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Published:  23 July, 2008

Nicolas Belfrage MW & Franco Ziliani

The prestigious Italian daily Il Sole-24 Ore has reported that wine consumption among Italians fell from 54.7 litres per capita in 2000 to 46.5 litres in 2001. The 15% fall has contributed to a massive 36.5 million hectolitre overstock, putting a completely new complexion on the rosy impression created in recent times of the state of Italian wine. While exports of the crus' have been climbing (2.6 billion lire in 2001) and auction sales and futures' of fine wines have boomed, the everyday sector of Italian wine production has languished, contributing to what could potentially become a dangerous situation. Providentially, along comes what promises to be a short vintage. While the south of Italy has been experiencing one of its increasingly paralysing droughts, the north and centre have suffered an excess of rain, causing cryptogams to flourish and necessitating frequent intervention. Given the effect of widespread and unusually violent storms during the first ten days of August - with hailstones as large as tennis balls devastating wide swathes of vineyard in Piedmont, Lombardy and western Veneto, and winds strong enough to uproot vines in parts of Tuscany and Le Marche - low predictions are being lowered further, to under 50 million hectolitres for the year.