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Prosecco Superiore: Growing with Sustainability

Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore confirms its place as Italy’s best-loved D.O.C.G. sparkling wine.

Demonstrating this fact are the figures of the Study Centre of the District for Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, presented on Saturday 15th December 2012 at Solighetto di Pieve di Soligo in the Province of Treviso.

In spite of the difficult situation currently affecting the Italian economy, the Denomination reveals a good state of health. An examination of its figures for 2011 confirms the trend which, from 2003 to 2011, has shown growth in volume terms of 74%, achieving a market of almost 70 million bottles and an increase in value of 68% compared to 2003, with sales of over 420 million Euros. The market is therefore rewarding the historic production zone for Prosecco which is, nonetheless, well aware of its future commitments. Foremost among these is to make viticulture more sustainable from an environmental point of view. With the aim of providing a comparison between that of Conegliano Valdobbiadene and some of the other most interesting experiences around the world, a number of authoritative speakers were invited to take part in the presentation on 15th December 2012, including Dominique Moncomble, Director of Technical Services for the Comité Interprofessionel du Vin de Champagne; Vasco Boatto, head of the Study Centre of the Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore District; Eugenio Pomarici, lecturer at Federico II University in Naples; Francesco Iacono, in charge of the Arcipelago Muratori project; and Giancarlo Gramatica,

Client Service Director of the SymphonyIRI Market Research Group.

In Italy

In the last nine years, growth in volume on the Italian market has revealed an average annual rate of 7.7%,with the wine’s best performances, relatively speaking, being in the macro-regions of the North-East (up 76.5% compared to 2003) and in the Central and Southern ones of the country (with average increases of 8%  each year). As regards sales channels, the supermarket sector has grown from 6.02 to 13.02 million bottles, showing an increase of 116.1% compared to 2003, as was pointed out in Giancarlo Gramatica’s speech. At the same time, HORECA and wholesalers, with over 50% of sales on the national market, confirm their fundamental role in highlighting the quality of the product, especially for those categories with the greatest added value.

Price levels, too, have remained firm: in spite of the difficult economic situation, the producers have succeeded in maintaining their positioning and in focusing 63.5% of their production in the Premium Wine segment.

Around the world

Today the wines of the Conegliano Valdobbiadene D.O.C.G. area are sold in over 80 countries, with a volume of more than 28 million bottles. The ex-cellars value of exports of Prosecco Superiore D.O.C.G. is estimated at around 115 million Euros, with an increase of 10.2% on an annual basis, and exports now represent 42% of sales.

This percentage demonstrates that this wine’s propensity for export is very close to that of Champagne and goes to show the growing appreciation for Prosecco Superiore D.O.C.G. among international sparkling wine consumers.  Germany maintains its role as the world’s leading market, achieving a market share in the last 9 years of over 5 million bottles (a gain in volume terms of 156.2%), while the North American market is in second place, with significant growth in exports encouraged by a rise of 180.8% in the U.S.A..

A positive performance has been registered in Switzerland, which stands out with its considerable increase in the last year (up 29.9%). The Denomination’s potential for growth has also been confirmed by the results obtained in other destinations both in Europe (e.g. Eastern Europe, Russia, Scandinavia, Benelux, etc.) and elsewhere (e.g. Latin America, Brazil, Oceania, Canada, as well as other countries in Asia and Africa).

From a survey of price levels in the four principal export markets (Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and U.S.A.) it emerges that – compared to the average for exports of Italian sparkling wines – Conegliano Valdobbiadene registers values that are generally some 40% higher.

Giving value to what sets us apart

With the introduction of the Conegliano Valdobbiadene D.O.C.G. and the creation of the Prosecco D.O.C., a need emerged for producers in the historic zone to differentiate their wines, giving greater value to those produced from grapes grown on hillside sites. This objective led to the creation of the Rive project, for wines made from individual vineyards located in the finest zones, often on precipitous slopes. This project is now starting to give very positive results. The figures in fact confirm that Superiore di Cartizze D.O.C.G. and Rive D.O.C.G. are positioned in the highest quality brackets: Ultra Premium for the former, Premium and Super Premium for the Rive category which, in the last year, has seen an increase in production of 60.8%.


The imperative for the future brings together Prosecco Superiore and Champagne: to render viticulture harmonious with the environment

The market is, then, rewarding the historic production area for Prosecco, the hills of Conegliano Valdobbiadene. The producers are not resting on their laurels, though, and are already thinking about the future. Their first commitment will be to reduce even further the impact on the environment and – to this end – the Producers’ Consortium has already put various operations into effect. The most important is undoubtedly the innovative Viticultural Protocol, the first self-regulatory code controlling the use by the producers of phytosanitary products, which will soon become obligatory. Alongside this, a great deal of experimentation is taking place, in fields such as the conservation of biodiversity and the valorisation of the landscape. Besides, sensitivity to such themes is increasingly strong even on the part of the producers, as evidenced by Vasco Boatto’s description of the survey carried out among the wineries making Conegliano Valdobbiadene. Many of these actions liken the Denomination to that of Champagne, represented during the meeting by Dominique Moncomble. Over the last few years, that iconic sparkling wine region has set up practical projects for reducing the impact on the environment, even giving itself targets and deadlines for diminishing the use of phytosanitary products and lessening emissions of CO2, just to give a couple of examples.

Many wine regions around the world, though – from California to New Zealand – are working towards these goals, as was demonstrated by Eugenio Pomarici. Even in Italy, however, there is no shortage of major projects that include some of the country’s most important wineries, as Francesco Iacono explained.

From the results obtained, moreover, a first survey has been outlined of bottling companies’ commitment towards sustainable grape and wine production, which reveals these firms’ involvement in:

a) actions and projects for valorising and conserving the environment and landscape of the D.O.C.G. area;

b) the production of energy from renewable sources;

c) adhering to virtuous procedures and behaviour patterns that call for the selective recycling of used materials;

d) the use of best practices that respect the methods of integrated, organic and biodynamic production;

e) adhering to the environment-friendly guidelines foreseen under the Viticultural Protocol.

In this regard, it appears significant to mention the area’s growing sensitivity towards innovative concepts such as the ecological footprint and training the workforce about themes regarding respect for the environment. These factors, together with the conservation of the environment and the valorisation of the (traditional/cultural) landscape, constitute points of strength for Conegliano

Valdobbiadene in so far as – as recent studies demonstrate – the ‘beauty of the landscape can have a positive effect on the perceived quality of Prosecco Superiore D.O.C.G. in the imagination of the consumer̕. In this respect, the price of the product represents a sign of a positive rapport with the perceived quality of the landscape and of the wine.

In this context one finds confirmed the importance of the contribution made by the training and research provided by close networking between businesses and centres of education – the School of Oenology and University departments above all – as well as by the relationships between companies, thus maintaining and reinforcing a climate of a real ‘Business School’.