It might be the biggest success story the UK wine industry has seen in a generation, but is there a more misunderstood wine category than Prosecco? For all the restaurants, bars and hotels that thrive on the back of Prosecco there are still many professional buyers in the trade who question its quality and value to the wine industry as a whole. So where better to go to challenge those perceptions than Venice and the surrounding Valdobbiadene wine region where Prosecco heralds from. Over the rest of this week The Buyer will be teaming up with leading premium Prosecco producer, Mionetto, and its UK partner, Copestick Murray to take a group of leading buyers and influencers and show them how local Venetians enjoy their greatest ever export.
Prosecco continues to take on all comers and leave them in the wake as the UK’s fastest growing style of wine that has helped not only transform the sparkling wine category, but introduced a whole new “brand” of wine and drinking occasion for all wine drinkers. But how is Prosecco drunk and enjoyed in the area where it comes from? The Buyer is there to find out.
Prosecco might have become the go to drink for many, for any occasion, but in Italy, and particularly so in Venice and the surrounding area where Prosecco comes from, then it takes on a very different purpose as the drink to enjoy whilst taking crawl of the city’s bacari bars, picking up little snacks – cicheti – along the way. It’s also, of course, the backbone to the famous bellini made world famous by Venice’s Harry Bar.
So if you are going to experience Prosecco the way the locals do it means going to Venice to find out. Which is exactly what the The Buyer is up to this week along with a steely group of UK buyers and consumer wine writers who are up for such an arduous challenge, thanks to our hosts, premium Prosecco producer, Mionetto and its UK partner Copestick Murray.
It’s all for a better cause, of course. To look at Prosecco in a different way. In the way the locals do. What are the styles of Prosecco they turn to and when? What are the different food combinations and pairings they come up with for Prosecco that could just as well transport themselves to bars, restaurants and pubs in the UK?
As our understanding and awareness of Prosecco slips from the mainstream into more discerning, premium styles then it’s important the on-trade helps consumers carry on that journey with different styles of Prosecco that raise the bar for all. For those that know, there’s just straightforward Prosecco, as there’s just standard Champagne, but there are also just as many separate different premium tiers of Prosecco as there are for Champagne.
Now not many consumers or bars venture further than DOC level, but the opportunity is there to take loyal Prosecco customers up the quality ladder to DOC Treviso, DOCG, Rive and the ultra premium Cartizze level, as there is with all the premium layers of Champagne. It just needs a different mindset and wider availability of premium Proseccos to do so.
Focus on premium Prosecco
So this is a buyer’s trip with the intention of really shining the light on premium Prosecco, and the differences, opportunities and challenges there are for buyers to really get behind the overall Prosecco category and elevate it from just the the mass volume Proseccos we see and give the other more premium Proseccos a chance to shine.
Mionetto is a case in point. It can trace its history back to 1887 by the master winemaker Francesco Mionetto. It’s as part of the heritage and story of Prosecco as any of the proud producers in this key wine growing region of Italy. The Prosecco it produces today is still made on the original site.
It also means Mionetto has the clout, the tradition and the relationships with growers going back decades that give it access to the right quality fruit for its wines. In particular grapes that allow it to produce the light, fresh, fruity style of Prosecco that works so well with food.
Particularly its Luxury Collection, which includes Prosecco’s most premium category and Miontetto’s top wine, Cartizze DOCG, which comes from the actual mountainside of Cartizze with its unique chalky, marly soils. The range also includes the second highest tier of Prosecco and its Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Rive di Santo Stefano, a Millesimé Brut style of Prosecco. Or the Avant Garde Collection which is also focused specifically at the premium on-trade.
Mionetto should also know what’s its talking about it as it claims to be the biggest selling Prosecco brand in the world (IWSR data) and has made big inroads into the UK market since it was re-introduced as part of the Copestick Murray stable of products over the last couple of years.
There is plenty of talk in the trade of Prosecco having reached its peak or plateau. But that might just also be wishful thinking from other wine categories hopeful of re-gaining some of their share. It might not have enjoyed its double digit growth of recent years in 2017, but it was still one of the few wine categories to be up and the signs are its dominance is set to continue into the near to medium future. Not just in the UK but around the world.
Vinexpo and the IWSR, for example, predict Prosecco will outgrow all other types of sparkling wine over the next five years, increasing sales by a further 36% from 25.2m cases now to 34.4m cases (or the equivalent of 412.8m bottles). That would give Prosecco 9.2% share of the global sparkling wine market. The IWSR forecasts also see Prosecco reachin 12.7m cases in Italy by 2020, up 14%, while in the UK the Prosecco market will be worth 8.3m cases by 2022, up from 5.4m cases now.
Crucially says Guillaume Deglise, chief executive of Vinexpo, the consumer’s appetite for Prosecco shows no sign of weakening. As he says: “Prosecco is a brand, people now order it by name, and it is seen as an everyday luxury.”
Prosecco = Italy
John Graves, head of on-trade development at Bibendum, told this week’s Bellavita Italian trade exhibition that Prosecco now accounts for not only half of its Italian sales, but it’s the biggest wine category within the Bibendum group. He said Bibendum now has in the region of 40 or more different Proseccos to cater for all the demand it has from right across all the on-trade operators it serves.
The pressure, though, is on the major distributors and importers to ensure the right styles of Prosecco are being pushed into the right channels of the market, so that those customers prepared to spend more and trade up on Prosecco to the more premium styles have the choice to do, said Christopher Carson, co-founder of Carson & Carnevale which specialises in Italian wine. It is a case of educating the trade and consumer more about the choices available, he added.
The market and demand for premium Prosecco is there, stressed James Snoxell, head wine buyer at Armit Wines, who said its premium Prosecco sales were enjoying strong growth as was its entire top end Italian wine category.
Prosecco also has a lot of potential to grow in the cocktail market, which again is where the Italian influence comes in with drinks such as Hugo, also part of the Henkell Group, owners of Copestick Murray.
But seeing is believing and the next few days will give buyers the chance to see Prosecco where it is most comfortable. In the back streets, restaurants, bars and bacaris of Venice.