During the pandemic one of the fashion world’s most famous sisterhoods launched a new Prosecco brand, Della Vite. Cara, Chloe and Poppy Delevingne always wanted to go into business together and say that Prosecco has always brought them together, so launching a new Prosecco brand seemed like a logical idea. Getting to run the operation is general manager Clara Latham, who was one of the key drivers behind the influential no-alcohol brand Seedlip, who explains to Jessica Broadbent that the same ‘disrupter’ mentality is at work here. In the case of Della Vite, however, they are not inventing a new category, but rather reinventing one that is carrying a lot of baggage.
“The brand saw an opportunity for Prosecco to play “the hero” in cocktails that is reminiscent to the gap Fever Tree spotted with tonic: if three quarters of your Bellini is Prosecco, wouldn’t you want it to be the best Prosecco?”
Clara Latham is widely known for her work with Seedlip, the lo-no category innovator that forged the way with non-alcoholic ‘spirits’. As head of sales she oversaw the brand’s impressive growth for four years, so you’d be forgiven for wondering what she’s doing working with a Prosecco brand – even more so for the latest celebrity-endorsed brand?
But Della Vite is not your average celeb-endorsed product. Indeed, Latham sees her role at Della Vite as even more disruptive than that at Seedlip. While Della Vite is not creating a new category, it is trying to recreate a well-established one. Della Vite is about changing attitudes towards Prosecco and shifting its drinking moments, and there’s arguably no better person to drive that disruption.
Latham explains: “We’re on a mission to really change people’s perceptions around what they think of when they hear the word Prosecco. Before Seedlip, if people said to you ‘What do you drink if you’re not drinking?’, you’d have gone, ‘I don’t know – lime and soda.’ We’re saying, ‘What do you think of when you hear the word Prosecco?’, and people would probably say bottomless brunches, entrance-level sparkling wine, something that I drink when I don’t drink Champagne because it’s not worthy of a Champagne moment. If you fast forward three or four years from now, if we’ve done our job right, when people hear the word Prosecco their perception will have been completely shifted.”
Premium Prosecco’s place in the UK on-trade has been hotly debated for some time. Although there is a growing thirst for quality, Prosecco Superiore only accounts for around 10% of Prosecco sales in the UK*. It’s still a relatively untapped market – something Della Vite wants to help change – and the signs are that this is starting to happen; in 2019, for example, the UK overtook Germany as the biggest export market for Prosecco Superiore, and while Prosecco DOC exports stabilised, exports of Superiore more than doubled.
The challenger mindset
Prosecco’s drinking ‘moment’ has never quite pulled up alongside the centuries-old seat of Champagne. It has struggled to capture the premium end of the market or rival Champagne as first choice for celebrations. It’s mixed into cocktails and, unlike Champagne, you can grab it in the supermarket for a few quid. Consumers expect it to be the cheaper option. If they are going to trade up, they will probably choose something else.
Where some might see a closed door, Latham sees opportunity. This fixed mindset about the drinking moment for Prosecco is where her expertise with bringing new categories to market comes into its own.
She says: “When you’re becoming a category pioneer you take on a very challenger mindset. And you’ve really got to educate your audience around the world as it is today but also how it can be different tomorrow.”
“What I love about that kind of opportunity is that we’re taking something to market that’s really step-changing a category. For beers, wines and spirits, Seedlip was creating a completely different subset. And I think what naturally pulled me into Della Vite and the role here is that – while we are certainly not creating a new category – we really describe ourselves as recreating a category.”
For her, recreating a well-established category is even more fiendish than introducing a new one to the market. She says: “In the UK certainly where the market had been very driven by value and the lower end of quality for Prosecco, you’ve actually got to do more work to reverse those slightly negative perceptions. There’s a higher mountain to climb.”
Prosecco’s ‘informal celebration’ moment
Education is a big part of the brand’s strategy. Della Vite is made in Valdobbiadene and Latham feels it is crucial that those selling the wines understand the quality of the terroir there. “That gives us that point of difference,” she says.
But beyond terroir, it’s about getting bar managers and sommeliers to think about Prosecco when choosing what to put at the premium end of their list. “Quite often the sommeliers and wine buyers buy the cheapest Prosecco to put in cocktails, and then put a bottle on the wine list just so that there’s something cheap for people if they don’t want to step up to Champagne. So there’s a big education piece there for the trade but also for the consumer, and it’s about expressing that there is quite a unique sweet spot.
“Della Vite sits in this lovely place in the middle of entrance-level Prosecco and Champagne, which is what we describe as ‘informal celebration’. It’s about talking to people about when they can enjoy Della Vite and being really clear about those occasions, which right now are probably things like meeting up with a friend, or getting to the end of another working week from home and feeling like it’s really nice to open a bottle of sparkling – and Della Vite really sits in there. So education is certainly going to play a role. It’s about educating on a product, but also those moments where you can start to get excited about opening a bottle of Della Vite.”
The Delevingnes’ involvement
Latham is keen to point out that the Delevingne sisters’ involvement runs much deeper than a celebrity endorsement. The three sisters share a genuine passion for Prosecco and had always wanted to start a business together. They are heavily involved in the day-to-day running of the business and describe the Biasiotto family at Foss Marai as an extended family.
“First and foremost, they really wanted to create a high-quality product that would reshape perceptions, meaning that the quality of our liquid was the best that you could get in the market,” says Latham.
Last year Della Vite hosted a virtual press tasting with Sarah Abbott MW and Della Vite’s partner-producer, Foss Marai. Abbott spoke about the benefit of high-profile names to access new areas of the market, so long as the brand is transparent and honest and the product is good. She said: “For me, celebrity involvement in wine is absolutely a good thing if it’s a cognitive shortcut to people we are not currently reaching in wine because they haven’t got the time or, as yet, the involvement to go and research the difference between basic gateway Prosecco and superiore Prosecco.”
The sisters’ reach and celebrity appeal to consumers had to be carefully balanced to ensure that the trade took the brand seriously. “It’s important people genuinely feel as though it’s not just another celebrity-endorsed product,” says Latham. “The three sisters are co-founders in this business. They’ve put a lot of their time into it and that’s quite unique. I’m not commenting on the other celebrity brands out there, but that’s quite different from an endorsement deal.”
“They are quite different characters, and little bits of all of them are fed into the brand. I think that’s another thing that makes it more than just an endorsement.
“And actually, no one’s really had a negative thing to say about them, none of the trade, they’ve just been very open to it, and consumers obviously love it. It’s a good balance.”
The range, cocktails, and quality
Della Vite currently has two wines in the range, both of which are vegan: Della Vite Treviso Prosecco DOC NV and Della Vite Prosecco Superiore DOCG NV. They are produced with the Biasiotto family at Foss Marai, in partnership with the Delevingnes. The sisters say they felt “an instant connection” to the family during their search for a producer. They say: “We wanted to join forces with people passionate about making world-class Prosecco. One that put quality over profit and that cared as much as we do about the environment and sustainability.”
Abbott said: “Something that strikes me when I go to Prosecco is that all the high-quality producers are really focussed on differentiating and keeping their own identity – they don’t want to disappear into some big Prosecco lake. Hence the recent decision of the consortium not to make rose Prosecco superiore.”
One of Della Vite’s distinguishing features is yeast. Foss Marai is one of the only producers in Italy to cultivate its own yeasts on such a scale. Over the last three decades, a ‘yeast bank’ with over 30 isolated strains has been built up at its on-site microvinification lab. The yeasts are used in both the first and second fermentation.
The two wines have slightly different places in the market. For Latham owning the by-the-glass moment with a top-quality product was really important, but they couldn’t ignore the fact that a lot of Prosecco gets used in cocktails. The brand saw an opportunity for Prosecco to play “the hero” in cocktails that is reminiscent to the gap Fever Tree spotted with tonic: if three quarters of your Bellini is Prosecco, wouldn’t you want it to be the best Prosecco?
Latham says: “What we really wanted to do was step change this idea that Prosecco just gets added as the mixer, the sparkling third for example, but isn’t really of a good-enough quality to be drunk alone. And it is masked by other ingredients in the cocktail so you don’t realise how watery or flat or sweet it is.”
This was part of the decision behind the range. Latham describes the Prosecco Superiore as a “top, fantastic-tasting profile for by the glass” and the Treviso Prosecco as “a fantastic and hugely versatile wine, which works well in cocktails.”
Getting the look right
The bottles are as stylish as you would expect. It was actually Poppy Delevingne who penned ‘Della Vite’ for the label. For Latham, a striking and elegant aesthetic was essential in helping to raise the profile of Prosecco beyond that of what’s currently available.
“If I am going to buy a bottle of Prosecco I want it to feel giftable, and the bottle to look fantastic. I’d want to feel proud handing over the bottle. Historically, that gift might have had to be Champagne. Della Vite fills that gap and that was certainly reflected in how people responded to the brand in the lead up to Christmas, which was crazy for us. That was a really nice proof point that we’re doing something that other Proseccos weren’t able to do.”
Launching a business in lockdown
Latham says that setting up in the midst of a pandemic hasn’t been as difficult as it could have. There were “silver linings” despite a few date changes and setbacks. It gave the team time to focus on building a website, invest in digital marketing, and develop a PR strategy. The brand has already secured listings with the likes of Selfridges, Jeroboams, Daylesford, Harvey Nichols and Fenwicks. It also became the first Prosecco to be listed at The Fat Duck.
Following lockdown Latham says it will be key for the brand to capitalise on celebratory moments as the on-trade starts to open up. “2021 is going to be about getting into the skin of who we are. As things start to open up, we’ll be ready to activate and give people a reason to pop open a bottle.”
Della Vite’s next steps
At a tender six months old, it’s still early days for the brand, but Latham has great expectations. “Firstly it’s about building on the great foundations we’ve set so far,” she says. “Stepping into larger on-trade groups, and starting to talk to one or two key national people to increase our reach a little bit more across the country.”
She is also hoping to expand internationally, focussing on the EU and US. “I think there’s a big opportunity for us in really understanding that US opportunity, given that Cara’s based there and people respond to high-quality brands – certainly brands that have some brilliant names associated to them.
“It’s been a fantastic six months for us so we just need to make sure we keep that momentum up. It’s a big project that’s growing quickly, and we’ve got an exciting future.”
*According to data presented by Sarah Abbott MW at Della Vite’s press tasting.