2018 was a record year for the Italian wine industry in terms of production.
The country produced more wine that it ever had before, which is a clear sign of the growing demand for the product. The emerging markets in Asia will certainly have had an effect, as will growing demand in the United States.
The industry was riding on a high coming in 2019
But the wheels may have come off a little bit this year. According to recently released statistics, the Italian wine industry’s production levels will drop by 16% when compared to last year.
For those who feel worried straight away, let us assure you that plenty of wine’s still coming out of the country. In fact, the industry will produce over 46 million hectolitres.
That’s plenty to go around.
Still, the drop in production could potentially be cause for alarm to some in the industry. We’re going to take a look at a few reasons why this decline may have happened.
Reason #1 – The Record Year of 2018
Yes, as great as 2018 was in terms of production, it may have also made a bit of a dent in 2019’s production.
Think of it like this.
Retailers had their pick of a huge bunch in 2018. No matter what wines they wanted to supply, they’d be able to find them thanks to Italy having its record year.
But that overabundance of supply means that there’s likely quite a few bottles from last year left over. Some producers may have stock that they can still sell on, which means that producing the same volume of wine in 2019 would be a bad business decision.
As such, lower production levels may have been a purposeful choice in some cases. Producers that made more wine than they’d ever had before may have decided to hold off on production of their 2019 vintages so that they could sell off more of their 2018 vintages.
For their parts, retailers may have also overstocked thanks to the record year. This may mean that there’s a decrease in demand for 2019’s vintages, which the industry has had to account for.
Unfortunately, there’s little data available to confirm whether this is the case. That means this point is just speculation right now.
But what isn’t speculation is the effect that the weather has had on production this year…
Reason #2 – The Late Frosts
Frost is an absolute killer for grapes.
So when Italy experienced a second frost in April, producers all over the country had to take action. With their grapes in the early stages of development, they couldn’t risk allowing the frost to slow things down.
All across Italy, we saw producers lighting up their vineyards with torches in an effort to stave off the late frost.
The technique proved relatively effective, though we’re sure that more than a few producers had a couple of fire-related incidents that may have eaten into their production level.
More worrying are the effects that this second wave of frost had on those that came unprepared. It’s likely that the cold weather slowed down production and may have even led to some vines producing unsatisfactory grapes.
That’s unacceptable in the Italian wine industry, where reputation plays such a large part in a company’s success.
But it wasn’t just the frost that caused problems at the mid-point of the year…
Reason #3 – The Heatwave
In June of this year, much of Europe fell under the effects of a heatwave.
The French wine industry may have been one of the first to experience it. However, it seems like the Italian industry may have felt the worst effects. For whatever reason, the heatwave decided to linger in Italy a little longer than it did elsewhere.
Unfortunately, this made it even harder for producers to tend to their grapes. After taking measures to heat up their vineyards just a couple of months previous, they now needed to find ways to keep their crops watered as the sun blazed down.
Again, Italian winemakers are adaptable people and they came up with solutions. But we’re sure that this intense heat affected at least some vines, which would make them unusable for Italian wine production.
Combined, these two extremes of weather reveal a worrying problem for the industry – climate change.
We’ve spoken about this before and we’ve seen it manifest itself in 2019. The weather is getting more unpredictable and Italian winemakers have to find ways to adapt to it. Those who are a touch too slow will see their production levels hit. And even those that can adapt will find that the changes in weather have effects on their cycles.
Reason #4 – Pushes Towards Sustainability
There has been increasing concern that the push towards record breaking production levels has started to take its toll on Italian land.
An article in The Local it noted that some experts believe that Prosecco production levels, for example, are so high that they’re actively damaging the land.
Perhaps this is something that producers have tried to account for in 2019. Some may have focused on lower yields in an effort to give their land a break so that it can replenish itself for later years.
This is a constant concern for producers, which is why the last few years has seen such a heavy push towards organic and biodynamic farming methods.
Maybe it’s just a case that some producers have decided to ease up in 2019 so that they can break records again in a few years’ time.
The Final Word
One thing is for certain.
While the Italian wine industry may have produced a little less wine this year, it certainly isn’t time for panic stations just yet.
Remember that 2018 broke records.
It’s no real surprise that 2019 wouldn’t follow suit. We can’t expect the industry to break records year-on-year after all.
Combine that with some weather issues that caused a bunch of problems and you have plenty of reasons for lower production.
It will be interesting to see if 2020’s production levels rise or fall.