Italian winemakers are picking their grapes and predicting a “very good year” for wine production, though prices are expected to remain flat or decline slightly after a spike in 2017, due to a particularly poor harvest.

Coldiretti, a farmers union in Italy, forecasts a 15% increase in wine production this season of 4.6 billion liters (1.2 billion gallons). This is up from 4 billion liters (more than 1 billion gallons) last year. The projection holds despite this summer’s hailstorms, wind damage and flooding.

Experts at Coldiretti say it was an abundance of rain that caused this year’s increase in production. In June, Italy saw 124% more rain than the historical average. Last year’s yields shriveled up to 30% on average due to heat and drought, causing one of the smallest crops since World War II.

“Climatic conditions have been ideal this year,” says Sandro Boscaini, president and CEO of Amarone producer Masi Agricola and chairman of Federvini, a trade organization for wine and spirits producers. “Also, in terms of quality, this year is going to be better compared with the last one.”

Elvira Bortolomiol, vice president of Prosecco producer Bortolomiol, says this year’s weather provided all the best ingredients for a perfect ripening of the grapes. “We expect to produce… 5% to 10% more than last year. It’s definitely a good year.”

Riccardo Pasqua, CEO of producer Pasqua Vigneti e Cantine, says, “Luckily, the crops weren’t hit by hail and temperatures were not excessive this summer, so we’re pretty optimistic.”

He expects wine prices will likely fall after the “explosion” seen last year.

“Last year, the poor harvest gave Italian producers a good opportunity to reposition on the markets, but I don’t expect repercussions on export prices this year. They will remain pretty stable,” Pasqua says.

Coldiretti forecasts a 5.9% increase in wine exports this year. In 2017, export revenues reached 6 billion euros ($7 billion).

“Until a month ago, some producers have tried to sell at higher prices, but now prices are falling,” says Riccardo Pecchioli, commercial director at Morellino di Scansano producer Fattoria Mantellassi, with over 214 hectares (531 acres) in the Tuscan hills. “Export prices will stand still this year as all the producers try to consolidate the positions they gained last year,” Pecchioli adds.

Stefano Chiarlo, winemaker at Barolo producer Michele Chiarlo Winery in Piedmont, says he expects this harvest to recover the 20% fall in yields from last year.

“The next three weeks will determine this year’s harvest, but according to the weather forecast we shouldn’t face big problems,” Chiarlo says.

He also anticipates a small price cut as a result of larger quantities, but adds his winery’s policy is to keep prices stable to avoid “scaring the markets.”

Copyright: Wine Enthusiast

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