Published: 12:48, September 13, 2023 | Updated: 17:01, September 13, 2023
Nothing to toast, Italy loses wine-making lead to France
By Reuters

In this file photo dated July 29, 2022, Sergio Zingarelli, vice president of the Chianti Classico association, shows grapes on the vine already ripe before their time as Tuscany's famed wine and olive oil industry suffers from a heatwave and drought, in Greve in Chianti, Italy. (PHOTO / REUTERS)

ROME — Wine output in Italy looks set to fall 12 percent this year to below 44 million hectolitres after extreme weather and fungal diseases severely hit vineyards, Italian wine lobbies UIV and Assoenologi said on Tuesday.

The tumble means Italy will lose its position as the world's largest wine producer, with France set to reclaim the number one spot for the first time in nine years.

The decline in output should not cause alarm either, with existing stocks standing at more than 49 million hectolitres, the highest level for the last six years

In a joint statement with food and agriculture institute ISMEA, the lobbies said that northern Italian regions were set to register a small 0.8 percent growth in output.

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However, production was expected to slump around 20 percent in central regions and about 30 percent in the south, hit by a combination of bad weather and the impact of a fungus called plasmopara viticola, harvest forecast data showed.

The fungus, which attacks grapevines' leaves and fruits, causes a disease named grape downy mildew.

"The harvest we are facing is very complex, characterized above all by the effects of climate change which at the end of spring and beginning of summer caused pathogenic diseases such as downy mildew, floods, hailstorms, and drought," said Riccardo Cotarella, head of an association of wine experts, Assoenologi.

However, the quality of the wine would not be compromised, Cotarella predicted. "From the 2023 harvest we will certainly obtain good quality wines, with peaks of excellence," he said.

The decline in output should not cause alarm either, with existing stocks standing at more than 49 million hectolitres, the highest level for the last six years, said Livio Proietti, ISMEA's extraordinary commissioner.

A vineyard is flooded after heavy rains hit Italy's Emilia Romagna region, in San Giorgio near Forli, Italy, May 18, 2023. (PHOTO / REUTERS)

"The issue is not so much the loss of Italian leadership in terms of volumes produced, but rather the slowdown in domestic and foreign demand, which is lowering prices," said Proietti.

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A hectolitre is the equivalent of 100 litres, or 133 standard wine bottles.