The entry of Prosecco on to the market caused a lot of stir in the wine business when it first appeared. Many did not take it seriously at the time and brushed it away as a small trend, expecting it to dissipate as quickly as it arrived. Conesseurs and professionals a like felt that the market did not have room for yet another sparkling wine. After all what was the point to try to compete with the quality of Champagne or the volume of both Sekt, Cava and Cremant? Well Since this is a consumers market, the story of Prosecco took a completly different direction than many would have anticipated.
To understand Prosecco, we have to take a look at how its made. The production of Prosecco differs to a great extent from how both Champagne, Cremant and Cavas are made. The difference already starts to become apparent in the vineyard. While many sparkling wine producers favour neutral flavoured grapes for their sparkling wine, Prosecco producers has chosen a different path; creating their sparkling from an aromatic variety by the name of Glera.
The work in the cellar is also very different. While classic sparkling have built their style on the traditional method with second fermentation in bottle and long cellaring, Prosecco is created in pressurised tanks. The fermentation is also a key factor in the creation of Prosecco. While traditional fizz are created at higher fermentation degrees (15-20 degrees celcius), Prosecco is fermented below 10 degrees Celcius. This creates a very high degree of fruity flavour compounds like apples and pears. It is also bottled straight away, with no prolonged yeast contact, so there will be no bread and yeast aromas like in Champagne, thus ending up with a simpler more fruit forward style of sparkling.
Prosecco has managed to grow into the best selling global sparkling wine by volume, in less than two decades but why has the consumers embraced it to such an extent? After all, easy drinking low priced fizz has been around for a long time, long before Prosecco entered the market. German Sekt dominated the volume market for many years before Prosecco made its appearance.
Perhaps it was the history and Italian culture that gave Prosecco the extra push it needed in the beginning, after all Sekt never really had a story to tell, at least not compared to the romantic Italian landscapes with its passion for wine and food, not to mention its history.
In contrast to the culture and story it is also possible that it was favoured by the consumers because of its flavour profile differing from that of Sekt and other easy drinking sparkling. With its high degree of fruitiness combined with creamy bubbles and an affordable price just took the market by storm.
Maybe it had nothing to do with flavour or history at all. Perhaps it just hit the market at just the right time, targeting consumers who had started to tire from over priced high end sparkling and low quality entry level fizz.
After all Prosecco is still here and export volumes keeps doubling every year. It is apparent that the global market is far from tired of sparkling wine, in fact when looking at global sales numbers the sparkling wine category is booming. There are new fizz appearing everywhere, even England has started to succeed with the production of quality fizz. Eventually the trend will flat out as all trends do, but how long this will take is all up to the consumer, after all they are the ones with the real power. If it were up to wine writers and critics the Prosecco craze would have died out a long time ago.
Marius has worked in several parts of the wine business for the last 16 years. He is currently working as a Category Coordinator for wine and spirits in the Travel Retail business. He is also a part of a tasting panel for the financial newspaper in Norway and writes articles and lectures in his spare time.Marius has a huge passion and dedication for the wine and spirits industry. He is a certified Sommelier and is currently undertaking the WSET Diploma in wines and spirits education.