(AGI) Bologna, July 28 - Italy's wine exports increased by 4 percent in major foreign markets over the first five months of 2016, just trailing its direct European competitors, but overtaking those from the Southern Hemisphere. The data was reported by the Nomisma Foundation's observatory, Wine Monitor. Imports in the 10 largest markets, which make up 70 percent of the value of global wine imports, rose by 3.8 percent between January-May compared to the same period last year, exceeding 7.3 billion euros. Imports grew by over 4 percent in the U.S. and Japan, while they dropped by almost 6 percent in Germany and the UK. In a surprising turn of events, Russian imports increased by 9 percent after two years of decline. Halfway through the year in China, imports have already equaled the entire value of Switzerland's imports in 2015 - 1 billion euros. Compared to these results, Italian imports remain average (4 percent), while Spanish and French imports have risen by over 8 percent. "Italian wine imports in the main world markets continue to be spearheaded by sparkling wines," said the head of Nomisma's Wine Monitor, Denis Pantini. "The growth of this type of wine in the first five months of 2016 has surpassed 20 percent, while bottled still wines have only risen by 1 percent." The U.S. and UK remain the main markets for Italian sparkling wines, with Prosecco in the lead. Prosecco is also making headway in France, land of the noble Champagne. "French imports of DOP [PDO - Protected Designation of Origin] Italian sparkling wines practically doubled in the first five months of 2016 compared to last year, rising from 9,000 to almost 19,000 hectolitres for a corresponding value of 6.5 million euros," Mr Pantini noted. As for Italian bottled still wines, they aren't currently making leaps and bounds in the U.S. market, rising by less than 2 percent. However, they seem to be gaining ground in China and Russia. (AGI). .