Verona, May 2 (ANSA) -- Italian winemakers are following the Christopher Columbus route ever more and making their way to America but also eastward, with double-digit growth in Russia, Japan and China.
The 52nd edition of Vinitaly, the largest wine festival in the world, opened with good prospects for Italian wines to expand even more. Some 4,380 exhibitors - 130 more than in 2017 - are taking part at the Verona exhibition grounds, with a bipartisan political and institutional presence.
"Vinitaly is an exceptional event and a true source of pride for Verona, the Veneto region and the entire country. This is where there is the best of Italy," said Senate speaker Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati, who inaugurated the event.
Consumers ever more sensitive to good wine are found in major US cities and among Americans under age 35.
Some 71 percent of New Yorkers are considered 'wine-addicted', while 28 percent of US consumers have drunk Italian wine over the past 12 months.
However, in this longstanding market for Italian wine exports, four out of every ten people have never drunk Italian-made wine. The US is thus a mature market with wide potential growth margins, according to the Vinitaly-Nomisma Wine Monitor survey on consumption habits in five US states: New York, California, Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
The survey spurs on a sector that is seen in good health in Vinitaly. Revenue in Italy from wines and sparkling wines, said Italian farmers association Coldiretti, grew by 5 percent and rose in 2017 to a record high over 10.6 billion.
This was mostly due to exports, which rose to their highest ever level at 6 billion (+ 6 percent), while slight growth was seen also on the domestic market to 4.6 billion, in part due to household consumption (+ 2 percent).
"Five years ago," former Minister of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Maurizio Martina said, "the wine sector was important but not so central. I am proud of this because the record high of 6 billion in 2017 was partially to our credit." At the most important event of the sector and at a delicate political moment, League leader Matteo Salvini and M5S party chief Luigi Di Maio were present.
The League party chief said that he was at the exhibition to "pay homage to entrepreneurship that resists, creates jobs and does great things for Italian production despite the restrictions laid on it by Europe". Di Maio instead noted that "it is important to support, including in Brussels, this sector that has invested in tradition and innovation." Some stimulus came also from the 'King of Tortellini', Giovanni Rana.
"Wine is the pearl of Italian-made products, a driving force behind everything," he said. "However, it is necessary for entrepreneurs to look beyond Italy."