For years and years the word “Champagne” was used as a synonym for sparkling wine in the UK. Any sparkling wine, and that was testament to the fame and marketing prowess of the Champagne producers. It’s an aspirational product that everyone wanted to be drinking. Then Prosecco kicked open the doors with its shiny Italian leather size 9s and gave the UK public what they wanted; fresh, easy going bubbles for half the price.
For nearly a decade now, the sales figures of sparkling wine have soared over 10% per year on the back of the Venetian juggernaut. But this year that growth slowed up a touch, leading a few wine industry commentators to question whether this is the year the bubble will burst.
I’d argue that’s been happening for a while now.
Prosecco (rather unfairly) doesn’t have the same aspirational quality of high end bubbles. It’s made it a different way. The tank method of adding the bubbles is a more economical way of doing it, which is a good thing when you’re targeting the mass market. You can put a bottle of decent Prosecco on the shelf for just over £10. But it also lays the path open for the less scrupulous producers to flood the market with pretty average stuff for well under that. The quality reputation is becoming a big problem.
We’re also lucky in the UK that we’re still a target market for many different regions. We’ve been best mates with Champagne since 1662, Cava since the 1980s, and are seen as a prime place to test the water for French Crémant and Italian Franciacorta. Oh, and not sure if you’ve noticed, but the English wine scene is exploding right now, with the industry projected to hit £1bn in the next twenty years. I’ll drink to that!
So is Prosecco about to feel the fickle finger of fashion turning against it? Well not if they’re smart. Bubbles are good, and Prosecco producers make some incredible stuff. They make you feel happy, and the Brits are never going to stop buying them. It’s time for Prosecco to join the premiumisation trend and unleash the high end Cartizze’s and Rive’s on us in a big way.
Leave the race to the bottom to someone else. That path will only ever lead to producer misery and reputational destruction. Prosecco is so much better than that.
PHOTO: One of the industry leaders, La Marca Prosecco