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MILAN (Reuters Life!) - Italian wine quality is expected to improve as volume falls slightly this year after farmers dug up vines, encouraged by incentives from the European Union, research showed.
Italy's wine output is expected to fall 1 percent to just above 4.5 billion liters, farmers' research center ISMEA said in a statement after its joint research with wine industry body Unione Italiana Vini (UIV).
The quality is expected to be good but a lot will depend on the final 20-25 days of harvesting which has just started in Italy, the research said, adding the harvesting got back to normal timing after hot weather spurred it in 2009.
Italian growers' increasing efforts to prune grapes to improve quality as well as digging up vines under the EU reform have reduced the quantity, the research said.
Italian winemakers applied for cash to subsidize the removal of 10,741 hectares of vines in 2010, on top of 11,571 hectares dug up in 2009, the research said. The figure compares to a total of 788,393 ha under vines in Italy in 2008, according to Italy's statistics agency ISTAT.
The EU reform, which started in August 2008, offers cash to less competitive winemakers to dig up vines to cut back output aiming to drain Europe's "wine lakes" and remove 175,000 ha of land under vines out of the EU's total of 3.6 million ha.
Under a three-year scheme, the cash premium is the highest in the first year.
Wine output in Tuscany, famous for its Chianti red and its premium cousins Brunello di Montalcino and Nobile di Montepulciano, is expected to be 3 percent lower than in 2009 on last year, the research said.
The region of Piedmont, known for its full-body red Barolo, is likely to see a 6 percent rise in output this year.
Output in Sicily, one of Italy's biggest wine producing regions, is set for a 22 percent dive in volumes, hit by vine-digging and bad weather, the report said.
Reporting by Svetlana Kovalyova, editing by Paul Casciato