Prosecco wars, Episode IV: A New Hope
Not so long ago, in a wine trade very,
It is a period of crisis.
Italian negociants, striking
from a hidden base, have won
their first victory against
the unsuspecting public.
Through a well-planned press campaign,
they have convinced
the public of an impending shortage
of their ultimate weapon, Prosecco,
a boring sparkling wine
with enough power to
destroy the entire Aperol Spritz revival.
Pursued by Prosecco’s
sinister agents, other sparkling
wines race to the rescue, they are
custodians of the bubbles that can save
empty flutes and restore
balance in the Wine Aisles….
This is what the recent press about a forthcoming Prosecco shortage reads like to me. The articles may as well have been written by Emperor Palpatine himself. But hang on a second, is this much ado about nothing? Probably. It is undeniable that Prosecco has become the sparkling wine of choice not just here in the UK but in other countries with supposed ‘higher’ understanding of wine. Consumers got a taste for Italian bubbles during the crisis and never quite came back to things yeastier and better. Prosecco is massively trendy and consumers are made to believe that very soon, they won’t be able to have it. And how does one react when one can’t have something that one really wants and that one must be seen as having? One will do anything to get it, even if it means paying a higher price. Great strategy so far, induce panic buying and then put your prices up. I’m just not convinced that Prosecco is worth paying that much more for.
So why is Prosecco so popular? I am guessing it is for the same reasons that comparably bland wines such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc are popular: they are non-offensive, relatively neutral, simple and have a little residual sugar – just enough to make them seem dry without actually being dry. Prosecco could be considered the food equivalent of white bread. A lot of people like white bread. It has little nutritional value, serving more as a ‘flavour delivery system’ without having much flavour of its own, but I guess not everyone is willing to spend money on a rye sourdough. But if you do spend almost the same amount of money, perhaps a few pennies more, you can get a brown loaf which packs in more flavour and wholesomeness. In a similar vein, there are sparkling wines that will not cost you much more than Prosecco but deliver great value for money. Cava is the obvious sparkler to reach for when the Prosecco shelves dry up but there are others, too. If you are looking for something non-autolytic to splash into your Aperol Spritz, consider Sekt. Most Sekt is made by the same method as Prosecco and a lot of it is actually made using imported Italian wine. We don’t see much Sekt in the UK but there are masses of it produced in Germany, Austria, Czech Republic and Slovakia. If you are looking for something more interesting (and are not scared of autolysis), there is the aforementioned Cava (which, similarly to Prosecco, has a softer acidity than Champagne) but French Cremant is also great value and there are some really good value and interesting examples from regions like Jura and Alsace.
So what I am trying to say is: nobody panic. If/when Prosecco does dry up, there are other sparkling wines that can fill the void. Often, they are actually more interesting and won’t cost you much more….