Paul, who was discussing the challenges involved in developing strong regional identities at the International Cool Climate Wine Symposium, hailed Prosecco’s success so far.
He called it “one of the great success stories of the decade”.
But he warned: “When you look at the Prosecco brand, if you asked 100 consumers to name a type of wine, a lot would say Prosecco and a lot would be favourable. But if you said name me a Prosecco brand, good luck.
“Prosecco has almost overflown its region. It’s like they created a monster, a friendly monster at the moment, but one they are losing control of, and they are feeding it by adding another 3,000ha [the Consorzio di Tutela Prosecco is allocating a further 3,000ha of vines to growers within the Prosecco DOC to meet growing demand for the Italian sparkler].
“Prosecco is more a style of wine people like than a wine from a region, which means it can be copied by other regions in Italy and elsewhere.”
He added: “It’s a very successful commodity, which has a known price. You can sell it at a [standard] retail price, but it’s going to be tricky to sell it at double the average retail price.
“In Champagne you have a branded hierarchy that consumers understand more. It’s moving forward in a more balanced way, with brands and the cheaper own-label stuff.”
Paul also believes that the success of regional brands like Prosecco – along with Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, Mendoza Malbec and Rioja – can bring its problems.
He said: “If you buy wines from under strong regional brands, you will often feel ripped off. Lazy producers are taking advantage of strong regional brands built by someone other than them. They hide behind the regional brand.”
For Paul the ideal wine region is one with a strong regional identity that creates a “halo effect”, coupled with a diverse range of strong individual producer brands that are all broadly in tune with an agreed long-term vision for their region.