Italy is the world’s largest wine producer. According to the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV), last year Italy kept its top position with a production of around 48.5 million hectoliters, followed by France and Spain. It is also on the exporters’ podium, selling wine for over $6.8 billion abroad, only preceded by France. The national market is also increasing, both in consumption and economic value. A few weeks ago, on the occasion of the Vinitaly exposition, an international fair, the Italian news agency ANSA announced a 2.8% growth of the wine’s financial worth within the national market. The economic value is estimated to be around $16.18 billion.
Data by the National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) showed that, within last year’s total production, more than 20 million hectoliters were granted the highest classifications of origin, meaning the DOGC and DOC labels. This is why Italian wine remains a quality assurance for consumers all over the world. With sales both abroad and within borders rising, the turnover of Italian wineries is following the trend. Analysts are positive regarding 2019, confident that the rising Chinese market will become fundamental for Italian exports.
Five years ago, the Italian bank Mediobanca published a study that showed how sparkling wine’s exports played a key role in enhancing the sector, both abroad and in Italy. The bubbly Prosecco seems to be the choice for many sparkling wine lovers who are ditching its more expensive cousin, the Champagne, in its favor. Prosecco is typical of the north-east region of Veneto, an area that has been changing to meet the requests of this profitable market, adapting the landscape to its needs. The global success transformed the place of origin of the sparkling wine, converting the countryside into an endless vineyard.
Over the years, when Prosecco became pure gold for these provinces, vineyards kept multiplying and, while tourists enjoyed the postcard scenery of the Veneto’s hills, the soil became more and more saturated. People were planting grapevine everywhere: in backyards, along the streets, by other cultivations. In a little over five years, the ground dedicated to vineyards enlarged by 80%. The territories of Prosecco, adjacent to the Alps, started losing their forests to make space for the grapevine’s cultivations, but the loss of biodiversity did not seem to be a problem since anyone had seen before a turnover as big as the one the Prosecco brought.
The taking over of the vineyards is not only threatening diversity in the environment but it is also damaging the surrounding flora and the health of the people living in the area. In fact, in this wine-growing region, the use of pesticides is both concentrated and widespread. Since the soil is not able to support on its own such a broad area of intense cultivation, the use of chemical products has made itself necessary to keep up with the current levels of production. People have started to worry about the air they breathe and the food grown near the vineyards. Residents have been taking up a series of initiatives against the use of these toxic products, as the quality of the air dropped posing a risk for the residents’ health. The nomination of the Prosecco’s region to become a UNESCO World Heritage a few years ago has put the issue under the spotlight. Local administrations have tried to limit and regulate the use of pesticides, but the problem cannot be fixed overnight.