Prosecco - A love affair in a glass...
It’s been almost two decades since Prosecco began its rise to fame in the UK and indeed throughout the world. But what caused it to rise to such popularity? Well two things really - price and drinkability. Let’s have a brief look at both of these things and see if we can decide if this popularity is something that will last in the future.
To begin with, let’s go back to first principles. Prosecco is made by the Charmat method as opposed to the Champagne Method (also called the Traditional Method for other styles of wine such as Champagne itself, Cava or Cremant). This has the benefit that from grape to bottle takes a matter of months for the Charmat method as opposed to a minimum of 21 months for the Champagne method. In addition there’s a cash flow benefit in that the actual bottles can be bought just before the wine is ready for sale in the Charmat Method as opposed to the Traditional Method requires the bottles to be purchased a good 18 months before the sale of the wine, and if you don’t own your own vineyards you are also paying for the juice well in advance too.
The Charmat Method tends to rely on aromatic grape varieties - Glera, Riesling etc.- rather than such grape varieties as Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. This allows the producers to make something that is lighter and more elegant in style which would be more appealing to the consumer. It also allows for a higher residual sugar in the wine which again makes it more appealing to the majority of consumers. The majority of wines made in the Traditional Method are sold as Brut whereas for the Charmat Method they are sold as Extra Dry which is in fact sweeter. This extra sugar helps carry the fruity aromas and favours of the wine thus making them more instantly appealing.
This all sounds great - great value and great quality - what’s not to like? Well just a word of warning. Prosecco is normally sold as a Spumante wine. That is to say, a wine at full pressure of around 4.5 to 6 atmospheres of pressure in the bottle. It can also be sold as Frizzante which is at anything from 2.5 to 3.5 atmospheres of pressure, thus less fizz and a totally different mouth-feel. This has a financial impact that under the current tax regime, Frizzante is 75p a bottle cheaper but in general it is not the wine that most people would want to drink.
One more thing along the same lines is that whenever any product becomes successful, someone, somewhere will always try to cut corners to make a cheaper version that is not necessarily as good. In the case of Prosecco this means increasing the amount of grapes that a plant can produce and how hard you press the grapes. More grapes makes the resulting juice more dilute and the final wine less flavoursome and harder pressing can also make it slightly bitter. So when you’re shopping for Prosecco do bear this in mind. An extra £1 on a bottle can give you so much more enjoyment when you’re drinking.
As regards the future, so long as quality remains the foremost thing as the wine is produced, we see that it will continue for many years. If it goes down the cheap and not so cheerful route, it’s life could become more limited.
Astoria Vini - a great partner
As the Prosecco popularity really started to take off some 12 years ago, we went to a wine fair in Italy to look for a partner for Prosecco. This is where we first came across Astoria Vini. The first thing we knew immediately was the quality of their wines was first class and was definitely superior to anything else we had tasted not only at the show but also generally when tasting around. Another great feature was the stylish way the bottles were presented making them great to impress at a dinner party and for people to remember them when they buy again.
They have their own vineyards in Valdobbiadene, one of the prime vineyard areas for top quality grapes. This means they control the process from vineyard to bottle and therefore can guarantee the ultimate in quality. They offer a broad range of different wines that provide a variety of styles.
One of their latest presentations is a bottle that is like cut glass and is based on a map of the canals of Venice. I wouldn’t suggest you use it to find your way home if you go there, but it makes a great talking point with friends.