Thursday, June 18, 2015

Yes! Italians can make bubbly just as good as the French, and for much less money! Is “mass market” champagne – under threat from Prosecco??? It’s even passed its French rival as the best-selling type of sparkling wine!!!

At an open air event this past week;  I noticed that there were a whole lot of sparkling wines along side the beers in the coolers. A lot of regular folks enjoying it. After watching a guy underestimating the pressure of a Chandon bottle. I told my friend I would write about the bubbly. One thing is for certain the bubbly is now a lot more part of the mix for regular drinking.

Coincidently in the regular nightly news this week came across a RED ALERT! that it's been a very scary week for Prosecco fans and that the never-ending Sunday brunches are in danger! Oh my !some people are going to be beside themselves!!!
The newswire is saying that Prosecco may not flow quite as freely this year! What a calamity!

But before we get into this…

Let’s talk just a little about Prosecco and also Champagne…

Both Champagne and Prosecco are sparkling wines that take their name from the specific geographic regions they’re made in

We know that Champagne is French, and can only be made in the Champagne region there. Prosecco is Italian, and can only be made in the Veneto region in the northeast.

Champagne can only be made from three grapes in any combination:  Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Prosecco is made from an Italian grape called Glera.

Regular wines are only fermented once, but sparkling wines are fermented twice—this is where the bubbles come from. When they make Champagne, it ferments first in a wooden barrel, and then in the bottle you buy it in.  Prosecco’s two fermentations both take place in a stainless steel vat. It’s a quicker way to do things, which makes Prosecco both cheaper and also less able to age than good old Champagne.

Sales of Prosecco have shot up in recent years as people have discovered that the Italians can make bubbly just as good as the French, and for much less money!

Consumers have increasingly embraced Prosecco a more balanced, easier-to-drink alternative to Champagne; it’s even passed its French rival as the best-selling type of sparkling wine early in 2014.

Guess What ?!? The spike in demand has put pressure on Prosecco producers to amp up their output.

Champagne producers are somewhat concerned about the success of Prosecco. But global demand for champagne is rising too, even in markets such as the UK and US where Prosecco is popular. The prices of Champagne have been adjusting and falling as a response…

In 2014, Prosecco DOC sales increased by 27%, according to the Italian news organization Italy24. Prosecco export to the U.K. rose by more than 60% and increased to 38% in the USA, Italy24 also reported.

It is “mass market” champagne that is – or really should be – under threat from Prosecco.

Is this actually be a good thing for the French champagne producers?

It might force them to decide whether they really want to be the market leaders in inexpensive bubbly, or would rather exploit the strength of their protected brand "Champagne" and charge very high prices for a quality product.

Currently, they are trying to do both. It’s a tough decision especially when Prosecco is gaining ground.

OK, let’s get back to the Prosecco calamity…

If you thought the Greek financial crisis was the biggest disaster facing the world, or the Ukraine standoff, or the Chinese property crash – think again. Something really dreadful is about to hit. There is going to be a global shortage of Prosecco. So said Robert Cremonese, export manager of the popular Prosecco brand Bisol.

"Last year's harvest was very poor, and down by up to 50% in some parts, so there is a very real possibility of a global shortage," Cremonese said in an interview with the trade publication The Drinks Business. While the supply is limited, demand is up, according to reports.

The Prosecco DOC, which is made up of territories and provinces in northeast Italy received a lot of rain in the last year, according to Cremonese.

"A lot of the vines in the DOC area are newly planted and they ended up being soaked – the grapes were rotten and yields were down by nearly half in some cases," Cremonese told The Drinks Business.

Yet, Prosecco’s governing body has stepped in to calm fears of a looming shortage, claiming that yields were smaller than expected, the 2014 harvest went ”far beyond the target”. – Wine Business

To further stir the pot; in a phone call with The Huffington Post on Friday, Domenico Zonin, the CEO of Zonin, Italy's largest privately owned wine company, also said that there's no cause for alarm. He doesn't think it'll end up making a serious difference in prices or availability.

Nevertheless, it’s out there…a shortage of the Italian bubbly could occur as a result of high demand and rainy weather.

Despite the fast-rising demand, Prosecco prices have been pretty steady. For the Italian producers, this is a disappointment. With demand rising so fast, they should be able to charge more. The gap should have closed between champagne and Prosecco. It hasn’t. This is probably because even though Prosecco tastes every bit as good as inexpensive champagne – indeed arguably better – it is still not "Champagne" though.

Mind you, inexpensive champagne is something of an oxy-moron. Champagne is a luxury good, and luxury goods tend to be Veblen goods – we drink more of it as the price rises….go figure.  

So it's the demand for good-quality champagnes that is holding up well in the market; since they are not really challenged by Prosecco yet…

...And truly, investment Champagnes have never been so expensive. People just can't get enough of the good stuff!

There you go. I told you it was a calamity!




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