Prosecco's bubble shows no sign of bursting

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

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ASOLO, Italy (AP) — Prosecco, the fruity sparkling wine made in the north-eastern hills of Italy ,is gaining in global popularity — and producers of Champagne, for so long the dominant bubbly wine, are taking note.

Prosecco has become the best-selling sparkling wine in the world by volume, and experts say it is eroding the market share of Champagne, the French wine that is synonymous with celebration but also comes with a heftier price tag. The Italian wine's production eclipsed Champagne's five years ago and is now 75 per cent higher at 544 million bottles.

Champagne still claims the revenues crown, cashing in a record 4.9 billion euros (US$5.6 billion) last year on 307 million bottles, 2.8 billion euros of that in exports. But Prosecco's bubble shows no sign of bursting: exports this year are trending up 16 per cent over last year's 804 million-euro (US$913 million) high.

Adding insult to injury, sales are surging 40 per cent in Champagne's home country, France, according to one estimate. And those figures don't reflect the seasonal Christmas sales bump of 20 per cent.

Michael Edwards, an expert who has been a wine judge for Decanter magazine and wrote the book The Finest Wines of Champagne, says consumers are increasingly interested in sparkling wines.

“Prosecco capitalises on the desire to drink sparkling wine, not necessarily Champagne,” he says.

The Italian bubbly's success is attributed to its lower price and its profile as an anytime libation, making it popular in Great Britain, the United States and Germany, markets where Champagne has long flourished.

Jowin Lepper Carberry, a consultant for a medical devices company in Baltimore, Maryland, tried Prosecco at the beach four years ago, and liked it so much she started making frozen smoothies with it for friends at her pool. She moved on to making cocktails for dinner parties and has used Prosecco instead of Champagne for the past four New Year's Eves.

“My initial reason for trying it at the beach is because it was less expensive than Champagne. Now I use it because I prefer it to Champagne,” she said.

With an average production cost of 3.70 euros (US$4.20) per bottle, a fraction of Champagne's average 10.24 euros (US$11.63), Prosecco can be purchased at a price that makes it easier to buy as an after-work drink or for a casual gathering, without pomp and circumstance.

The lower price is in part made possible by a simpler production method. It has two processes of fermentation, both in large tanks, whereas Champagne's second fermentation period is done while the wine is bottled. That requires storing the Champagne bottles at an angle and turning them slightly every day by hand to help the fermentation

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