Prosecco’s geographical protection is as important as Scotch whisky, Stilton cheese, Champagne or any other regionally and legally defined and produced food and drink product according to the Consorzio di Tutela della DOC Prosecco. The Consorzio is the organisation designated to protect the origin and quality of the UKs most beloved drink of the moment – Prosecco.
Prosecco has been enjoyed since Roman times, but only as a sparkling wine since the late 19th Century. Most consumers of Prosecco probably don’t know that it is a legally delimited region in EU and World Trade Organisation (WTO) law. Perhaps that is not surprising for a region that as a legal entity producing sparkling wine is less than a decade old. The U.K. will consume around one-third of the regions estimated 2017 >450M bottle production. However volumes maybe struggling to reach forecasts again this year as frost nipped the buds of the vines, as they did in the English vineyards.
But they are working hard on extending the resilience of Prosecco production to withstand a barrage of growth. They forecast that the market for Prosecco will continue to grow at 6-7% per year. Vineyards are being extended across the 9 provinces from the current 23,250 ha with a further 1,200 hectares designated to Glera and allowed varietal production. There are 130,000 hectares of vineyard across the 2 allowable regions – Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia. Every vineyard is mapped and registered.
In order to maintain the overall quality, the Consorzio governs the DOC system, which verifies the vines at the vineyard, number of plants per hectare, wine sold from the bottlers and most importantly vets the organoleptic (tasting) standards. The wines are all tested after the secondary fermentation by a commission in Rome, away from potential vested interests of the region. Each bottling is then given blue strips, which are applied over the foil to confirm the Prosecco origin.
The majority of production is Brut or Extra Dry production, which means technically that it has less than 12 or 17 grams per litre of sugar content. The sugar added is via the media of a grape concentrate not as refined sugar. The softer style of Prosecco in general has contributed significantly to consumers’ attraction to the famous fizz.
The Consorzio also defend the quality in the export markets. So for example when they have come across wines described as Prosecco that aren’t then they will address this directly with the perpetrators. Such a case was recently addressed with a major international airline, which duly complied. They also monitor the sale of Prosecco styles through the kegs, which is not legally to be called Prosecco. Prosecco can only be named as such when it is bottled in the region. So draft examples are illegal. In the UK they work with DEFRA to enforce this.
President of the Consortium, Stefano Zanette says:
“The consortium is working hard, alongside our producers, to grow our markets globally and we warmly welcome increased demand. Since receiving DOC status, we’ve been able to increase volumes consistently every year, fulfilling the growing appetite from consumers for our wines.”
So there is rigorous control in place, all if which is very necessary. Italy has hopefully learnt from many years of wine fraud. Both Frascati and Pinot Grigio have both been produced in more quantities than technically the vineyards can produce. However it does not describe market development and there are significant challenges in that aspect, as Wine Development Manager Carrie Winton from key wine distributor Olivers Beer and Wine elaborates
“The Prosecco trend for us is a little bitter-sweet (unlike the taste!). It has evolved into its own brand as opposed to a wine style that is not dis-similar to Pinot Grigio.
Again, rather like Pinot Grigio we have very few customers who see the benefit to offering a premium option on their wine list and its sad to say that currently, that tends to be the same for premium Prosecco’s…..I believe that for many, a £20 bottle of Prosecco is their “premium” option. “
In this country the majority of Prosecco consumed is sold in supermarkets, where the specific quality of brands seems to be passed over. If Prosecco stands a chance of becoming more than a passing phase then brand names and attention to the experience that the brand brings becomes critically important.
We spoke to one brand owner, who expects that brand becomes more of the feature than the Prosecco generic name in the next few years.
Colucci’s Managing Director, Marce Colucci, said “Coluccis works hard with its production partners to put the best quality in the bottle. So it is with that in mind that we aim to provide the best consumer experiences which involves far more than just the taste. It is the whole experience – where it is seen, what food it is partnered with and the environment it is served. We say sublime, sophisticated and familiar.’
The Consorzio does a thorough job in governing the region and production of Prosecco and seems to have a much greater hold on production than previous successful generic Italian wine region names. However the long term of Prosecco will be not just in protecting the supply side of quality, but also projecting quality on to the market. How and where that is expressed and the profound allegiances it creates with consumers will be the test of success. But for now Prosecco has hold over the market – UK consumers love it!
Hospitality & Catering News, Wine & Drinks Editor