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Allegrini 2018
CONTAIN THE CRISIS

Yield cut, between those in favour and those against, here is how the top denominations move

WineNews: Valpolicella, Prosecco Valdobbiadene, Brunello, Chianti and Etna on the yes front, Chianti Classico and Barolo and Barbaresco against
AMARONE, BARBARESCO, BAROLO, BRUNELLO, CHIANTI, CHIANTI CLASSICO, CONSORZIA, crisis, ETNA, MONTALCINO, PROSECCO, PROSECCO VALDOBBIADENE, SOAVE, VALPOLICELLA, WINE, yields, News
The rows of vines of Chianti Classico

Among the measures that the great territories of Italian wine can resort to, to try to respond to the difficulties that the wine sector, as well as the whole Italian economy, is going through, affected even more than others by the lockdown decided all over the world to stop the Covid-19 emergency, there is the cutting of yields. A decision that concerns the wines with the denomination, and that only the Consortia, by the majority, can take. But also a measure that does not meet the needs of everyone, as we will see in the analysis of WineNews among the major denominations of the Belpaese. From the “yes yield cut” front, which includes the Wines of Valpolicella, Soave, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, Pinot Grigio delle Venezie, Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti, to the “no yield cut” front, which includes Prosecco, Barolo and Barbaresco and Chianti, each in a different way and with different motivations and countermeasures. As said, a great territory that has decided to reduce yields is that of Brunello di Montalcino, but, as the president of the Consorzio, Fabrizio Bindocci is keen to point out, “it is not an anti-COVID measure, also because the 2020 vintage will only go on the market in 2025, but since 2007 we have been bringing yields from 80 to 70 quintals per hectare, in a wide-ranging strategy that aims at the quality that distinguishes our productions. This year, as a Council, we have written to all members via Pec, given the situation, receiving a broad consensus, so it is a measure that we can consider absolutely as the official”.
Remaining in Tuscany, Chianti has also approved the measure, “for a 20% cut in yields”, as the president of the Chianti Consortium, Giovanni Busi, tells WineNews. “The drop in sales for our denomination will not be so great, we estimate to lose 10%, because in Italy and around the world 70% of our turnover is linked to large-scale distribution, and 30% to the Horeca channel. The 20% cut, however, also responds to another need, namely to rebalance a warehouse where stocks are stored 15-20% more than normal. Be careful, however - warns Busi - to believe that things are going well in Chianti: the macro data does not represent the state of health of hundreds of small and medium-sized winemakers who, on the contrary, are in great difficulty. In this sense, the measures proposed by the government, especially in terms of access to credit, are only good on paper, because in practice we are facing the obstacle of bureaucracy, which makes everything complicated. We are certain that from autumn everything will be back on track, the problem is how we will get there”.
The choice of Chianti Classico is different, as President Giovanni Manetti explains to WineNews. “Cutting the yields is not a measure that we will adopt, we do not believe it meets our real needs. Instead, we welcome the Ministerial measure of a voluntary reduction of at least 15% on the average of the last five vintages, a solution that also brings liquidity to local wineries, given that the state has allocated 100 million euros. Important resources, but which we hope the Region of Tuscany decides to integrate with other funds. And then, there is another initiative, foreseen by DL Cura Italia, on which we are working: access to bank loans by guaranteeing the wine still in the cellar to age. The agreement with one of the main banking groups in the country - concludes Manetti - is close”.
Everything as before, in terms of yields, also in the Langa, where the Consortium for the protection of Barolo, Barbaresco, Alba, Langhe and Dogliani, where, as President Matteo Ascheri recounts, “the proposal for a reduction in yields was rejected by the Council, which, instead, approved the reduction in excess and the harvest reserve equal to 10% of the maximum permitted the production of grapes for DOCG Barolo and Barbaresco. These measures, however, will now have to pass the Assembly's scrutiny, at the beginning of July, to become effective”.
In Sicily, there is still nothing official, because every decision “will be taken by the Assembly on July 9,” Antonio Benanti, president of the Etna Doc Consortium, told WineNews. “There are two important proposals on the table, one foresees a reduction in yields, only for the Etna Rosso type, from 90 to 70 quintals per hectare, the other is to stop the new plants for three years, starting in 2021. The first is a tactical proposal, limited to the 2020 harvest, we could say precautionary because we have not found major problems in the markets. It must also be said that, on average, yields are already well below the limit. The stop to new planting, on the other hand, responds to a more far-reaching strategy, which we could call growth management. Etna - recalls Benanti - has grown a lot in recent years, and perhaps it is time for a pause for reflection, to reflect on how to continue to enhance our production. However, only on 9 July will we know if our proposals will be accepted, and to what extent, we could also agree to a smaller reduction in yields, or a stop to new plants postponed”.
In Veneto, the Consorzio Vini Valpolicella, led by the president Andrea Sartori and the director Olga Bussinello, has decided to reduce the maximum yield of the vineyards from 120 to 100 quintals per hectare, with sorting of grapes for the drying of Amarone and Recioto equal to 45%, in addition to the total blockage of the plants in the denomination for another 2 years. These measures approved overall by a large majority of the members, which according to the Consortium were necessary due to the Coronavirus effect on the domestic market and more on the international market, where almost 3/4 of the value of sales of Amarone, Ripasso, Valpolicella and Recioto pass through.
Similar moves have also been made in the Soave hills, where the Consortium, led by its president Sandro Gini and director Aldo Lorenzoni, continues to follow the polar star of the productive balance, “which has brought important results in terms of values, by prudently choosing to decrease yields for the 2020 harvest, from 150 quintals per hectare for the DOC to 130 quintals per hectare (-13%) and from 140 quintals per hectare to 130 quintals per hectare (-7%) for the Classic and the Colli Scaligeri area”.
Even the Doc delle Venezie, the “home” of Italian Pinot Grigio (of which it represents more than 80% of production, ed), although it has so far passed almost unscathed the first few months of 2020, has asked the relevant Regions (Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Trentino), the green light to reduce yields and storage. With the Consortium, led by Albino Armani, who, however, “calls for an alliance of the Docs of the Northeast to support balanced management of Pinot Grigio and a fair distribution of value. The bottling data at the end of May are substantially stable on 2019 (+0.39%, for 611,167 hectoliters), and this is good news. But the next few months will be, as for everyone, uncertain as the harvest approaches.
On the same line is Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, where “the 2020 harvest yields will be reduced from 135 to 120 quintals per hectare”, as Innocente Nardi, president of the Consorzio Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, announced a few days ago. “The decision to contract production goes in the direction of not giving room for speculation, all the more so as the seasonal trend is favoring lower productivity due to much lower bud fertility than in 2019. At least for now we will not adhere to the proposal to freeze the vintage put forward by the Prosecco Consortium, but we will continue to carefully monitor the vineyard, then, at the end of June, we will make our decisions on the matter”.
Finally, the strategy of the Prosecco Consortium, which, among the measures taken to deal with the difficulties, did not include cutting yields. Which, as the president Stefano Zanette explains to WineNews, “remains at 180 quintals per hectare. We have provided for preventive storage instead: if there is a need it will be put back into circulation, otherwise it will be taken out of production. Another measure we took was to subtract from table wine production the 20% share of grapes over 180 quintals, or 36 quintals of grapes per hectare, which will be used exclusively for the production of must, vinegars, grape juice or distillates. In essence, only Prosecco Doc wine will be produced from the Prosecco Doc vineyards”.

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