- There is a high demand for Prosecco.
- The production of Prosecco DOC has increased to 627 mill. bottles.
- In 2021, 6,250 ha of Glera were also taken from IGT vineyards. For 2022, 7,200 ha have been requested.
- Forecasts for 2022 are difficult. Exports are expected to increase by 40% in the first quarter. Only Prosecco Rosé is below the 2021 performance.
- The consortium is investing heavily in research. For example, individual character traits of sub-zones are being looked at, also in a vintage comparison.
- Bottle shortages and significantly increased prices are a major challenge. At Bottega, there was a shortage of 300,000 bottles in the last two months alone - and that in the face of rising demand. Price increases will be unavoidable.
Italy's star export is expanding its market share and conquering new ones. The northern Italian favourite now travels as far as Togo, Laos, Ghana, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Cape Verde, and even Guam - to name just a few of the more remote destinations. Market expansion requires increasing availability. Since 2011, the consortium has been blocking and placing quotas on new plantings of the Prosecco variety Glera for the DOC register in order to protect quality and prices. However, from 2020 to 2021 alone, production has increased by 127 mill. bottles to 627 mill. bottles – and that is only for Prosecco DOC.
New Acreage from the IGT
To counter this onslaught, the consortium came up with a stroke of genius: in 2021, 6,250 ha of Glera were borrowed from IGT vineyards. "Together with the certification institute Valoritalia, we set up a control system to check all Glera vineyards. Only vineyards planted in Veneto before July 31, 2018, and in Friuli before July 31, 2017, were eligible. If they complied with DOC standards, for example the planting density was correct, they could be included," explains oenologist Andrea Battistella, responsible for the economic and legal area in the consortium.
This solution does not mean in any way whatsoever that the borrowed hectares can merge into the DOC. A new special permit must be requested for each harvest. But how to deal with 2022, the year of total uncertainty, the year of unprecedented obstacles?
Balancing Harvest Reserves and Further Growth
The consortium is arming itself with measures to cope with both a decline and an increase in demand. DOC-eligible Glera grapes from IGT vineyards have again been requested for the 2022 harvest, this time a bold 7,200 ha worth. At the same time, all emergency brakes are in place: The normal yield per hectare has been reduced from 18 to 15 tons in case the markets give way. The rest will be put into storage. Since the vintage so far has been positive and promises good yields, a harvest reserve is activated in addition to storage: In particularly favorable vintages, DOC regulations allow the maximum yield to be increased by up to 20%. "On some vineyards, this may be the case this year. The producer is physically allowed to harvest around 20.5 tons, but only 13 remain directly available to him or her," explains Battistella. If sales continue to pick up, the blocked quantities can be released successively as needed. If not, the retained volume will prevent prices from falling.
Belgium: In a Prosecco Frenzy?
Enormous growth rates have been recorded for Prosecco DOP exports to Belgium. Spumante is up 95.1% and Frizzante is up 340.1%. Is Belgium in a Prosecco frenzy? Andrea Battistella got to the bottom of the phenomenon and scoured the European customs reports - and lo and behold, a British food retailer has relocated its headquarters from London to Belgium. As a result, an additional 175,962 hl flowed from Brussels to the island last year. The figures for Great Britain would also give a distorted picture without this background information.
Germany: Spumante Sales Increasing
German Spumante sales increased by 23.1%. At the same time, the purchase of Frizzante was barely affected (-0.8%, export share of 41.6%).
"Germany is doing well, consumers are increasingly buying drier Proseccos and spending more money. Prosecco owes a lot to Germany. It was our first market after Italy," explains Luca Giavi, director of the consortium. This year the consortium is spending €9.5 mill. on promotions, and it has increased its spending on research by 115% to €800,000.
"On the one hand, we put a lot of money into the elaboration of economic data, which is fundamental for the management of DOC. On the other, we are investing in research to improve operations in the wineries. This includes sustainable aspects, such as water recycling, as well as the technology used in the sparkling wine production," explains Giavi.
Research into Different Viticultural Conditions
The consortium is also researching the particular characteristics of individual subzones. "The growing conditions are different on the hills of Padua, in the karst area, in the stony riverbed of the Piave or, for example, in the area of Belluno, where the Dolomites have a strong influence. From the respective subzones we vinify the Glera by single-vineyards, then repeat this each year to find out if specific character traits are confirmed also in different vintages. This is a long-term study, but it could lead to the introduction of additional geographical indications on the label within five years," says Luca Giavi.
It's also good for the image of Prosecco to differentiate the growing areas and give them their own expressions within this huge DOC that is scattered over nine provinces in Veneto and Friuli. Whether the consumer will ultimately be able to appreciate the differences is another matter. But that also applies to the site indications in the prime DOCGS of Tuscany or Piedmont.
Production with Obstacles
Production is currently difficult for producers. One example is the shortage of bottles and many other materials that, like aluminum, are more expensive and slower to be delivered. Bottega announced in mid-June 2022 that bottling had come to a standstill several times. In the last two months alone, there was a shortage of 300,000 bottles and this was in the face of increasing demand. Valdo is currently delivering 2-3 weeks later than usual. It needs over 21 mill. bottles a year, 13 mill. of which are for Prosecco DOCG and DOC.
Managing director Massimo Poloni gives four reasons:
- Rising consumption after Covid:
All major markets took off almost simultaneously. The supply chain has not been able to cope with the level of demand.
- Switch from plastic to glass containers:
There is a higher demand for glass. Many consumers have switched because they believe glass is more sustainable.
- Italian oligopoly:
Italy has only two major glass producers, Verallia and OI.
- Silicon shortage:
Ukraine is one of the largest suppliers of silicon, which is needed to make glass.
"We buy from Verallia, from OI and a little from Zignano from the Marzotto family, but the operation is much smaller. Verallia had two production plants in Ukraine that were first evacuated and then bombed. This led to a total breakdown, but in the meantime, production has been relocated," says Poloni, outlining the dramatic situation. Price increases are no longer negotiated, they are decided unilaterally.
No demand problems
The winegrowers' cooperative network La Marca Vini e Spumanti, the largest producer of Prosecco DOC and DOCG with 50 million bottles, claims "to be able to keep production going with some difficulties and cost increases." Like most other Prosecco producers, La Marca has no problems with demand. "Our growth is not in specific markets, but is homogeneous with our main foreign customers," reports president Valerio Cescon.
The price increases on the German market are not being taken lightly, and Prosecco Rosé has not (yet?) proved to be the big seller there either. ”Sales of Prosecco Rosé have increased somewhat compared to last year, but I can't see the big hype," informs Ralf Kastner, managing director of deuna GmbH & Co. KG, retail specialist for Italy. He has not completely passed on the current price increases of 10% to 14%. Prices had also been increased in the previous two years - but only in single digits. "Falling margins are no fun in the long run either," says Kastner, voicing the thoughts of his colleagues.
Nothing is known for sure. The consortium has developed adaptive tools to maneuver Prosecco DOC through every conceivable market scenario with as little damage as possible. The effect of the price increases cannot yet be determined everywhere; Italy's food retailers, for example, have not even passed them on yet. Prosecco DOC must indeed be careful not to lose one of its most convincing characteristics: Being an uncomplicated and also recognizable source of joy that very, very many people around the world can afford.
- Vineyard area in 2021: 28,100 ha, of which 6,250 ha were permitted through a temporary derogation (vineyard area in 2020: 24,450)
- Production area: the regions of Treviso, Vicenza, Padova, Venezia, Belluno (Veneto); Pordenone, Udine, Gorizia and Trieste (Friuli)
- Winegrowers: 11,609
- Wineries: 1,189 (2020: 1,169)
- Sparkling Wine producers: 347
- Major export destinations 2021: Great Britain (24.5%), USA (23.6%) and Germany (9.1%)*
- Market 2021: 79.5% export, 20.5% Italy
- Bottling 2021: 627 mill. bottles (2020: 500 mill.)
- Market value (estimated): €3 billion (2020: €2.4 billion)
- Grape varieties 2021: 85.26% Glera, 5.5% Chardonnay, 3.67% Pinot Grigio, 4.23% Pinot Nero (vinified with skin contact), 1.2% Pinot Bianco, 0.1% Pinot Nero (vinified white), 0.3% Glera Lunga, < 0.01 Perera, < 0.01% Bianchetta, < 0.01% Verdiso
Source: Consortium Prosecco DOC, June 2022