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VERONA, Italy (Reuters Life!) - China, Russia and Brazil, where consumers are discovering the pleasure of wine, will power the growth of Italy's wine exports while the core U.S. market recovers, industry experts say.
Wine exports from Italy, which competes with France for the position of the world's biggest producer, rose about 11 percent to 3.9 billion euros ($5.62 billion) in 2010, according to industry data, as markets recovered from the global downturn.
"Germany and the Unites States are the most powerful drivers for our sector growth," said Lamberto Vallarino Gancia, chairman of the Italian trade body Federvini, on the sidelines of Vinitaly, a major wine trade fair.
"In the future, I would add China and Brazil, and some other markets which are still small but are growing very rapidly, like those in eastern Europe," he told Reuters. "The future growth is linked to export."
Export demand for Italian wine has been strong so far this year with the U.S. market rapidly recovering, and total export sales are expected to rise about 10 percent in 2011, Gancia said.
Italian wine exports to the U.S. market, the top wine market in the world, rose 11.5 percent to 827.3 million euros last year, while those to Russia jumped nearly 60 percent to 104 million euros and sales to China more than doubled to 40.7 million euros, according to Federvini data.
Mirco Caretti, a broker whose business accounts for about 10 percent of all Italian bottled wine sales to Russia, said Italian wine has seen an explosive sales growth there in the past three years.
"I think the growth will continue at the same pace for another couple of years, if bureaucratic barriers are not erected to imports," he said. "Wine consumption is growing as well as Russians' interest in Italian wine."
Demand in the domestic market, which accounts for more than two-thirds of total sales, has dropped in the past few years as younger generations favor beer and other drinks and the government pushes ahead with a campaign against alcohol abuse.
Wine consumption in Italy has fallen to 40 liters per capita now from 45 in 2007 -- a far cry from the 100 liters of the 1970s, according to industry data presented at the fair.
Italian winemakers have been trying to regain market share at home by investing in improving the quality of their product and in marketing, industry experts said.
"We need to educate young people who are our future consumers," Lucio Mastroberardino, chairman of the Italian wine industry body Unione Italiana Vini (UIV), told Reuters.
"Export and domestic markets are equally important for the Italian (winemaking) industry -- they are like two feet of one body," he said, but added that future growth would largely depend on expansion of new export markets.
Editing by Steve Addison