Sparkling Wine: Bubbling Under

06 November, 2015

The juggernaut of fizzy popularity that is Prosecco is having another good year.

First came the Champenois-crushing news in the spring that it now outsells Champagne not just on volume but on value too, despite Prosecco’s lower average price. Then in the summer, a  Prosecco shortage rumour was turned to its advantage, prompting people to stock up for fear of missing out during the sunny months. Now with Christmas on the horizon, the focus is once again on sparkling wines of all colours and creeds, but will Italy’s sparkling behemoth continue to satisfy everyone’s fizz needs?

“We do not see the demand for Prosecco slowing down in the foreseeable future. It is very much a must-have for most UK households and offers the consumer incredible value,” says Craig Durham, managing director of Buckingham Schenk.

Even though the appetite for Prosecco isn’t waning its landscape is changing on UK shelves as retailers report increased interest in more expensive Prosecco.

Waitrose sparkling wine buyer Cat Lomax says: “Recently we did a complete overview of sparkling wine and within this Prosecco has been given more space, plus we’ve added two new premium Proseccos, one of which is a single vineyard.” The Wine Society is also about to add a premium Prosecco to its range, while Oddbins has recently worked on its fizz range, and sales of more expensive Prosecco is the end result.  Buyer Ana Sapungiu explains: “We did a massive review of our sparkling wines last year and although Prosecco is our number one selling fizz by far [on volume], we saw stagnation at the cheaper end, which for us is about £10, and growth at the premium end, at around £15.”

With the increased exposure of, and interest in, more expensive Prosecco, murmurs in the trade that it may lose its brand equity, due to more vineyard plantings and constant pressure on price, look likely to remain murmurs, at least for now.

Sarah Knowles, sparkling buyer at The Wine Society, thinks global demand and a smaller 2014 vintage will work in Prosecco’s favour for the time being, saying: “Wines with a decreasing price point often suffer from a loss of image or perceived quality. But with the recent smaller harvest and increased global demand, I wonder if Prosecco in the UK really is being beaten down on price just yet?”

That said, there is still a case for embracing the increasing range of sparkling styles available, as Neil Anderson, marketing director at Kingsland Drinks, says. “While there is no sign of [Prosecco sales] abating in the short to medium term, there are still pressures on availability and cost. As a result, retailers may start to explore credible sparkling alternatives.”

For all Prosecco’s appeal with consumers and subsequent dominance of the market, there are several alternatives, so from where do these alternatives on price come?

One place is on Prosecco’s doorstep, says Durham, adding: “With the increasing global demand for Prosecco adding pressure to its price and availability, it’s logical to offer alternative Italian Spumante wines. We’re very excited that through Schenk Italia – our own winery in the Prosecco region – we are able to do this. It makes a range of Prosecco alternatives that offer excellent value and the same consistent consumer-friendly styles.”

Further afield, Australia’s McGuigan Frizzante is taking on Prosecco on price, at £7.99. But it’s also unashamedly mimicking Prosecco’s easy-drinking style.

Julian Dyer, general manager for UK & Europe at Australian Vintage, says: “We recognise that aromatic flavour and this soft creamy style are in tune with today’s palate and we believe that Frizzante has all this.”

Meanwhile, hailing from La Mancha in Spain, Provetto was launched this year by Félix Solis, also with a keen eye on price and style. At £6, its softly sparkling style is made using the modern technique of replacing dissolved oxygen with carbon dioxide, which generates delicate bubbles (à la Prosecco).

Further up the sparkling wine price ladder, crémant and Cava continue to be the two best-represented alternatives to premium Prosecco, and although Cava shows signs of struggling to sell among some retailers, crémant’s presence is increasing . Waitrose and Oddbins added new crémants this year.

Even though Sapungiu at Oddbins has brought in a new Loire crémant and lists more expensive Prosecco, she sees value in listing esoteric fizz lines, adding: “Last year we had a Portuguese fizz from Filip Pato and a Grüner Veltliner from Austria. They were small parcels but both did well and now we’ve added a Chilean sparkling wine through Montes.”

As the proliferation of Prosecco looks to increase now it has spread its price point, competition for other sparkling styles has never been stronger especially when, as Durham says: “Sales on fully sparkling wines have risen to astronomical levels. We are anticipating selling 4.3 million bottles this year, a four-fold increase on 2013.”




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