Marche sparkling could be ‘new Prosecco’

Former Constellation Europe chairman Christopher Carson believes he has found the perfect big volume sparkling wine to fill “a gap” in the UK as Prosecco prices creep upwards.

Rocca dei Forte range

The Rocca dei Forte sparkling wine range uses grapes from Italy’s Marche region

Speaking to the drinks business at the London Wine Fair last week, where the well-known UK wine trade figure officially launched Carson Wines – an agency business run with his son, Jonathan – Christopher said that there was a gap in the market for a big volume Italian sparkling in UK retail as the price of Prosecco increases.

Having secured the UK distribution for Rocca dei Forti, which is the best-selling sparkling wine brand in Italian retailers, Carson expressed his belief that this product – which comes from the Marche – could be the next big sparkling phenomenon in Britain’s grocers.

“Italy’s number one sparkling wine in the off-trade is Rocca dei Forti and it has never been brought into the UK… with the price of Prosecco moving up, in my opinion there is a gap in the market, and I think that Prosecco prices will increase again off the next vintage,” he said.

Continuing, he explained that more expensive Glera grapes for DOC and DOCG Prosecco would create a “significant gap in price” between Rocca dei Forti and the famous Italian sparkling.

He explained that Rocca dei Forti Brut Spumante would retail for £7.49 in the UK, and said that even if the brand was promoted down to £5.99, there is enough margin to ensure that the grocers “would be making a lot more profit at that price than they would with Prosecco.”

Furthermore, Rocca dei Forti, which produces sparkling wines from Verdicchio and other grapes grown in the Marche, is also one of the few brands with a dispensation to also produce ‘Prosecco’ outside the officially designated region of Prosecco (which spans Veneto and Friuli), according to Carson.

He also told db that Rocca dei Forti, which is owned by the Togni Group, “produce 15m bottles per year with the capacity to grow.”

Concluding he said that it was important that the UK wine trade “looks for tomorrow’s opportunity if Prosecco prices continue to go up”.

Carson Wines was officially launch on Tuesday 3 May on the first day of the London Wine Fair where the new agency business took a stand promoting its brands, which, along with the Italian sparkling include Australia’s Hentley Farm, Chile’s Siegel Family Wines, California’s Simi and New Zealand’s Soho Wine Company, among others.

Christopher said that the business was designed to “build premium wines with sustainable value”.

Although Christopher told db that he would be the “guiding hand on the tiller” the business would be run by “young legs”, including his son Jonathan – “who has been working like a Trojan” – and Ranulf Sessions, who has joined Carson Wines from Treasury Wine Estates, where he looked after the fine wine division.

“I’m building this business in such a way that I’m behind the scenes; I’m not looking for limelight, I’ve had my day in the spotlight, this is about Ranulf and Jonathan,” he said.

With a portfolio of around 25 producers, Christopher said he wanted to keep Carson Wines “tight”, adding, “I I couldn’t do justice to 200 wineries, or indeed 50.”

In June 2012 Christopher launched an online wine and spirit retailer called CellarVieWines.com, which he said would continue to trade.

CellarVie is moving along and now, after four years, we’ve arrived at a point where it actually makes money, which is a nice relief.”

However, he said that he launched Carson Wines for his son.

“I realised that CellarVie would ever be big enough for Jonathan to have a really good quality of life.”

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