All images by Robin Goldsmith, unless otherwise stated
Image provided by Clarion Communications
In many ways, Prosecco has become a victim of its own success. Breaking into and riding high in the sparkling wine charts for many years, has the bubble finally burst? Growth in Prosecco sales has slowed to its lowest level since 2011, sparking suggestions that the UK consumer is starting to turn his/her back on this famous Italian sparkling wine. Cheap pricing with associations of a mass-market lower quality drink, the emergence of high-quality alternatives like English sparkling wine and lower-cost Champagne readily available in every supermarket are all playing a part. Possible expansion plans for extending the cultivation area further within the Veneto region are also felt by some to encourage a negative 'quantity over quality' image effect on Prosecco. Despite so many people developing a taste on their tongues and in their wallets for a lighter, easy-drinking bubbly, there are concerns that the UK has now reached 'Peak Prosecco' and a downward spiral awaits. So is there any truth to this and, if so, what is the industry doing about it?
One producer who takes a different view is the multi-award winning Bottega SpA, a family-owned company known for producing a range of high quality wines and spirits. Owner and Managing Director Sandro Bottega believes that Prosecco will continue to thrive and, indeed, is entering a new era of premiumisation. He believes firmly in the need to "elevate and highlight the perception of Prosecco."
All Bottega's vineyards are certified organic and sustainable methods of production, social responsibility and environmental initiatives are central to the company's ethos. Practices include recycling water, using 50% recycled glass and FSC-certified packaging materials plus ensuring all workers are officially employed.
At a recent vertical tasting of his wines, Sandro identified key strategies for growth of the sector and improving Prosecco's image, including:-
Premium Prosecco incurs high production costs
Illustrating the focus on premium offerings, Sandro commented: "We have focused our attention on the launch of a new, higher standard range of wines that highlight the typicity of the grape and the unique characteristics that can only be found in quality Prosecco."
Sandro considers Prosecco as "not just a sparkling wine that's fresh and fruity with a short shelf life. If it's well made, it can have huge longevity." Techniques for encouraging this include longer fermentation, batonnage and extraction of noble tannins from the skins during maceration. This was evident during the vertical tasting of wines from 2013 to 2018 which showed distinct differences, particularly a richer, more mature fruit character with the older vintages.
Both Bottega Gold and Rosé Gold use bottle designs that don't just look elegant, but also protect from light strike
The company has added to its popular, eye-catching Bottega Gold by launching a Rosé Gold, made from Pinot Nero, which has seen double-digit sales growth on the back of rosé's growing popularity in the UK.
The company also makes other sparkling wines and has now produced an ancestral-method sparkler, Vino dei Poeti Ancestral Spumante. Made from 85% Glera and 15% Moscato, this is fresh and dry with less than 2g/l residual sugar. Two different serving methods allow it to appear cloudy or transparent adding a touch of theatre to the enjoyment of this wine. A manual remuage keeps the yeast suspended and produces a cloudy pour, while not shaking and serving carefully results in a clearer glass of bubbly. The yeast remaining in the bottom of the bottle can then be served separately in a small grappa glass or added to the wine, to taste.
There remains a huge demand for sparkling wine, a category that grew by 152% between 2010 and 2017. The UK has been driving growth and volume sales with 35% of Prosecco exported to our shores. The ban on glyphosates in the production zone will have clear environmental benefits and should also help boost Prosecco's appeal and its quality credentials. However, premiumisation of the category remains key for ensuring sales remain buoyant. As Nick Zalinski, National Account Director of Bottega wholesaler Matthew Clark, remarked: "Premium Prosecco brands can bridge the gap between ordinary, everyday Prosecco and higher-priced Champagne and English sparkling wine."