Following another successful preview week of Tuscany’s latest vintages, let’s take a look at the trends and challenges for the wine industry.
A recent report published by ISMEA (Institute of Services for the Food and Farming Market) shows that the Tuscan wine industry is made up of just under 12,500 producers that cultivate over 60,000 hectares of vines, producing 2.3 million hectoliters of wine in 2022, up by 12% compared to 2021. Dry spells and high temperatures, while causing more than a few problems, did not stop Tuscan production from returning to above average figures compared to recent years.
If we were to draw a national comparison, a regional ranking would reveal Tuscany as being in seventh place for the amount of wine produced, which is an average share of 5% of the total for Italy. The region’s uniqueness lies in being able to boast 58 recognized geographical indications, which are composed of 52 PDOs (11 DOCGs and 41 DOCs) and 6 IGTs, which control almost the entirety of Tuscany’s surface area under vine.
A hallmark of Tuscan wine production also lies in the high number of organically farmed vineyards. The latest available data (2021) indicates more than 25,000 hectares of organic vineyards, which represent 40% of the entire regional surface area under vine and 20% of the total organic vineyards in Italy.
What makes Tuscan winemaking unique is its success in reconciling the coexistence of different, seemingly incompatible worlds: large and small-sized wineries; red and white wines; organic and conventional; as well as a focus on only a handful of grape varieties that nevertheless elicit one of the broadest spectrum of nuances in Italy. A distinguishing trait, for instance, comes from the predominance of Sangiovese, which covers 59% of all vineyards in Tuscany, and yet results in varying expressions in the different wine regions and microclimates throughout the region. Merlot is the second most planted grape (8%), followed by Cabernet Sauvignon (6%). White grapes only occupy 4% of the surface under vine in Tuscany.
Tuscany produces a large quantity of PDO wines. In 2021, the region represented 8% of the PDO volume for Italy and produced 11% of the national value. According to initial reports, 1.3 million hectoliters of Tuscan PDO wine were bottled in 2022, down by 7% compared to 2021, while Tuscan PGI wines were down by 8% at 626,000 hectoliters. In 2022, a new record is expected in terms of revenue from the export of Tuscan PDO wines, which could exceed 690 million euro (+7%). Volume, on the other hand, is down by 3%, in line with the result for PDO wines throughout Italy.
The demand for Tuscan PDO wines mostly comes from non-EU countries. In 2022, when volumes were down by 3%, the export revenue from these countries was up by 10%. 57% of international wine shipments relies on the top three consumer countries—the US, Germany and Canada—with the USA alone representing 34% of volume and 38% of the value.
Lower consumption levels and unstable exports have certainly set alarm bells ringing for Tuscany, as one of the driving forces of the national wine industry, and for Italy, as a top global wine-producing nation. 2022 began with a new set of problems as the issue of adding health warnings on wine labels (about the risks of cancer and liver diseases linked to alcohol) arose in Ireland. This concern is compounded by global market uncertainties and rising costs that continue to complicate the livelihoods of producers.
Tuscany’s wine industry, synonymous of both quality and quantity, may be experiencing uncertain times, but the last three years have all been mired in problems and winemakers have always succeeded in finding the solutions needed to plough forward. Plus, the wines are better than ever.