Millennials, sparklers drive up Italian wine sales in U.S.

Tue Feb 11, 2014 4:04am EST
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By Leslie Gevirtz

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Americans are drinking more Italian wines than Italians themselves, owing to the popularity of sparkling wines from the southern European country and millennials.

Italian varieties are the top imported wine in the United States, which is the world's largest consumer market, according the Italian Wine and Food Institute.

Winemakers attending the Vinitaly trade show in New York said despite such classic Italian wines as Barolo, Brunello and Babaresco, the sparkler Prosecco is the favorite.

"It is Prosecco that is driving sales right now. It was pulled in by Moscato," Stevie Kim, managing director of Vinitaly, said about the sweet, sparkling Italian dessert wine.

"And it is the millennials who are in the driver's seat," she added, referring to people born in the 1980s and later.

The Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), which serves many California vineyards, noted in its 2014 annual business report for the industry that "the Millennial generation is consuming more foreign wine." Millennials also have a fondness for sweeter wines.

Sales of Moscato imported from Italy were up 26.3 percent by volume for the 52 weeks ending January 4, according to the Nielsen ratings company. Imports from Italy of a still version of the grape were up 14.1 percent by volume.

Unlike Prosecco, which is made from the Glera grape and must be produced in a well-demarcated region, Moscato is a grape that can be grown anywhere and is not subject to the regulations of an Italian consortium.   Continued...

A woman tests a glass of red wine during the Vinitaly wine expo in Verona, April 8, 2011. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini