Limoncello conditions turn sour

17 November, 2022

Much like the wine industry, limoncello is now witnessing the challenges posed by our changing climate. However the lack of profitability in farming lemons in the Amalfi region is also a cause for concern, with lemon tours being introduced last year as an alternative way of making money. In 2021, Gianmarco Aceto, a member of generations-long lemon farming family the Acetos, told CBS: “Without tourism this is not sustainable, it’s impossible to compete with the other countries that produce lemons, because they have less cost.”

According to Giorgia De Pasquale, of Roma Tre University, the number of hectares of lemon terraces in the Amalfi region has dropped from 72 to 48 since 1954. In a report by Tasting Table, De Pasquale claims this is due to a combination of farmers going out of business and younger generations being put off by the lack of financial gain.

The knock-on effects of having fewer lemon trees, with binding roots, is increasing the risk of landslides, while the rise in regular heavy rainfall is causing dormant traditional lemon terraces to collapse.

Optimistic outlook

While there appears to be trouble in paradise for lemon producers, brands are optimistic about the future for the category. Limoncello di Sorrento Bottega is produced from lemons grown on the Sorrento peninsula and the island of Capri, where they ripen in a mild, typically Mediterranean breeze and Sandro Bottega, president of Bottega, believes there are opportunities to grow beyond the traditional digestif drinking occasions.

The Italian producer has a wide range of liqueurs under its name, including Limoncino – a limoncello made from the Femminello lemon variety. Bottega also has Limoncello di Sorrento, which is made from lemons harvested in the six municipalities of the Sorrento peninsula and two on the island of Capri, making the Italian company one of the leading authorities on the category. “Certainly Limoncino cannot be considered only and exclusively as a digestif,” adds Bottega.

“It also lends itself to being consumed at different times as a garnish on ice cream or in addition to tonic water. It is an excellent ingredient for mixing in drinks. With this product we have created the Bottega Lemon Spritz, a variant of the traditional Spritz.”

Emma Sprackling, senior brand manager at Mangrove Global, which distributes Molinari-owned Limoncello Di Capri, believes the drinking ritual must be preserved. “We can never take that ritual away, it’s a core part of what limoncello is, and integral to the origin story of Limoncello Di Capri – but the brand is also finding great success in the aperitif moment in the form of a Spritz. We’ve also found that LDC’s customers love it as a refreshing, lower-abv option with tonic.”

Bottega also believes that innovation and attracting younger fans is key for limoncello as a sector going forward. “The category must turn more and more to younger clientele and offer new opportunities for consumption,” says Bottega.

“We have decided to offer, beside our historic Limoncino brand made from Sicilian lemons, a Limoncello which has developed a strong identity in the Sorrento peninsula. The special Limone di Sorrento, from which it originates, is characterised by the fragrant skins rich in essential oils which, left to infuse, create one of the most popular Italian liqueurs. In this way we offer the consumer two liqueurs with great personality: one originating from Sicilian lemons, the other from those of Sorrento. The new product is available already.

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