Interest high in Vinitaly despite credit crunch
(ANSA) - Verona, April 2 - Italy's wine sector has not been immune to the global economic downturn but it has been able to the weather financial storm, Italian Agriculture Minister Luca Zaia said on Thursday. Speaking at the opening of Vinitaly, Italy's most important wine trade fair, Zaia said ''it is a very difficult moment but this sector has very deep roots, even abroad. Last year we were the world's leading wine producer, the world's leading exporter in terms of volume and second only to France in terms of value''. Wine is a key player in Italian trade with exports last year valued at 3.6 billion euros, compared to imports of 326 million euros. Quality wines account for 34% of exports, table wines for 45% and sparkling wines for 11%. A sector report presented at the fair showed that the economic downturn was responsible for a 5.1% decline in Italian wine exports in 2008 over the previous year. The 43rd edition of Vinitaly has drawn 4,250 exhibitors from 29 countries, two more than last year and a sharp increase in the number of buyers. Over the years the trade fair has expanded to include not just wines and spirits but also olive oil, in the limelight at the SOL exhibition, and wine industry technology, on display at Enolitech. Food has played a major role, with a host of pavilions offering a variety of regional delights under the banner of the Agrifood Club, while a number of top restaurants also have concession areas. This fashion will be in the spotlight with the Coldiretti farmers' union sponsoring a fashion show that will display designer footwear created using corks and other recycled materials. The show is entitled 'Dal Tappo al Tacco', which roughly translates 'from the cork to the heel'. Vinitaly is produced by the Verona trade fair agency Veronafiere which for the past several years has taken the Vinitaly concept on the road for a world tour. The travelling trade fair has made regular stops in Russia, China, Japan, India and the United States and this year will add South Korea to its itinerary. Aside from wine, the Vinitaly road show also promotes quality Italian foods and food products. Vinitaly closes its gates on Monday, April 6.