Italian wine abroad: from the quirks to the trends, here is the profile of the new global consumers, or dare we say, the new market. It is important for producers to know their targets well


The Chinese adore brand names and even in wine they look for the idea of status symbol and luxury, hence Brunello di Montalcino and Barolo are like Valentino and Prada. Brazilians love to try out new labels while Russians are willing to pay a pretty penny. These are the profiles of the new world consumers, stylized by, in future potential reference markets for Made-in-Italy wine, which will be talked about at the international wine fair in Verona from April 7-10 (

Worldwide consumption of wine in 2012 has been established at 245.2 million hectolitres. In Europe it has stabilized at the same levels as 2011, but it is outside Europe where the trend is positive. In the United States it should reach 29 million hectolitres (+5%) while in China a growth equal to 9 percent has been recorded. Nevertheless these numbers are far from the European ones: to the over 37 litres consumed in Italy, contrast the barely one litre from China, the few hundred litres from India, the abundant Brazilian litre and the almost 10 Russian litres, all on the rise. However, these numbers are spread over the entire population, most of which does not drink wine. In the consumer cities, the biggest and richest where wine drinkers are concentrated, consumption per capita is actually approaching other consumer countries.

Yes, it is true that the new world powers, the so-called BRIC countries, represent a potential pool of billions of consumers. It is also true that is not easy to break into these markets because, in some cases, they are countries where wine is not part of tradition and because Italian wines go head to head with particularly fierce international competitors.

Starting with China, one of the most promising and difficult markets in the world. Here, for the most part, the consumer is unaware of the historic and cultural nuances of drinking wine. It has only been a relatively few years that wine has made a landfall in China and, for the moment, is destined for a small niche of nouveau riche looking for a status symbol from a more western lifestyle. It is challenging to introduce wine consumption into the very conservative middle class Chinese routine. There is one thing that all the Italian producers working in China agree on: the feedback time for Italian wines in particular is quite slow because the iconic wines are mostly French and have been in China for over 20 years while our labels still have to make a name for themselves in this sense. In addition, the Italian system has to lend a hand just like France has done for its producers.

Different case from Russia: the consumer of Italian wines belongs to a cosmopolitan middle-upper target, resident in a big city like Moscow and St. Petersburg, is well-travelled and often in Italy. Even for the Russians, our labels represent a status symbol linked to the Italian lifestyle. Thanks to their frequent visits to our Country, they know more and more about our denominations and terroir and are willing to spend the money with ever more awareness: they like to flaunt but are not willing to be swindled.

In Brazil, on the other hand, interest in wine is slowly but steadily growing: here the traditional drinks are actually beer and cachaça, with an annual consumption of 54 and 11 litres per capita respectively while wine is at about 2.5 litres per person. Brazil, also being a producer, is promoting internally to increase the responsible consumption of wine. Here drinking wine is surely the well-to-do as well as the new middle class, which did not exist previously but is ever more informed and knowledgeable, excluding most of the population from wine consumption. Italian wine, as the fourth exporter to Brazil with about 14% of the market, enjoys a favourable view among the Brazilian consumers also because of the close cultural ties to Italy thanks to many immigrants from our Country. Tuscan wine takes the lion’s share, mainly Chianti but also Prosecco and Lambrusco are very popular. The tedious duty system, which makes the green and yellow market among the most expensive in the world, remains a critical factor.

Finally India: a market which has just opened up to wine where the consumers belong to a very high economic class and are on the rise even if they are still within a niche market mostly because of the very high taxation system which selects potential buyers. Also here, wine is ordered and drunk mostly in luxury restaurants and hotels, but thanks to the long-time British colonial tradition, western customs are more widespread and accepted here than in China.