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VINEXPO 2009: WHERE ITALIAN WINE BECOMES A SYNONYM FOR DRINKING CULTURE
The excellence of Italian wines can be summarized in one number: 477. This is the number, as of 31st December 2008, of quality certifications awarded to Made in Italy wines. Last year seven new certifications were awarded: five DOCGs (controlled and warranted designations of origin) and two IGTs (regional geographic indication). The most widely used denominations are the DOC, registered and guaranteed designation of origin (316), awarded to more than two thirds of the total, and the DOCG, which covers the remaining 8.6% (a total of 41 denominations). Despite the global economic crisis and a bad Euro/Dollar exchange rate, during 2008 the sector was nonetheless able to improve its performance on international markets: Italian wine exports have in fact risen by 2% to approximately 3.6 billion Euros. Excellent credentials, in the run up to the 2009 Vinexpo.
The Italian Trade Commission (ICE) has organised a joint participation project for Italian firms attending the event, which will be held in Bordeaux from the 21st to the 25th June 2009. The trade fair is one of the sector’s most prestigious showcases, as well as an important and dynamic occasion to compare international products and the various market tendencies. The last edition was attended by approximately 2,400 exhibitors from 45 countries, and there were more than 50 thousand visitors, an increase of 3.1% on the 2005 Vinexpo (the exhibition is held every two years). A third of those visiting were foreigners, confirming the increasingly international character of the event.
The majority of visitors to the Vinexpo comes from Western Europe, but the last edition saw a rise in the number of Asian buyers (12.7% of the total). The number of Chinese present, in particular, was two and a half times higher and growing interest from Russia, the Ukraine and other Eastern European countries was also confirmed in 2007. These trends seem destined to be repeated in 2009, providing Italian producers with hope of consolidating commercial relations with some of the markets where Made in Italy “reds” and “whites” are becoming more popular. In Russia, for example, imports of Italian wine rose by 36% in volume and 12% in value during 2008. The most recent forecasts predict constant growth in Russian uptake, to reach the same level as Western Europe in a couple of years time.
The growing presence of Far Eastern professional operators at the Vinexpo also offers the Italian firms present, all strongly export-orientated and with a traditionally stable and mature presence on the international scene, a concrete chance of striking up and consolidating business relations with a virtually unlimited market: potential Chinese wine consumers are in fact estimated to be between 5% and 10% of the population, or somewhere between 60 to 130 million people. Although wine exports to China remained almost static in 2008 (+1%), double figure performances in Hong Kong and Singapore are encouraging. Italy is also in a positive position in Japan, as the second exporter in a market worth 2 billion Euros, with a Made in Italy market share of 15% for still wines and 20% for sparkling.
These figures are more than reassuring, but in order to ensure Italian brands a constant presence on tables the world over, producers continue to work on export strategies. All the signs are there: today, Italian wine is well known and appreciated as a quality product, thanks to the hard work of producers, choosing to work with native grape varieties and simultaneously promoting themselves on an international level, exporting the winning image of quality lifestyle and nutrition. For the future, adequate professional figures are being developed so as to enhance the culture and transmit the wide variety of Italian wines, especially in those markets where Italy is still getting a foothold. To this end, initiatives aimed at the commercial phase and foreign promotion have already been launched, such as the creation of product agreements with large-scale retailers, to transmit the concept of quality wine to potential foreign buyers in the most efficient way.