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   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column Wine Tasting 
  Editorial Issue 98, Summer 2011   
Italy Versus France. Again.Italy Versus France. Again.  Contents 
Issue 97, June 2011 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 99, September 2011

Italy Versus France. Again.


 Italians can finally rejoice at a remarkable result which will change the fate of our Country and will make all wine producers happy and full of proud. Even more beautiful and taller. It is now official: Italy makes more wine than France! An incredible news, the news of the century, of course, just like the news of every vintage that, year after year, are announced as the one of the century. Let's be serious now. We make more wine than France. So what? What do they want to prove with that? What is the merit we can get from this? What is the contribution to the viticulture and enology of the Country, in the most significant term, that is quality? Pardon me for being ironic, but, frankly speaking - and, once again - I cannot really understand the importance of such a news. Making more wine than someone else really means being better or making a better wine? I have doubts about this, in particular, I don't understand this supposed merit if we compare the result with the other important figures of the world of wine making.


 

 The news has been spread by OIV, Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin (International Organization of Vine and Wine) and in Italy, the news has been spread by many, from newspapers to TV. Many have “forgotten” to spread the news in its complete form, by omitting, for example, some significant figures, very useful in order to fully understand the sense of the news, simply concentrating on the least important figure, that is quantity. According to this news, in 2010 Italy has produced 49.6 millions of hectoliters of wine, whereas France has “just” produced 46.2. A difference, in favor of Italy, of 3.4 millions of hectoliters. According to this result, in 2010, Italy is the first wine producer of the world, we are the country making the highest quantity of wine in the world. Quantity, this is the point. What do the other figures say? Those figures making a real difference for the prestige and economy of wineries?

 If we consider the importance of this news - not so important anyway, when there is no relation to quality - by considering the other figures, the meaning of the result seems to be quite different. According to the figures spread by OIV, in 2010 Italians have consumed 24.5 millions of hectoliters of wine, whereas the French did it better by consuming 29.4 millions of hectoliters. Therefore, the French have drunk almost more than five millions of hectoliters of wine than Italians. How comes, in Italy it is being produced more wine than France, although they consume a lesser quantity? Some could say Italy exports more wine, therefore this could explain the higher quantity produced in this country. True: Italy has exported 20.1 millions of hectoliters of wine, whereas France has exported 13.5 millions of hectoliters only. A positive figure, we could certainly say: Italy has exported 6.6 millions of hectoliters more than France, a quite significant result.

 In recent years, the export of Italian wine, in particular to the United States of America, has continuously grown up, probably winning the race against France. In other words, in the United States, when they decide to uncork a bottle of foreign wine, their preference is most of the times for Italian wine. The quality of Italian wine - this is undeniable - improved very much in recent years, something which has certainly been appreciated outside our Country, in particular when compared to French wines. If we consider this important result with the last figure spread by OIV - the one concerning the value of export - this result must necessarily be considered quite differently. The value of export for Italy is equal to 3.9 billions of euros, whereas France, although they exported about seven millions hectoliters less, has cashed 6.3 billions of euros. This value highlights two very important factors.

 The first one is that, in the other countries, Italian wine is cheaper than French wine, a factor which probably invites, in particular in these not truly prosperous times, to uncork a cheaper wine. The second one, and probably the most significant one, is that profit margin for Italian wineries exporting wine is lower than the one of French cousins. Italy exports and makes more wine, but makes a lot less money than France. This however brings to an important consideration: can it be Italian producers are forced to “undersell” their wines, probably because they make a lot of it, in order to avoid a dangerous accumulation and having the risk, not so light, to not sell the wine at all? In other words, it is better to sell a wine at a low price instead of not selling it at all or to sell it to distilleries, which is almost like not selling it. Maybe, could it be the French, once again, have understood that you can make a lot of money from wine, while producing a lesser quantity?

 If we consider the result of being the first wine producer of the world according to this aspect, it is evident it looks like a Pyrrhic victory. The consumption in Italy is going down, but they make more wine. The wine exported from Italy is going up, but the profit margin is not so high. Nevertheless, the French consume more wine than Italians and they make less, they export less wine and make more money. Making “more” is therefore better? It probably is not the case. Why are the French successful is making more money while exporting less? The answer could be banal: the quality of exported French wine is higher than the quality of Italian wine and therefore it has a higher value. Italy exports quality wine, but also - and maybe in higher quantity - ordinary wine, therefore if you want to sell it, you have to sacrifice your profit margin. Quality has a price, no doubt about this. And in the glass you need facts, not just words or supposed merits. Italy is the first wine producer of the world, but it also makes less money from it. And I cannot still understand the reason why we should be happy for a news like this.

Antonello Biancalana






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  Editorial Issue 98, Summer 2011   
Italy Versus France. Again.Italy Versus France. Again.  Contents 
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