Prosecco sales bubbling along in NZ, too

WARREN BARTON
Last updated 10:58 10/07/2014
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Everywhere you look in the world wine press the message for bubbly lovers is the same: "Global prosecco sales overtake champagne" ... "Prosecco sales soar as champagne goes flat" ... "Prosecco revolution marches on" ... "Thirty per cent growth in prosecco sales worldwide".

Which brings us to the burning question for those who don't yet appreciate that not all sparkling wines are created equal: What the hell's prosecco?

It's a sparkling white made in the Veneto region of Italy, originally from a grape named prosecco, now known as glera.

Like champagne, which can be made from one or a combination of up to three different grapes, prosecco undergoes two fermentations, but neither is in the bottle. Instead both are in stainless steel tanks, which makes it easier, cheaper and quicker (four to six weeks) to produce.

Unlike champagne, which is usually reserved for special occasions, the Italian bubbly is designed for everyday drinking while it's still young and fresh.

Given these differences prosecco was regarded, and still is by many, as inferior to champagne. But since producers have upped their game these wines are now seen as an excellent and cheaper substitute with an average high quality example up to a fifth the price of a reasonably well-regarded Champagne.

As someone said rather bluntly just the other day: "Consumers are more aware than at any other time that 'Champagne' is just another term for sparkling wine (albeit produced in the Champagne region) and that the prices do not necessarily reflect the quality of the product".

In fact, some of the top sparkling recommendations from the wine experts in the UK over Christmas (traditionally the best selling time) were for prosecco rather than Champagne, cava (the Spanish sparkler) or New World bubblies such as our own methode traditionelles and others made by the same method as prosecco.

They say that since the Italians have moved away from the sweeter styles, prosecco has become the closest of all to Champagne - but a fashionable, fun everyday drink that can be opened and enjoyed with friends at any time.

The big question for me is whether all this hoopla, not only in the UK but also in other parts of the world, will translate into a similar rise in sales of the Italian fizz in New Zealand.

I suspect it could be a hard sell, given the amount of good bubbly we produce ourselves and the relatively modest prices at which some of it sells compared with Champagne.

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But the signs are already there that prosecco could do some damage. "It's the price," said one of the country's biggest wine merchants this week. "People buy a $15 bottle, try it, then come back for a case." Neither he, nor I would suggest this is happening in every bottle store or supermarket around the country but there is definitely a growing opportunity for people to get the taste as more prosecco (spumante is fully fizzed, frizzante less so) appears on the shelves.

Some of those available:

Mionetto non vintage Il Prosecco, $14.99 to $19.99
A lively (spumante), crisp bubbly with stonefruit and citrus flavours that comes in a stylish bowling pin bottle stopped with a convenient crown cap.

Bosca 5 Star Prosecco, $18.99
The biggest-selling bubbly at one of the country's top retailers. A pretty, fresh wine that smacks of peaches, apples and a hint of citrus, flavours and aromas that are not unusual for this variety.

Carpene Malvolti Prosecco Brut, $24
Bready champagne-style nose but with delicate and appealing pear flavour. Makes a delightful aperitif and is an excellent companion for fish meals.

Brown Brothers Prosecco, $14.99-$19.99
An interloper made in Australia by the company which grows more varieties of grapes than any other in the world. Crisp and delicately flavoured with pears and lemons.

- The Southland Times

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