Is the Prosecco bubble about to burst?

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. At the moment it’s difficult to predict whether the current Prosecco boom will turn out to be one of the great success stories to have come out of the recession, or whether the bubble will spectacularly burst, leaving consumers feeling flat and producers picking up the pieces.

Prosecco-VineyardsCertainly, the current rate of growth that Italian sparkling wine is enjoying not only in the UK but globally will be hard to sustain for much longer, so changes are surely afoot. Last year, Prosecco sales in the UK were up 75% year-on-year and overtook Champagne for the first time as Brits splashed out an estimated £1 billion on the stuff in the on- and off-trade.

Sales of the fizz are currently up by around 40% in supermarkets, with Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and M&S all reporting strong growth as consumers sought out Prosecco over Champagne or Cava with which to toast the arrival of 2015. It’s a similarly rosy picture in the on-trade, where year-on-year sales are up by 32% due to Prosecco’s image as an affordable luxury that suits all occasions.

Prosecco-ServingWhile the boom continues to gather speed, Mark Atkins of Nielsen predicts continued growth this year. “The most logical view is to assume a continuation of this popular trend. Growth is being sourced from other categories including spirits and is likely to continue, with prices remaining very attractive for the shopper,” he says.

Though, while more bottles of Prosecco are being sold in the UK than ever before, the average sale price of the liquid has fallen by 40p due to the emergence of sub-£6 Prosecco at discount retailers Aldi and Lidl, which is harming the sparkler’s image as a quality product. The former is selling its Belletti Prosecco Spumante DOC for £5.29, while the latter flogs Allini Prosecco Spumante for 10p more at £5.39.

Both of these prices have been undercut by Asda, which is selling its own-label Prosecco Spumante Extra Dry for £5. “A lot of growers don’t understand how low the retail price of Prosecco is in the UK – if they knew they would be shocked,” believes Nick Bielak, director of London-based Italian specialist agent Vinexus.

“Discount retailers are making decisions that affect hundreds of small producers and are unravelling the hard work they’ve put into building the Prosecco brand,” he adds. Cristian Maddalena, export manager for Andreola, is concerned that the low cost puts Prosecco in danger of becoming a commodity.

Unusually for Prosecco, the family-run Andreola owns 90% of its vines and the majority of its production is DOCG Prosecco. “It’s not a good situation,” he says. “In the same way that alcopops have damaged the image of some spirits, Prosecco is in danger of being associated with the cheap end of the market rather than representing an area of origin.”

2 Responses to “Is the Prosecco bubble about to burst?”

  1. Michael Tschuertz says:

    The message is clear.
    Dont sell to supermarkets. They will suck you dry and destroy your image forever.

  2. Jon says:

    I am getting the sense recently that savvy wine buyers looking for sub-£15 bubbles are seeking out cremants and cavas which to my mind represent better value than similarly priced prosecco.

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