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Impending Prosecco shortage sparks lookalikes

Producers are looking to capitalise on an impending Prosecco shortfall and associated price rises with lookalike sparkling wines from Spain and Australia.

Provetto has been produced by Spain’s Félix Solís

As reported by the drinks business in December last year, a growing demand for the Italian tank method sparkling is causing prices to rise, and could cause a sell-out of 2014’s Prosecco harvest by the summer.

Consequently, a couple of major wine producers have developed Prosecco equivalents from outside Italy, which were launched at this year’s London Wine Fair specifically to target the UK consumer.

One of these, called Provetto, hails from La Mancha in Spain, where Félix Solís has created a white and pink sparkling wine modelled on the Italian sparkling phenomenon.

However, this Spanish sparkling isn’t made using Prosecco’s tank method, which sees the wine obtain its sparkling from a secondary fermentation in a sealed container, trapping the carbon dioxide released from the reaction of sugar and yeast.

Rather, Provetto is made using the latest technology in carbonation, which sees dissolved oxygen pulled out of the liquid and replaced by carbon dioxide, providing a much finer fizz than standard “pompe bicyclette” or injection method used for the cheapest sparkling wines.

The technology, which was installed at the Félix Solís Valdepeñas winery as part of a €40 million investment, can be used for any wine, but is being employed for Provetto as supply of Prosecco comes under pressure.

Richard Cochrane, managing director at Félix Solís UK, explained, “The biggest success in the last 12 months for UK retailers has been sparkling wine, particularly Prosecco, and if you put all that success, globally, on one finite area in northern Italy then that means that prices will go up, or supply will be under pressure.

Continuing he said, “Because retailers have been dependent on the Prosecco engine for driving sales, as it runs out, then they will be asking what’s the alternative – so we’ve come up with a strong proposition that gives retailers a chance to expand beyond Italy.”

Before launching Provetto on Monday this week at the LWF, Cochrane said that Félix Solís spent some time studying the harvesting and winemaking techniques in northern Italy before trialling a similar product in Spain.

Such care was taken because it was vital that the new product tasted as similar as possible to Prosecco, according to Cochrane.

He explained, “Prosecco worked because it is a soft, bright, easy-drinking sparkling, and the more people enjoyed it, the more they bought it, and eventually Prosecco became a brand – but it was the style that started it and Prosecco does not have a monopoly on that style.”

McGuigan Frizzante
McGuigan Frizzante is made with Semillon

As for the brand name, Cochrane said Provetto means “upstanding, or noble”, adding, “it has a meaning, it’s not just like a very famous something else…”

Provetto comprises a white with 11g/l residual sugar made from the Airén and Viura grapes, as well as a sweeter rosé with 20 g/l, made using co-fermented Tempranillo and Airén. It will retail for £6 but sell below £5 on promotion.

But there was another Prosecco lookalike unveiled at this week’s London Wine Fair. Called McGuigan Frizzante, the new product comes from Australian Vintage, and, as previously reported by db, has been created to mimic the Italian sparkling with a similar alcohol and sugar level to Prosecco.

Talking about the launch on Tuesday, Australian Vintage UK MD Julian Dyer joked that he was promoting the new sparkling with the tagline, “Prosecco is so 90s”, but said that he believed that the McGuigan Frizzante was superior to Prosecco because his sparkling was made from 100% Semillon, “which gives it more longevity”. Nevertheless, he added, “The important thing is that it is the style that the consumer is drinking today.”

The product will have a “£8-6 price mechanic” according to Dyer and has already achieved distribution in Ireland.

“The flavour profile is right, the style is right, the packaging is premium and we have a few listings, and a few more that we are working on,” he told db.

Meanwhile, also speaking to db during the London Wine Fair this week, Roberto Cremonese, export manager of Bisol confirmed the impending Prosecco supply shortage.

“Last year’s harvest was very poor, and down by up to 50% in some parts, so there is a very real possibility of a global shortage,” he said.

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