Pierpaolo Penco, Country Manager for Italy, discusses how Sicily is an increasingly popular sparkling wine producer and what this may mean for other lesser-known areas producing sparkling wine
Sparkling wine is growing rapidly, both in terms of production and from a consumer perspective. Many people are reaching for a glass of bubbly these days and wine producers are listening to this demand – even in areas where sparkling wine is not historically produced. Today, more and more wineries seek to complete their range with one or more sparkling wines in order to reach these consumers. But along with finessing the production process to create a sustainable and palatable oenological product, producers must think hard about how to reach their target audience.
One area joining this sparkling wine craze is Sicily. Sicily is currently experiencing a new renaissance with wine, both in terms of production and marketing. Unlike other Italian regions seeing a decrease in sales, Sicily is seeing positive growth. The regional appellation ‘DOC Sicilia’ was established in 2011, and in just a few short years, it, and the Consortium that manages it, have produced 100 million bottles of wine, out of a potential 600 million (Sicily is the fourth largest Italian region by volume and first by size of vineyard). In fact, with its five million hectolitres, Sicily alone produces as much wine as South Africa and three times as much as New Zealand. In addition to wineries producing more, they are also raising their quality standards to reach the premium segments in many different markets. And because of this new target audience, the Consortium, with the help of Wine Intelligence, has been monitoring the effectiveness of their promotional activities.*
Sparkling wine is driving both domestic sales in Italy and exports from Sicily, too. Due to this focus and interest in the category, a ‘Sicilia Sparkling’ workshop was held on the 24th of May 2019 in Marsala. This workshop included wine professionals reflecting on production techniques, language, packing and market opportunities that could give even more credibility and recognition to Sicilian sparkling wines, which are just now beginning to be recognised.
During Wine Intelligence’s presentation at this workshop, I discussed the dynamics of export markets and the trends of sparkling wine consumption around the world in order to understand consumers and the potential opportunity for Sicilian sparkling wines in various reference markets. As consumers in each target market varies, so must the marketing message. For instance, the US should focus on Millennials due to their open-minded attitude. But how might Sicilian wines reach those in the UK versus China?
In addition to thinking about exports, one cannot ignore the domestic market of Italy. There are 49.7 million adults in Italy and a total of 31.6 million consumers who drink different types of sparkling wine every year. So how do we create a niche reason for consumers to drink Sicilian wines specifically? This is a topic that will need continual discussion in order to stay in the top of consumers’ minds.
But Sicily is not the only Italian sparkling wine seeing potential. Prosecco has seen growth across many export markets – so what opportunities are there and what future threats face Prosecco and all Italian sparkling wine in general? Although Italian sparkling wines are proving to be successful, their market shares are still divided into a number of countries that may be too small to make much of an impact. (For example, the first four markets account for 65% of exports in comparison to the 43% of Champagne). Therefore, wineries must learn to build credible, strong brands that will drive sales even more.
Many Wine Intelligence reports, especially those on China – see China Landscapes 2019 for the most recent example – we have repeatedly highlighted how imported wine consumers, particularly young females, are opening up more to sparkling wines compared to older generations, especially if the bubbles are accompanied by a slight sweetness or mild acidity. So, with this information, can we hypothesise that Sicilian Grillo-based bubbles might find fertile ground for some consumers in less traditional sparkling wine markets?
*Read more about how Wine Intelligence can help you with your consultancy projects, such as monitoring your marketing campaigns, here.