The average Italian is drinking nearly a case of wine less than he or she did two years ago.
Italy’s wine consumption has reached a record low, falling from 54.7 litres per person in 2000 to 46.5l in 2001. This represents a drop of 15% in a year – over eight litres less per person, according to EU statistics published last week.
Other statistics mention a high of 36.6m hectolitres of unsold wine stocked in Italy’s cellars, compared with the 8m hl of Italian wine that was distilled into methylated spirits in 2001.
But worrying as the figures may seem, producers are taking them in their stride, arguing that Italians look for quality rather than quantity nowadays.
‘I’d take these statistics with a pinch of salt,’ Gianni Zonin, of Gianni Zonin Vineyards told decanter.com. Zonin has 1,800ha of vines, and produces 25m bottles from estates in seven Italian regions. ‘Our production covers all the wine sectors, from economic to premium wines. To me the market looks stable.’
Zonin said his business had only seen a 1% fall in consumption over the last five years and that was in the lower categories of wines.
Lamberto Frescobaldi, technical director of Marchesi de’ Frescobladi estates said, ‘The statistics show the new market trend. Our generation drinks less wine than our parents and grandparents. Today’s consumption levels are bound to go down. The main difference today is that this generation of wine drinkers are more discerning – they go for quality rather than quantity.’
Frescobladi estates hold over 1,000ha of vines, and include the prestigious joint venture between Ornellaia and premium Napa winery Robert Mondavi.
Roberto Bava, a small Piedmont producer selling 50,000 cases a year, agreed with Frescobaldi. ‘The reason we buy wine is less and less becuase we are thirsty, but because we want to nourish the brain. We are spending more to buy less.’
Bava said the trend had been the same for the last 10 years – and added that as a producer of premium wines he was on a boom. ‘I never sold so much wine as now.’
Written by Michele Shah6 August 2002