, on the other hand, in a general context of reduced household purchases, Tuscan PDO wine underperformed the Italian PDO sector. Domestic demand for Tuscan PDO wines, limited to purchases in large-scale retail formats, showed a reduction in volume terms of 5.8% versus -3.4% for total PDOs and -3.6% for still wines overall. In terms of spending, Tuscan DOC and DOCG wines showed substantial stability, guaranteed by the increase in average prices, which offset the drop in volume. Surprises come from the data on new Italian wine lovers: the categories of young prefamily and families with young children mark +3% and + 6%, respectively, compared to 2022. The largest buyers, 68%, remain the over-60s with middle-income, residing in the North Central. But if the market, sooner or later will return to growth, given the blazon and to the quality of the wines of Tuscany, also confirmed by the many awards of international critics, starting from the “Top 100” 2023 by Wine Spectator, which crowned Argiano’s Brunello di Montalcino 2018 at No. 1 overall, but also awarded as many as 7 Chianti Classico, for example, one of the biggest challenges of the present and the future is represented by climate change, which requires a rethinking of cultivation and management in the vineyard and in the cellar. As reported by Bernardo Gozzini, sole director of Consorzio LaMMA, in his speech today in Florence at PrimAnteprima, Italian agriculture is already showing signs of adaptation to the changed conditions: in the last 5 years, the cultivation of tropical fruits in Italy has tripled (banana, avocado, mango, to which experimental coffee crops are added). We are also witnessing “internal migrations” of particular varieties: industrial production of tomatoes is growing in the North (+27%) and falling in the South (-17%), vineyards are climbing over 1,200 meters high, while 10,000 olive trees are now growing in Valtellina. This is also why the Tuscany Region is pushing to incentivize innovative methods of cultivation and water management, experimental plants and precision agriculture: in fact, at the end of December 2023, the Pnrr Call for Proposals was approved dedicated to the modernization of agricultural machinery that allows the introduction of precision agriculture techniques. With a total budget of 22 million and 350,000 euros, the call grants capital contributions to agro-mechanical companies and micro, small and medium-sized agricultural enterprises and their cooperatives and associations, which intend to carry out, on their farms, projects for the modernization of their agricultural machinery fleet and investments in precision agriculture systems, for the efficiency of agricultural production. The measure helps support investments in machinery and equipment for precision agriculture, the purchase of electric or biomethane tractors for both agriculture and animal husbandry, and investments in smart management systems for irrigation and water management.

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