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Sales of Italian wine suffering but sparkling wine faring better

by Emanuele Scarci

Slowdown in the US, growth in China. Wine Monitor's forecasts on purchases of wine in the top eight markets (which account for approximately two thirds of world imports) are decidedly negative: the US are likely to close the year with a less than 2% growth over 2015, the UK will import less wine (-9%), and so will Germany (-4%) and Russia (-3%). On the positive side, Japan will post a 3% increase whereas China will continue to grow at a considerable pace, almost +20%.

In September, sales of Italian wine in China exceeded €90 million worth. However, despite a 28.1% increase in sales of Italians wine, China, which ranks fourth among global wine buyers, still only ranks tenth for Italian wines, with a 5% market share. No doubt this will be one of the main topics of discussion for a convention slated for take place on December 6 at Veronafiere's wine2wine event, titled “The wine market in China: what next?”

Ups and downs
Overall, this year is a whole different story from 2015, which saw the overall value of imported wine rise by 10% also thanks to the stronger dollar.

“In a market scenario characterized by more darkness than light,” remarks Denis Pantini, head of Wine Monitor Nomisma, “Italian wines are affected by these same set of uncertainties. Downturns are generalized and spare only a few large exporters.”
The decline concerns bottled still wines (over 70% of world wine trade), while sparkling wine imports continue to grow, Prosecco first and foremost, leaping up by +30% both stateside and in the UK.

America remains key
The general trend does not concern the Santa Margherita group.
“We have reported growth, on a volume basis, too, in our traditional markets,” says CEO Ettore Nicoletto. “The trend is extraordinary, +40%, but it's affected by the launch of Santa Margherita USA, headquartered in Miami. We are also seeing widespread growth in the UK and Asia; also,Australia has become one of our major markets.”

The Venetian group is going strong with its Pinot Grigio as well as Prosecco and Chianti.
“It is significant that we are not overfocused on Prosecco,” adds Nicoletto. “Our growth is based on a well balanced range of products.” In 2015, Santa Margherita saw a turnover of €118 million, with 19.1 million bottles sold: an average of €6.2 per bottle. Finally, Nicoletto remarks the importer and distributor, Santa Margherita USA, “will even exceed the break-even that had been forecast for the first year.”

Overcoming obstacles
The closing comments are Nadia Zenato's, of the eponymous winery: “We have noticed that after the US elections, the market is going through a period of stagnation, but American consumers have proven they can overcome any difficulties. Moreover, the stronger dollar comes to our aid. In the US, we've had the same importer for 38 years and remain optimistic.”

Zenato reports a weakening of the British market and a stable German market. Does it help to have Valpolicella wines in one's range of products? “Absolutely – Zenato replies –, not just Amarone but wines like Lugana, as well.”