Italian wine production this year should hit 49m hectolitres, according to the Italian agricultural research body, Ismea.

In the first five months of this year, the value of Italian wine exports to the US rose by 2.9% year-on-year, compared to a 26.7% decrease for French wine exports to the country, the Italian Wine & Food Institute added yesterday.

While France is the clear leader in terms of wine production in Europe, Italy is first in terms of wine exports to the US followed by Australia and France, Italian farmers' union Coldiretti said. Australian wine exports to the US rose by 16.7% year-on-year in terms of value in the five months from January to May 2004, Coldiretti said.