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EVERYONE'S MAD ABOUT ITALIAN FIZZ

EVERYONE'S MAD ABOUT ITALIAN FIZZ Rome (Ign) - It has become the undisputed protagonist of the world's tables, especially over Christmas. This is Italian sparkling wine, which in the last months of 2006 saw a boom in sales all over the world. So much so that connoisseurs drew up a list of rules to make sure it was appreciated at its best: it should not be served ice cold, but cooled in a bucket with crushed ice, and coarse salt; it should be served in glasses rinsed in hot water and unperfumed detergent (preferably in chilling shaped flutes, which allow the aromas to develop freely). This sparkling wine etiquette is fitting recognition for the long production process behind the drink, from the carbon dioxide made to dissolve in the white wine to the long fermentation and ageing, which is followed by careful temperature checks to obtain the right size gas bubbles - the smaller they are the higher the quality of the product. That is not to mention ageing and, above all, rèmuage (the bottle is rotated a number of times on its axis and inclined). The touch of superior quality however comes from an addition, as the bottle is topped up with a special wine called "liqueur d'expedition".

This, then, is a real art, which pays homage to a product which has by now become part of the collective imagination. It is no coincidence that according to the farmers' federation Coldiretti (www.coldiretti.it), in 2006, for the first time in history, the number of bottles exported exceeded 100m (+20% on the previous year). This excellent result is due to the strong boost provided by some particular markets: in the United States, for example, around 15 million bottles were sold, and Coldiretti feel that this figure in particular shows the importance of Italian sparkling wine on the international market, where more and more people are raising glasses filled with Italian wines. And it is not only the US that celebrates with Italian bubbly: record growth in demand for Italian sparkling wine has also been recorded in Japan (+ 62% in the first eight months of 2006), with a total of 4m bottles sold. In Europe, it is Germany (+13%) that most appreciates Italy's fizz, holding the position as its most important customer. In Spain, Italian imports have increased significantly (+113%), and even France, homeland of the prestigious Champagne, bought more Italian sparkling wine (+30%).

According to Coldiretti forecasts, which will not be confirmed before mid-February, between December and January in Italy 35 million bottles were uncorked. This would mean a higher figure than 2005, when Italian sparkling wine accounted on the domestic market alone for the impressive figure of €232m. This, then, is a source of pride for the Italian economic system, which acts as an ambassador for the quality of its companies the world over. This is so much the case that every year a "forum of Italian sparkling wines" is held between August and September. The event brings together all the producers, principally with the aim of discussing policies aimed at internationalisation and cooperation between the various production areas, which by now are found practically all over Italy. Although the most famous are in the North, such as Asti and the whole of Piedmont, Veneto, Lombardy and Trentino, the regions of the South have also shown significant increases in the number of wineries. This is a sign that the market is attractive and flourishing, and promises good earnings, also by virtue of the new international markets which have opened up recently and which have led the entire world to see in the new year with a toast to Italy.
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