There has always been something of a rivalry between Italy and France when it comes to which country is truly the top wine producer in the world. Any connoisseur will be able to tell you that both have produced some of the finest vintages to ever see the light of day and there is an enormous amount of respect held between both nations when it comes to their respective wine industries.
However, there is also something of a competitive edge between the two, especially as they vie for the right to be called the biggest wine producer in the entire world. France has held the title in recent years, barring a blip in 2011. Their continued expansion into the Asian market has offered the country an opportunity to enjoy a market that Italy is only now finding its feet in, while both countries enjoy a fairly equal production capacity in terms of the amount of producers making their wines.
Despite this, it was recently revealed that Italy have once again overtaken France as the biggest producer of wine in the world. Let’s take a look at how that happened and what it might mean for the future of the wine industry on an international level.
How It Happened
Recent data unveiled by the European Union (EU) has shown that Italy has taken the crown as the world’s biggest wine producer in 2015. However, at this point it does not look like it was increasing demand that played the largest part in the switch.
Instead, it all comes down to the weather. Italy has had the benefit of experiencing extremely favourable weather during the course of the year, which has allowed for a much larger harvest of grapes than would normally be expected.
By contrast, France has suffered somewhat thanks to a heatwave in the country leading to a lack of rain. All of this has meant Italian wine production for the year has increased by 13% when compared to 2014, whereas the French industry has actually experienced a 1% reduction in the amount that they have produced.
To put it into straight figures, Italy’s output amounts to 48.8 million hectolitres, whereas France stands at 46.4 million. Both are still quite a fair distance ahead of nearest competitor Spain, which managed to produce 36.6 million hectolitres.
Not only does this means that the Italian industry has been able to produce more wine, but it may also have an effect on the prices placed on those wines. Some of the worst affected areas of production in France are likely to make the decision to place a higher price tag on certain vintages due to the lack of availability, which may see more people decide to purchase from Italian producers instead.
It is also important to note that it is not just quantity where the Italians have managed to top their French counterparts this year. After all, French Champagne has seen increasing levels of competiton when it comes to sparkling white wines, with Ferrari (Trentodoc) managing to win the prestigious title of sparkling wine producer for the year as well.
So what does this mean for the greatest rivalry in the wine industry going forward? As of now it is fairly difficult to say. While Italy holds the crown at the moment, it may only take a year where weather conditions are reversed for France to take it back. After all, even with unfavourable weather, they were still only 2 million hectolitres behind Italy, despite Italy enjoying much finer conditions.
These figures also don’t take demand into account and how the market is set to change over the coming years. Recently, France has experienced something of a strong period in the emerging Chinese market, for example, whereas Italy is only now beginning to realise the potential of the market and the unique demands that is places on wine producers.
In fact, Italy only sits as the fifth highest exporter into the market, compared to France at the top of the list. As Chinese wine tastes change, will there be potential for Italy to increase the volume of wine that it exports into the country? If that is the case, the increased levels of demand could lead to Italian producers opening more vineyards and producing even more wine, which could mean that it’s not just the weather that affects the results in the coming years.
However, that expansion is likely going to be a fairly long-term process, with some analysts claiming that it may take as much of a decade for Chinese tastes to change to the point where it is viable for mid-level Italian producers to expand into the market. At the same time, this change in demand could also positively affect the French industry as well, unless Italy continues to lay the foundations for establishing itself as one of the region’s top suppliers.
As such, it is anyone’s guess as to who will hold onto the crown next year, never mind ten years into the future.
Italy is the top producer of wine in the world for 2015, which is a title that it will proudly carry into next year. Not only has the country produced the largest amount of wine, but Italian winemakers have received a number of prestigious awards during the course of the year that suggest their products have beaten their French counterparts when it comes to quality as well as volume.
To maintain this level of success, the industry must take advantage of its increased level of production to ensure that demand stays high, particularly for midrange products. Furthermore, the Italian wine industry must begin to take advantage of the emerging Asian market and its changing attitudes towards wine, making whatever moves need to make to position itself as a top supplier as more people in China and Hong Kong begin to search out other types of wines to those that are currently popular in the country.
The French, in the meantime, will surely commend the Italians for this year’s victory while waiting patiently for the chance to take back the crown in 2016.