When Italy surpassed France in wine production for the first time two years ago, the news was not greeted as a welcome achievement.
Aside from bragging rights, Italian vintners were faced with having to sell more wine than ever at a time when regional consumption was dropping.
It meant more Italian wine would be dumped into the so-called Wine Lake, a surplus of wine produced within the European Union, which buys the stuff and turns it into industrial alcohol.
In a European market of increasing supply and falling demand, that is not a winning scenario. Fortunately, however, Italian wineries are having their "Duh!" moment: by offering more well-made regional wines at reasonable prices, they can sell more wine.
For too many years, many Italian vintners suffered from a hubris built on the international success of very high-end wines like barolos and barbarescos and Super Tuscans. Buoyed by industry bureaucrats eager to award the prestigious D.O.C.G. appellation (a denomination of guaranteed high quality wine) to wines of little regional distinction, wineries tried to stick high price tags on wines of no real excellence.
Importers tried to convince wine drinkers that a bottle of unfamiliar verdicchio was worth $50 or a Santa Margherita pinot grigio $60 in a restaurant. As a result, wine lovers began moaning that Italian wines were pricing themselves out of the market.
Now, with sales sputtering and the Wine Lake brimming over, some very fine Italian vintners are getting into the market with delicious wines at prices right on the money. And it's happening at the retail level more than in restaurants, which continue to hike up margins three and four times above retail.
Via Mariano Pallottini