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Italy on verge of becoming world’s biggest wine producer for 1st time since ’98

MILAN, Italy – A bumper harvest is expected to push Italian wine production above that of neighboring France for the first time in a decade, possibly making Italy the world’s largest wine producer.

The Coldiretti farmers lobby estimates the production of Italian wine is up 8 percent over 2007 to 4.7 billion liters, compared with 4.44 billion liters in neighboring France, where production fell 5 percent. Figures will be confirmed in January.

Italy last surpassed France’s production in 1998, and since has been reducing the area of land cultivated as vineyards in favor of improving quality, Coldiretti’s wine expert Domenico Bosco said last week. Italy’s strong harvest is mostly due to good weather, he said, which helped Sicily, in particular, recover from lower 2007 yields.

While production is up, Coldiretti said the quality of Italian wines is also improving, with 60 percent earning the right to bear labels specifying marks of quality such as geographic origin or adherence to regional winemaking rules and traditions.

Production estimates by Assoenologi, an association of Italian wine producers, are slightly lower at 44.5 billion liters, or an increase of 5 percent. That gives Italy a 17 percent share of the world wine market and one-third of the European market.

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