Are we nearing the end of the Prosecco era?
February 13, 2016
Only a few years ago Prosecco was unknown to the masses, then the 2008 financial crisis struck and suddenly everyone noticed that lonely bottle standing next to the long line of Champagnes and, attracted by its price, started to buy them. At the time, the very few bottles of Prosecco available were decent, it was not yet a mass produced wine. Until the 2008 crisis it was all about Champagne, it did not really matter what the sparkling wine was, from cooking to cocktails, Champagne was written all over, French restaurants were proudly offering only Champagnes, nothing but Champagne, Italian restaurants had a very cheap Asti Spumante and then plenty of Champagnes on their lists and Champagne bars were becoming a common feature in every city.
In only a few years, Prosecco sales have overtaken Champagne’s and Prosecco is a household name, and the biggest evidence is that even French restaurants and Champagne bars have had to include it on their wine lists. Not only, for two years in a row I read on newspapers to hurry up and stock on Prosecco because there would not have been enough due to its growing demand and a poor vintage, and I am certain someone has done it, these predictions were wrong.
Prosecco wasn’t and it is not the only sparkling wine produced in Italy, Franciacorta and Trento DOC are the other 2 big and other countries were already producing sparkling wine with Cava the biggest region. Cava has always sat next to Champagne on supermarket shelves but always been seen as the Champagne’s poor cousin, with very few people knowing that Cava is made exactly as the Champagne, using the “classic method” and “a good Cava is better than a cheap Champagne” to paraphrase a newspaper title, still when the time came that Champagnes had become too expensive the world decided to pick an unknown sparkling wine instead of the very familiar Cava. This lesson should teach every business how important looking after its brand is and that it is not all about sales and price.
One of the reasons Prosecco took off so quickly is because not being a “classic method” wine is easier to drink, especially when drunk on its own, but it wasn’t just that, there were other reasons that had nothing to do with the wine itself. Prosecco comes from Italy, a country associated with culture, history, good life, beauty, Prosecco is drunk in Venice, Spain is more about beaches and cheap holidays. Not only, the press started to write about Prosecco like it never did about Cava. Suddenly “a good Prosecco was better than a cheap Champagne” was a familiar title on newspapers and wine reviews. It was not just Prosecco’s merits but also Champagne’s fault, Champagne’s quality had gone downhill due their wanting to be in everyone’s fridge, a bottle of Champagne is currently cheaper than a good bottle of Prosecco even though the cost for producing it, is higher.
The Prosecco “bubble” is so big that currently every sparkling wine is, for the almost totality of consumers, a Prosecco, before it was Champagne, and I have never seen so many winemakers small and big, north and south, trying to jump on the wagon producing sparkling wines, and establishments selling “just” sparkling wines as Prosecco. At one point, Prosecco was even being sold “on tap” until the Prosecco Consortium stepped in and forced those establishments to call it “glera” because Prosecco DOC and DOCG cannot be sold “on tap”, this was an attempt to protect the Prosecco brand even if too late and not enough, and consumers did not even notice the change on the label.
Going back to the title of the post, are we nearing the end of the Prosecco era? If Prosecco producers and Consortium do not stop worrying only about sales, yes, I think so, especially if they keeps pushing prices and quality down. I do believe that what is keeping Prosecco afloat are the same reasons that made it in the first place and the fact that the competitions have not yet realised what is happening, they are just reacting instead of acting, mainly Cava and Champagne, and haven’t understood yet what is wrong with their marketing strategy and the fact that there has not been a sparkling wine’s consortium yet that has been able to organize its producers and push the wine even though it seems that in the United States the Moscato d‘Asti is the new wine phenomenon, but until then, the Prosecco’s, real and not, sales will keep growing but meanwhile, f you want to drink a Prosecco, always read the label.
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