The focus of Italian wine is more than ever on business and has a special consideration for China, experts said at the ongoing Vinitaly international wine fair in northern Italy.
In 2015, Italian wine exports came to more than 5.4 billion euros (6.1 billion U.S. dollars), up by over 5 percent compared to 2014, which set a new record, according to the fair's data.
Recent research shows that investing in the wine industry today is 160 percent more profitable than investing in the financial sector, said the President of Veronafiere, organizer of the fair, Maurizio Danese.
For certain denominations of origin, he added, the value of a hectare of vineyard has increased by more than 2,000 percent in 50 years.
"Fifty years ago, young people were leaving the countryside attracted by industry and the opportunities offered by large cities. Today, thanks to wine, many young people are returning to the land, finding professional opportunities in agriculture to build their future," Danese observed.
International attendance from the most important producer countries at Vinitaly, which runs from Sunday to Wednesday and celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, continues to expand. The 2016 limelight is on Spain, with a group attendance by 18 wine cellars, while China is attending Vinitaly for the first time.
Australia, France, Switzerland, Portugal, Argentina and Serbia are among the other producer countries at the fair, while trade operators are expected from more than 140 countries.
Denis Pantini, head of Wine Monitor of Nomisma research institute for economy, said that Italy unfortunately is not keeping pace with China's surging wine imports.
Last year Italy's exports to China grew by just 15 percent compared to 2014, and the first semester of 2016 has registered the same trend so far, Pantini told Xinhua.
French and Australian wines are performing much better, he observed, which is mainly due to larger and better organized companies in France and a free trade agreement signed between China and Australia.
"China's market is among the largest and fastest growing in the world, and Italy cannot miss such an important opportunity," Pantini told Xinhua.
However, Italy is now moving forward to fill the gap, he went on saying, and a meeting at Vinitaly between Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Alibaba founder and chairman Jack Ma was an evidence of this.
On Monday Renzi told Ma during their talks about the e-commerce in the wine market that the moment has come for Italy to "bet on innovation" and that "the future of Alibaba and the future of Italy are closely linked together."
Renzi also said that Italy aims at reaching 7.5 billion euros (8.6 billion U.S. dollars) of wine exports by 2020 and announced that his government is organizing a "very important mission to China" for next November in the field of agro-food.