Recent studies about catching up are often focused on the emergence of high-tech sectors such as electronics, software, pharmaceutical and telecommunications. These industries are indeed globally known for having sparked economic growth in some selected countries, such as Japan and South Korea in the eighties and nineties, and India and China in more recent years. Nevertheless, there is little doubt that in a large number of emerging countries the agro-food industry still significantly contributes to GDP. Though often depicted as low value-added and with little innovation content, the agro-food industry is a sector with considerable opportunities for technological and rent upgrading. UNCTAD (2009) has identified a group of dynamic and competitive middle-income countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile Thailand and Malaysia, which have become exporters of high-quality processed primary products. Some authors have envisaged an undergoing process of de-commodification of primary commodities, which are increasingly transformed from standardized staples into high-quality, diversified, processed goods, with raising barriers of entry, high knowledge intensity and technological dynamism, increasing value added content and high export price per unit (Farinelli, 2012; Kaplinsky and Fitter, 2004; Kaplinsky, 2005; Perez et al, 2009).
Among the most dynamic primary industries there is wine, which is an extremely interesting case from a catch up point of view because the latecomers in the international market have changed how wine is produced, sold and consumed and in doing so they have challenged the position held by the incumbents (Giuliani et al, 2011). Until the end of the 1980s without a doubt, European countries, and particularly France and Italy, dominated the international market for wine. Subsequently, significant changes into the market, namely the decrease in consumption in traditional consuming countries, the entry of new inexperienced consumers and the increasing importance of large distribution have put under attack this supremacy. Initially the USA and Australia and later emerging countries such as Chile and South Africa have gained increasing market shares in terms of both exported volumes and values at the expense of the incumbents. More recently, due to the higher involvement of consumers and the increasing attention to variety and regional specificities in some market segments a new comer as Australia has slowed down its growth, opening up opportunities to newer entrants such as Argentina and New Zealand. At the same time, innovation has also interested the incumbents, in particularly Italy, which has challenged the leadership of France in some key markets such the USA (Mariani et al., 2012).
Finally, some further future changes can be envisaged in the new rapidly growing Asian markets, still representing a small share of the global demand but with a lot of potentialities of becoming a new key scene in the wine industry.
In this paper we aim at investigating the different catch up cycles occurring from the 1960s until 2010 in the global wine sector through a detailed analysis of exports in volume, value and unit price. This analysis allows addressing issues related with the increasing share in the global market of latecomer countries and the relative decline of the incumbents, as well as possible changes in the market leadership within these two groups.
In the next section after a brief account of the literature on catch up we focus on catch up in the wine industry since the 1960s. Then, in the Section 3 we present an analysis of the evolution of the industry investigated based on trade data. Section 4 provides a detailed analysis of the entry of the New World (NW) producers explaining how market changes opened up a window of opportunity and then followed transformations in the innovative and knowledge base and in the institutional settings. The following section focuses on the resurgence of Old Word (OW)1 countries in the international markets. In Section 6, we discuss about the rise of new actors among the latecomers. Section 7 puts forward the hypothesis of a new cycle following the emergence of Asia both as a rapidly growing market and as a new production source. Section 8 concludes.