FLORENCE/MILAN (Reuters) - Italian vintners fear that foreign buyers will turn their noses up at their latest wines after the country was hit by Europe’s worst outbreak of coronavirus.
In Tuscany in central Italy, Marco Ferretti, producer of Chianti Colli Fiorentini wine, said that when he was in the United States on a promotional tour two weeks ago there was already concern over Italian products.
Italy has since made unwanted global headlines as Rome extended quarantine measures across the country.
“I am bombarded with calls, messages and emails from my foreign clients: the most worried ones are in the U.S.,” Ferretti said.
“Many are worried that the virus could be found in the wine, which is impossible given the presence of alcohol,” he added.
Italian farmers association Coldiretti says food exports of products such as wine, olives and cheese were worth 44.6 billion euros (39.06 billion pounds) per year to the economy.
Wine is Italy’s most lucrative product, with exports worth 6.4 billion euros in 2019, and Ferretti is anxious.
“I am a small producer, I make 25,000 bottles of wine a year, of which 18,000 are for foreign markets. Right now the decline in sales from a year ago is 15%, but I am very worried for the future,” Ferretti told Reuters.
Ignazio Giovine, who is based near the town of Asti in Piedmont, northern Italy, said orders for his sparkling and dry wines were evaporating.
“I still have orders for the next three days and then there is noting in the pipeline,” said Giovine, whose L’Armangia company produces 95,000 bottles a year, mostly for export.
“I can carry on like this for two months, three months maximum but if sales don’t start again I’ll have to close.”
The head of wine producers association Federvini, Sandro Boscaini, called for the European Union and the World Health Organisation to reassure consumers about Italian wine.
“With promotional events, presentations and tastings cancelled in China and elsewhere, we only have a window of a few weeks before importers ... start going elsewhere and buy South American or Australian wine,” Boscaini told Reuters.
Boscaini, whose Masi company produces Amarone, Prosecco and other wines in northern Italy, said he expected a 20% drop in sales for the industry from April as orders were drying up.
He also criticised restrictions imposed by foreign countries on the movement of trucks carrying products from Italy, adding some foreign drivers did not want to cross into Italy.
However, some Italian dairy producers said they had seen orders rise as foreign importers stock up in response to hoarding by shoppers outside Italy.
“We had an increase of 10% compared to previous weeks, in particular for Grana Padano, parmesan cheese and mascarpone,” said Paolo Carra, chairman of the dairy consortium Latterie Virgilio in Mantua, northern Italy.
Additional reporting by Emilio Parodi; Editing by Keith Weir and Alexander Smith